I have been a middle school teacher now for 16 years. It is a population group that I enjoy being with, and teaching. For the past few years I have been mentoring new teachers in our district. I try to share my knowledge and expertise with new teachers in the hopes that they would not make some of the same mistakes that I have made in the past.
One aspect that I feel that I have to continue to educate new teachers on is how to work with middle school gifted children. There are a few things that I stress to new teachers that I feel they need to know.
New teachers need to understand that there are parts of gifted children’s personalities that are not like theirs. Gifted children, like all children, have various personalities. Some are unorganized, some are perfectionists, and some fall somewhere on in the middle. For teachers when you see a student who is unorganized and messy, and your classroom is meticulously organized please don’t stress over it. Let them be who they are. Give students expectations and stick to them, but also let them be who they are.
Focus on the positives when it comes to gifted children. Some gifted children may come across as crass, especially when they point out a mistake made by you. Don’t let that get to you. It may be just who they are. Instead, focus on the positives. Look for the good in each and every student you have. That will keep you from being a “negative nelly”.
Allow gifted students to struggle a little bit. Don’t rush in to save the day. Allow them to work through their frustration. By doing that you making them rely on themselves more and you less. If you are continuously helping them too much too fast they won’t have the opportunity to feel the stress and frustration that goes along with building a good work ethic.
Finally, design lessons that have stretch included. This gives my gifted students a chance to grow. If you always plan your lessons with the middle students in mind those gifted students will become discipline problems. They get bored, and you will have to rush to find something for them to do. That ends up being more busy work, and they will still be come a discipline problem.
Navigate the middle years carefully. They will be rocky filled with ups and downs, but they are definitely worth it.