Gifted by Any Other Name…

This week I came across a new page on Hoagies Gifted Education Page entitled the Blog Hop. People working and blogging in the field of gifted education are invited to participate in writing on a theme. May’s theme was “The ‘G’ Word” with one supporting question asking “Should we change it?” A great question, one that I’ve been asked many times in the past number of years. And while I’ve always championed keeping the word gifted for mostly pragmatic reasons (it’s a nice short word, easy to search) it has made me think of what another option might be. So, even though it’s not May anymore…

Vulnerable: Gifted students can be highly sensitive,  misunderstood, in need of support, often considered a low priority compared to other special needs and an easy target for our fears. A few months before I began my work as gifted coordinator in our district there was an article in our local newspaper that read something like this “Put away your gifts, normal kids are more fun!” In it the writer was frustrated by a friend who was sharing with her the struggles of meeting the needs of her gifted child and this was the response. “How could math problems and scientific inquiry be fun? Go outside and play soccer like a normal, well-rounded kid.”  In my letter to the editor responding to the her article I commented on how much fun I have had with gifted kids over the years…and when did things like math and science quit being fun?

Intense: Walk into a regular classroom and you will find a broad range of interests, strengths and personalities. Come into a classroom full of gifted students and you will find the same broad range of interests, strengths and personalities…with the intensity level turned up several notches.  Even apathy can reach whole new levels here. But what makes it really intense is the way everyone can be intense in a completely different way. You learn to love the intensity and sometimes forget there are other ways of being in the world!

Enigmatic: Complex thinking patterns, unique interests, asynchronus development, perfectionism, sensitivity and over-excitabilities can obscure our view of the gifted child. I’ve seen perfectionism interpreted as lack of maturity, asynchronus development as ODD, over-excitabilities as ADHD, unique interests as arrogance, sensitivity as over-reacting and complex thinking patterns as laziness. Gifted individuals can be a puzzle in of themselves even without the added complexity of trying to fit into a larger system that relies on quick references to maximize efficiency. You learn to love puzzles and sometimes even see them where they may not have existed before!

Lonely: 2.2% of the population is a relatively small group. This percentage gets smaller more gifted one is. If you’re not part of that group, there’s a good chance you won’t understand what it’s like to think and feel differently as a result of your cognitive processes.  And it’s not like aspiring to become a part of a particularly small group of people (president, rock star) so it can feel like more of a burden than a gift. Yet the word itself seems to generate other implied meanings which can elicit strong reactions: elite, privileged, entitled. Sometimes it gets difficult to find someone who understands the multi-facetness of it all. Even in my role, it can be difficult to find the colleagues I need to have the discussions I need to continue doing the work that I do. There is no one else in the district who does what I do and many districts in our province are without the kind of gifted programming that we do. Luckily, the people who work in the field of gifted education are passionate about their work and I have been able to call universities in other countries with questions and receive amazing support.

I could probably find a few more words but ultimately, all words have their limitations and any new label becomes just another word (or group of words) with the potential of being misunderstood, misconstrued and misused. So let’s embrace it and learn to be comfortable with it ourselves.

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