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Maia Jackson

United States

Message to Readers

I know my sources aren't properly cited or in any logical order but seriously if this topic interests you or affects you they are some of the best articles and papers on the internet about this stuff. I would love some feedback on whether or not using the more passive voice is as effective as me just using my experiences directly. Also would love some organizational tips- as you can see it's pretty scattered at this point. Thanks!

The Curse Of Icarus

March 19, 2016

        When people hear the words “intellectually gifted”, images of pint-sized geniuses carting around War and Peace and a Calculus textbook come to mind. However, the “intellectually gifted” demographic talked about in this essay is the less-obvious, and more numerous one. One way to identify a gifted student is by the way they learn and work. Gifted students learn rapidly and easily, retaining information and connecting it to information they already know to deepen their understanding of the world. This trait leads to opinionated and talkative thinkers who may overpower their less passionate peers, and question the methods of their teachers. These learners usually dislike being re-taught things they already know, which, in many cases, leads to attention problems. They typically avoid routine and busy work, and work carelessly when forced to complete trivial assignments. This can lead to poor grades in school and lowered self esteem. Gifted students prefer more complex and challenging assignments. Sometimes, however, they will resist challenging work for fear that their struggle will be seen by others, and they will be labeled as not “gifted enough”. The truth is, education is all about struggle, and so when educators and fellow students put pressure on gifted students to always “prove” and “live up to” their giftedness, it can be a breeding ground for self-doubt and lost potential. This is just the first of many unseen struggles facing gifted learners in our educational systems today.
        Most of the 10% of students that fall into the “intellectually gifted” category are not given the educational challenges required to meet their full potential. A majority of teachers are unable to provide academically advanced students with a progressive education within the normal classroom. A national study conducted by the Fordham Institute found that 58% of teachers have received no professional development focused on teaching gifted students. Also in this survey, it was recorded that 73% of teachers agreed that quote, “Too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school – we’re not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive.” In order to reach their full potential, gifted kids need opportunities and teachers capable of nurturing them to be their best.
        Recently, there has been a rise in schools “mixing” advanced students with lower-achieving ones, supposedly to “motivate” or provide an example for the struggling students, or to promote “equality” in schools. Both of these reasons are completely invalid. It has been shown that when advanced and struggling students are placed together, both sides of the spectrum are negatively affected. The gifted learners in the class become frustrated with the learning pace, and feel that their gifts are going unnoticed, leading to distain for the subject they’re good at and self-doubt about their talents. When gifted students are forced to read with slower learners, it's like playing them a cassette tape at half speed, and then asking questions about what they heard. Requiring gifted learners to show every step of work on problems they’ve known how to do for years pushes them closer and closer to disliking the subject completely. On the other hand, the slower learners quickly become tired of the faster learners always answering questions before them, making an environment where slower learners don’t ask for help or participate for fear of seeming dumb. Slower learners leave the classroom feeling hopeless. A more sensible classroom set-up would have these two groups on opposite sides of the room, if not in different rooms all together. 
        By implementing faster-paced classes or in-classroom options for students that need them, we nurture the gifts and talents that they have, instead of only teaching to the slowest learners in a class. Teachers should all be taught how to teach faster learners instead of how to make even the slowest or most stubborn kid understand.  Some teachers believe that assigning an extra page of homework to the gifted learner in their class counts as differentiating and accommodating their needs. This is not the case. Simply giving more work does nothing but further discourage the gifted student. Advanced learners need different, more in-depth assignments. Gifted learners need separation, similar peers, and smaller class sizes to accommodate their educational needs, not a longer assignment. When you take the top-tier students out of the average classroom , place them together and give them more in-depth, analytical and creative subjects and assignments, they are being differentiated and accommodated properly.  
        Today, funding for special programs goes mainly to kids who have trouble keeping up, which is understandable, but also part of the reason gifted students are prevented from getting an appropriate education. After all, gifted students have trouble too- just a different type. Children who need a slower, more simplified education are provided with paraprofessionals and resources. Why aren’t children who need a faster, more complex curriculum provided with the same? Sure, it’s a different kind of help, but should  academic potential be wasted just because these kids meet and exceed the minimum? No. It shouldn’t. Busy students don’t have time to pursue alternative educational paths outside of school that give them what they need. That is the school’s job. Slower learners need help to reach their full potential, and gifted learners do too. 
        Some may argue that the training and funds required to provide a fulfilling and challenging education for only 10% of students render the whole idea impractical. However, studies show time and time again that when gifted kids’ potential brilliance is left to somehow develop on its own, the students have behavioral issues, mental health problems, and a loss of interest in education itself. After all, how would you be motivated to go to school each day if you were never learning anything? How could you bear to complete assignments far below your abilities? How would you feel if no one ever acknowledged your potential, and instead used you as a tool to bring others up? How would you be able to cope with having to constantly “prove” how smart you are in order to “earn” the special attention you need? Though implementing such programs takes resources, the benefits far outweigh any perceivable costs. 
        Enough of this “one size fits all” approach to education. Gifted students need to finally be acknowledged and taken care of by our schools. Educators in America must be able to differentiate and accommodate both ends of the intellectual spectrum in order to fully provide quality education to a wide variety of students. Accommodation of advanced students in America will help the prosperity and future of not only our educational system, but our entire country.
SOURCES:
http://neatoday.org/2013/09/18/are-we-failing-gifted-students-2/ 
http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/gifted-education-us
http://www.teachersfirst.com/gifted_strategies.cfm 
http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/siegle/tag/Digests/e595.html
http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10075.aspx 
http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/myths-about-gifted-students
http://www.usc.edu/dept/chepa/IDApays/publications/Achievement_Trap.pdf
http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/330/challenges-faced-by-gifted-learners-in-school-and-beyond 
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/smart-and-bored
http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/04/what-do-we-risk-losing-by-not-challenging-gifted-kids/
 

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