hand-in-homework, score-high-on-tests, and please-the-teacher types of students and some are not.
Some gifted students are less motivated in certain subject areas, ask tons of questions, challenge authority,
play around, have high energy, don’t care about homework, and cause other issues for themselves in class that amount to not being a top scoring or top achieving student. But they are still gifted.
We are talking about social-emotional characteristics that stem from processing differences and from
viewing the world very differently than other children when we talk about “giftedness.” And we are talking about a social construct (where someone stands academically compared to others in a group,) when we talk about “achievement.”They can both exist in one child, but a gifted child does not have to be a top performer in order to be
There are many definitions regarding giftedness because it is difficult to put all the characteristics into
one short explanation. Yet the federal and state definitions out there deal with not only those who exhibit top performer characteristics
It is easy then to imagine that someone’s achievement may change in relation to what group they are with, what
advantages they have compared to others, what level of skill they have learned or practiced. That being said, it is reasonable to claim that high achievement is fluid and can change.
However, there is a lot of research out there that shows that giftedness consists of characteristics and needs that
come from different processing patterns in a person’s brain. Even those characteristics and needs may change over time with support and practicing new skills, but the brain processing patterns are already there and although they
may change too, a gifted person is gifted throughout their lifespan. The asynchrony of a highly intelligent person’s abilities versus their emotional or behavioral skills may shift and change throughout time but their intellectual
abilities will continue to function with quick processing speeds and unless something traumatic occurs like an injury to the brain or a degenerating disease such as a memory-loss condition causes setbacks, they remain a gifted person regardless of the progress they make in their skill levels.
This is an interesting thought, as some educators and authors like to claim that giftedness changes. That over time
a person can become gifted or can lose giftedness. It was suggested at one of the trainings I attended this year that our education system should have an “exit policy” for our gifted program. This is not unreasonable if used for the
right reasons- if a child functions better in a different class or does not want to participate in the services. But the speaker at our meeting stated that sometimes kids become less gifted or maybe we made a “mistake” and the child was never gifted and was unfortunately placed in the wrong program. I couldn’t help myself- I raised my hand and loudly declared how horrible I felt this statement was and all that it implied.
Basically, if that line of reasoning was continued, that would mean that if a child did not succeed in a
particular class (with perhaps a teacher who did not understand that child or a teacher who was not successful at teaching that child,) that the child would not just be dropped out of the class (which would be horrible if the class was one of the only “gifted education” courses offered at the school in the first place as is often the case…) but that the child would be stripped of their identity as a gifted student (it was confirmed by the speaker that the child would no longer be coded in the system as gifted if they were removed.)
What a tragedy for many reasons. First of all, because children who do not achieve in a particular
course should not always be the ones who are blamed. It is not necessarily the child’s intellect that caused the failure in the course, but could just as easily be the teacher’s failure.
Secondly, children who are very bright often do choose whether to be motivated and perform well, and sometimes they underperform on purpose but that does not make them any less intelligent. And thirdly, if the program is a true gifted program and is not merely just based on serving high performers, it is our duty as educators in those program classes to support students who are failing. If we send them back to their general education
classes due to just their academic achievement then who is going to help them? Gifted education courses should be used to support students who need extra support, not be used as a luxury only afforded to those who are doing well, because those who are doing well may not need as much support as a gifted child who is struggling and why should we decide to only serve some and not all gifted children?
I read a great quote in another article where the author stated that demanding that a child perform well in
class before they are entitled to gifted support services is like telling a sick child they must get well before they get any medication. It is just absurd.
Can you imagine being the principal who has to make the phone call to the parent to tell them their child is no
longer coded as “gifted”?
“Hello Mr. Smith, since your son has attended my school he has actually lost brain cells and is no longer
Let’s face it, you can exit a child out of a particular class due to not fitting the criteria for the academic
skills… you can exit a child out of a class when they would do better in another class… but you can’t exit a child out of being SMART.
Even more importantly, you certainly cannot completely rewire a brain to not be gifted from just exposing
them to new knowledge or situations. You can work on skill building and practice social interactions and response to stimuli and gifted people may adapt and change to fit into the box you want them to fit into more and more. But it is more likely that the gifted person will still be a different kind of thinker under all the day to day façade, and in the end they will still have gifted traits that define who they are that we can’t just change their coding in a
computer file and decide they are no longer gifted.
And with all the amazing things gifted people bring to the world, why would anyone want to do that anyway?