Last week I blogged about the importance of connecting with students who are gifted. In order to connect you have to break away the stereotypes teachers may have about students who are gifted. Just like all students, students who are gifted are unique, and have their own set of challenges they may have to conquer. If you believe that students who are gifted can be placed in a mold of a “nerdy” guy who can do every subject well, or the silent guy who plays Dungeons and Dragons and reads fantasy books then you need need to know more about students who are gifted.
Sometimes as a teacher you come across a very intelligent student who underperforms to their potential. These students are underachievers. Students who are gifted can be labeled as an underachiever. These students could be underachieving for a few reasons.
These students are bored. If these students are bored it could be that the work is too easy, and they feel it is a waste of time. Bored students who are gifted can be very tough to handle. They can easily be a classroom distraction with negative behaviors.
These students may already know the work you want them to do, and they see it as a waste of time. This is also connected the first aspect. I would suggest, that as you connect with your students you should also be collecting data on what they strengths and weaknesses are. You should pre-test before starting new content to see what students know. You may need to compact their work. Many students who are gifted want to feel like they got something out of the hard work they put in.
These students are afraid of failure. Sometimes students who are gifted have sailed through courses in elementary and middle school, and maybe in through high school. When something comes up that may be perceived as very difficult, these students may shut down. Teachers can be a role player in this by describing how hard this work is, and how difficult it will be to finish. Some students who are gifted will shut down right away. Instead, I would suggest you use more positive language, and describe it more of a challenge in ways that will help emotionally these students who are afraid of failure.
These students don’t see a connection between their interest and the subject matter you are presenting. Some students who are gifted can be myopic and centered on a single subject, or subject matter that takes up their time and interest. I have had several students who were fascinated with dinosaurs, space, ocean life, and such. Teachers should respect their interests and give them time to explore these interests. Also, teachers should try to show connections to core subjects that help them in the future if they are inclined to pursue their interests are a career. Connecting these students with professionals and experts in their interested fields can help. These mentorships can help to create connections, and hopefully show improvement in the classroom.
As you connect with your students, you will begin to see some of these behaviors that are not the typical gifted behaviors teachers may expect out of students who are gifted. My suggestion is to look into their written education plans, acceleration plans (if they have been accelerated by grade or subject), or their IEP if they are twice exceptional to get some background on your students who are gifted. This may be a way for you to help deliver the appropriate amount of challenge and stretch to them so they aren’t bored and don’t cause classroom disruptions.
What do you do breakdown the stereotypes of students who are gifted in your class, building, or school district? How do deal with students who may be underachieving?