While I definitely do not agree with everything in the article, there are aspects that hit home with the STRETCh philosophy. If we focus on the "next steps" with students, rather than a product they must produce - everyone will go further and we will push each other as a society! We need to take the fear out of failure and focus creating young scholars who are engaged in learning and can preserver when things become difficult!
Here is the document - retyped so that it is legible :-)
There it is - a file folder full of potential: high IQ scores, graphs and charts with marks to indicate the ninety-ninth percentile, I.E.P's (Individual Education Plans), computer readouts, teacher checklists, parent checklists, and even student checklists. It's all there, all the "right" data - proof positive that this child is gifted. So what's the problem?
As we dig deeper into this maze of numbers, points and scores, the inconsistencies begin to surface. There are report cards with roller coaster grades, everything from straight A's to D's. There are hand-written notes from f r u s t r a t e d teachers and parents:
- "This child is bright, but he has such poor handwriting."
- "She isn't working up to her potential, doesn't seem to be motivated."
- "He deliberately failed a history test, even though he knew all the answers."
- "She really seems to enjoy math but is so slow at getting her other work finished."
- "He is such a perfectionist."
- "She has a poor attitude about herself and school."
- "He asked to be removed from the gifted program. No reason given."
image from original article
And so it goes. This folder full of potential reads like a war diary, a chronicle of battles, some won, some lost. We find one problem after another, one recommendation after another, all in the name of education.
IS IT ANY WONDER...?
The word is gifted - a six-letter word that makes some gifted children cringe. Why? First, it is definitely a learned attitude, most often from adults. Parents who hesitate to admit in public that their child is gifted are sending a message to their child that giftedness may be something of which to be ashamed. School administrators do the same thing when they attach vague, cute titles to gifted programs. (Call the program anything, but just don't use the word gifted!) Instead of pride and confidence in establishing a program that meets the needs of certain students who happen to be gifted, there is fear and resentment - fear that such a program will "stir up" community resentment toward gifted students because they don't deserve a special program. Some classroom teachers reinforce the "gifted is a bad word" philosophy when they constantly remind gifted children of their weaknesses. They condition gifted children into being average or into thinking they are average. Parents and educators have a tendency to withhold praise from gifted children because they expect them to do superior work. They have mistaken the idea that gifted children don't need as much praise and reinforcement as other children. Is it any wonder that gifted children so quickly develop a resentment toward giftedness?
- "It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to be gifted all the time." (Bryan, Age 5)
- "Giftedness is not something you earn." (Dr. Walter Barbe)
- "It ain't easy being green." (Kermit the Frog)
Bryan, Walter, and Kermit are extraordinary philosophers. They know. They understand what it means to be different. The pressure placed upon gifted children by parents, teachers, and society in general must seem unbearable at times. Dr. Judy Roseberry, Unified School District, Garden Grove, California, also understands. She h as responded to the pressures with the following:
Premises of the Demands of Giftedness:
- High level intelligence makes certain demands upon the gifted child.
- Behavior of gifted children results from these demands.
- There are curriculum implications inherent in these demands.
A gifted child's behavior often reflects the following demands:
- To crave knowledge, to satisfy the need to feel progress in what he/she is learning.
- To feel the need to focus on or devour a subject.
- To make observations, to see relationships.
- To place high standards on himself/herself.
- To be creative or inventive, to seek an unusual or unique approach to an assignment.
- To question generalizations.
- To be serious-minded, to be intolerant (usually) of foolishness or silliness.
- To concentrate, to become totally absorbed in a task, to have a longer attention span.
- To explore wide interests at a maturity beyond his/her chronological age.
- To be sensitive to honor and truth.
- To express ideas and reactions (sometimes being seen as argumentative).
- To resist routine, drill; to require unique ways of pursuing drill.
- To work alone.
- To be intolerant of stupidity.
- TO seek order, structure, consistency.
- To do critical evaluative thinking (possibly leading to a critical attitude toward self and others).
- To be rarely satisfied with the simple and obvious.
- To be impatient with sloppy or disorganized thinking.
- To have his/her intelligence responded to.
- To seek out his/her mental peers.
