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Educators of Gifted Kids: My Three Wishes

This post is specifically for elementary educators of gifted students, but everyone can benefit from this conversation!

When I was a brand-new teacher, I remember getting my class lists and seeing a “G” next to a few of my students’ names. I had no idea what that G stood for. Great? Gargantuan? Goal? Golfer? After conferring with my principal, I came to find out that the “G” stood for Gifted. {I might have creatively spun this anticipatory set a bit – I had a hunch it was gifted the whole time}.

My university had done a phenomenal job in preparing me for my teaching career. I felt ready to go as soon as those doors to my classroom opened. I had been taught as much as I could about being the best teacher ever. But, still, I felt nauseous thinking about the fact that I had to find a way to reach the 6 gifted students that I had been given that year. Perhaps that was because my school didn’t have a gifted intervention specialist. Maybe it was because I had no formal training in gifted education. Regardless, I was nervous for this adventure in gifted education.

Flash forward twelve years later, and I have received gifted PD and a certificate in gifted education (a step below gifted intervention). This means that, in Ohio, I am able to instruct gifted students in my classroom who are not identified as cognitively gifted, but rather have a subject-specific area of identification. For example, I teach 4th grade math, and I have a cluster of 8 students who I service in gifted math. {You can find all of my gifted education blog posts by clicking HERE}.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve learned so much about gifted education, and I’ve grown in this area. I’ve had some fabulous mentors {Nyree, you are the REAL MVP} and I’ve received extensive support in this area. This has made me realize three things about gifted education in the regular education classroom; three things I wished that I had from the start of my career. Without further ado, here are my three wishes for all general education teachers who teach gifted students in their classroom.

I wish educators of gifted students knew how to work with gifted students and their unique personalities. Before we, as educators, can even think of teaching gifted kids, we have to understand them. Gifted students are all very different. That being said, research has been done {Johns Hopkins does a wonderful job of dispersing this research and their findings in clear, actionable ways} that shows us some common traits that gifted children often possess: they tend to be perfectionists; they have high anxiety; and they lack social skills when communicating with peers. It is important to challenge and push students, but it is just as important to build a culture with gifted students that allows them to thrive. In my classroom, I don’t show my gifted students their grades – ever. Instead, we work on graphing progress over time using goals that we set together. This takes the “high-stakes” of being gifted out of the equation, and students have a calm space to learn.

I wish educators of gifted students had the time to differentiate in appropriate and meaningful ways. Listen, friends… I’m going to tell you a secret. Differentiating in your classroom IS HARD! It can take a lot of work. It’s exhausting to keep up with it all.?I don’t differentiate as well as I should ever single day. And that’s OK!!! One of the things that helps me and my gifted students while I’m teaching math has been paying attention to my math standards and curriculum. I have been finding ways to dig down into the curriculum and extend learning in meaningful ways. For example, I recently had an unplanned moment of differentiation during a geometry unit. I found through a pre-assessment that my eight gifted kiddos knew the required polygons for 4th grade already, so I had them research polygon names and attributes for shapes with 7+ sides. THEY WENT NUTS!!! {Pro Tip: Tell them that you need help with this. They love “showing you up” and “being smarter than the teacher”.} Your differentiation does not need to be fancy, or drawn out, or even involve a worksheet. Make the tasks meaningful and relevant and watch your gifted kids soar!

My final wish for teachers is that they have a place to go to find support, listen to ideas, and learn more about how they can support gifted learners who are in their regular education classroom. The Bad News: we couldn’t find a group out in Internet-Land. Bummer. The Good News:?We made one just for you!!! I am teaming up with my good friends Jen Snyder from Soaring With Snyder & Susan Morrow from Keep ’em Thinking. Together, we’ve created a Facebook Group called Teaching Gifted Kids. This group was designed to bring you, our awesome classroom teachers, plenty of tips, tricks, and ideas for working with the gifted students who are in your class. We can’t wait to see you in our Facebook Group!!!

Comments

  1. Karen says

    I am so excited you created a FB group for teachers of gifted students! All students in my class are identified as gifted and I?ve had the opportunity to teach these awesome kiddos for 9 years! Finding others who understand these students and their needs is challenging. Thank you for helping all teachers understand and know gifted students better!

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