My wife and I were talking the other day about a conversation she had with some of her colleagues during a staff meeting. One of the teachers she was talking to was complaining about getting through their content at a slower pace due to the fact they had very few gifted students in their class, and more students who were regular and Special Ed. This staff member went on to say that at times they have to go over material faster he uses his few gifted students who get the material to tutor the other students.
I have very strong opinions when it comes to using gifted students to teach classes. I was proud when my wife told me she told her staff member that they were not helping their gifted students.
I don’t have a problem when gifted students can use their ability to learn and retain material quickly to help other students. I believe students should be team players in a sense, but they should not be placed in the role of a teacher. Here are a few aspects of why I believe this shouldn’t happen:
- Places undue pressure and stress on gifted child to teach their peers;
- Places the gifted student above all the other students, which could be a negative if the student being tutored doesn’t do well;
- The relationships between peers can be strained;
- Gifted student is seen as the “teacher’s pet”;
- Not all gifted students work well with others;
- Gifted students can get resentful of peers for not getting the material quick enough;
What I am stressing it is one thing to have gifted students help other students, and another to be placed in the role of a teacher. Every student needs to be taught by a skilled professional teacher, who has their best educational interests. Teachers need to continually learn new strategies to help all students.
Gifted students are very smart, but that doesn’t mean they are meant to be a teacher. They are not a substitute for a real teacher. If you see this going on in a classroom, please talk to the teacher and explain it is not healthy for gifted students to be substitute teachers. They have needs that need to be met. Gifted students also need interventions to help them be successful in school.