- To be friendly and outgoing.
- To use his/her power of abstraction, to see and point out cause and effect relationships.
- To have time for thinking, solitude.
- To pursue a learning pace of his/her own.
- To be outstanding in many areas but average in others.
As difficult as these demands may be for parents and educators to respond to, just imagine what it would be like to live with them every single day. Is it any wonder...?
Problem: In many schools gifted students must leave the regular classroom in order to participate in a gifted program. In some of these pull-out programs, the gifted students are forced to do twice as much paperwork because they are required to make up the work they miss in the regular classroom, as well as complete the work in the gifted program. In effect, they are being punished for being gifted.
Solution: Gifted students should be held responsible for the learning they are missing in the regular classroom but not necessarily for the work. Classroom teachers can administer pretests or posttests that can easily determine whether a gifted child has already mastered a skill.
- Problem: Some parents use their gifted children as social status symbols. They impose unrealistic goals and expectations on their children, which can result in feelings of inadequacy accompanied by fear of failure.
- Solution: Membership in an organization for parents of gifted students can be very helpful in raising the awareness level of parents who may be putting too much pressure on their gifted children. The interaction with other parents of gifted children is very effective. In addition, school counselors, gifted program coordinators, and/or psychologists should also be involved in solving this problem - the sooner, the better!
Problem: A gifted child may withdraw into a private shell if he/she is not being challenged. Since the gifted are capable of divergent thinking, they may feel their own responses are wrong because they fall outside the realm of what is generally accepted. They need to see themselves as part of a whole society.
Solution: Finding a mentor for a gifted child offers a unique form of individualized instruction and self-directed learning. A mentor can help a student explore his strengths and weaknesses while improving his understanding of the relationship between school and the outside world. "Mentoring is the gifted tutoring the gifted, and underlines the importance of their being one of their own, as well as society's, best resources for realizing learning potentials." (Runions, 1980)
- Problem: Sometimes gifted children suffer verbal abuse from children who are not gifted. As a result, many gifted children will go through phases of trying to hide their true abilities.
- Solution: Children's literature contains some examples of the gifted child and that child's relationship with others. For children who are classmates of a gifted child, literature can help their understanding too, of what it is like to be different.
The following book list suggests recommended reading for educators and parents of gifted children. Portions o the list are taken from Eileen Tway's "The Gifted Child in Literature," The National Council of Teachers of English, January, 1980.
The Gifted Child as Different and Learning to Cope:
- Exploring the Lives of Gifted People: The Arts, Kathy Balsamo (Good Apple, 1987)
- Exploring the Lives of Gifted People: The Sciences, Kathy Balsamo (Good Apple, 1987)
- Henry III, Joseph Krumgold (Atheneum, 1967)
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1962)
- A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973)
- A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L"Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973)
- The Rare One, Pamela Rogers (Thomas Nelson, 1973)
- The Girl Called Al, Constancy Green (Viking, 1969)
- A Tide Flowing, Eleanor Spence (Oxford Press, 1976)
- I Am Not a Short Adult, Marilyn Burns (Little, Brown & Co., 1977)
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach (Avon, 1970)
The Gifted Child in School:
- Hugo and Josephine, Maria Gripe (Dell, 1969)
- Freaky Friday, Mary Rodgers (Harper & Row, 1972)
- A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L'Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973)
- What Makes You So Special, Sherri Heller (Thinking CAPS, 1975)
- Leo the Late Bloomer, Robert Kraus (Windmill Books, 1971)
Special Traumas of the Gifted Child:
- Don't Burn Down the Birthday Cake, Joe Wayman (Heartstone Press, 1988)
- If You Promise Not To Tell, (Record Album/Activity Book), Joe Wayman (Good Apple, Inc., 1985)
- The Hall of Fame, Franny McAleer (Mafex, 1983)
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein (Harper & Row, 1974)
- How to Eat like a Child and Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up, Delia Ephron (Viking, 1978)
- Father's Arcane Daughter, E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1976)
- The Great Filly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson (Thomas Crowell, 1978)
- George, E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1972)
Reaching Out to Others:
- Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, E.L. Konigsburg (Atheneum, 1968)