How the Title “Gifted” is Hurting ALL Children
As a former “gifted” educator, I didn’t see it at first.
I’d say it was hard to understand how the title of “gifted” could be hurting children.
It’s only when you’re knee-deep in living it out that you realize the damage it does.
When children are called “gifted,” it neglects every child not excelling in the four core classes.
We use this word incorrectly and in a way that is beyond limiting.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… “1 Peter 4:10
Setting apart a small group of the whole population as smarter than the others lies to our children.
We are setting them up, yes, all of them, for failure.
Those that don’t brandish the “gifted” label cannot be tricked into believing they’re in the same classes as everyone else.
For some reason there was an odd belief going along with tracking.
That if we didn’t tell them we’d separated them by ability, they’d never know.
They would be able to flourish under any condition.
The truth we actually see developing within the classroom is the complete opposite.
Why even try if you’re already in the “dumb” classes?
Why put forth effort if you’re already labeled as the ones who’ll never get it?
That’s a feeling that permeates like a disease at a lightening-fast pace within these “lower ability” classrooms.
Soon the “low” or “regular” classes start to verbalize their inability to “do school.”
And what have we given them to believe they’re worthy of the “good” education like the others are clearly getting?
I think it’s worth repeating:
“Gifted” in schools only means these children are gifted in one or more of four areas.
Those children are then placed in gifted classes across the board unless their parents pull them.
But why would a parent take their kid from a gifted class?
There’s entitlement and a belief their child is now in the group of “good kids,” and on the better path.
Why wouldn’t they believe the school’s gifted letter to be anything but truth?
Another huge issue, at least in our state, is the rule “once gifted, always gifted.”
This mindset creates elitism.
It also has stopped growth.
Why try if you’ve already been deemed the smartest?
What can my school give to me if I’ve already got it?
“Gifted” children are positioned for disastrous outcomes because of this fixed mindset.
When told they’re “good” at school, they don’t know how to handle anything that requires deep thinking.
We set them up to believe they don’t need to learn in school.
In the 8th grade, some of my gifted students were harming themselves.
Because they couldn’t perform like they did when they were tested “gifted” in the second grade.
What if all abilities were in one classroom?
Where all students were told they could learn anything and that all human beings learn at different paces naturally?
How about we include into curriculum some ways to add in other gifts?
When do all students get to add to the ecosystem of their classrooms?
When do all student gifts and voices matter?
What if we designed learning to look more like the children it’s meant for and less like the decision makers?
We must adopt a different language as teachers first and then with our students.
First, we must tell ourselves that school as we know it simply isn’t working, but that doesn’t mean it can’t.
We have to remember we have much power within the walls of our own classrooms.
Learn. Grow. Apply. Change.
Then, what words can we use with students to approve of their hard work, dedication, no-quit attitude, and overcoming?
How do we speak about areas where they need to work harder?
Team up to push forward?
Dig in with the grit it takes to learn something new?
What if our language within the classroom normalized learning instead of having it or not?
And what if our actions told a different story than, “You’re not smart enough for this room. Head on down the hall”?
Deconstruct to Reconstruct
Let’s take off the labels.
Stop the ridiculous “gifted” letters.
Teach based on children’s needs and what they can learn.
Then, we’ll have students who are able to understand instead of cram for tests.
We’d have life-long learners instead of bubble-fillers.
We’d have citizens who know they’ve all been blessed with a gift.
Even if they can’t get a grade for it.
What if we told students with our words and our actions that their God-given gift matters to this world?
That they matter and are worthy of learning?
I don’t have all the answers, but it’s a place to start.
Treat teachers like the educated leaders they are.
Talk to all children as though they’re able.
Show students we actually believe because our actions show it.
Then we can focus on learning.
There will always be outliers in these scenarios and homes we cannot change.
However, within the power schools do have, a growth-mindset is key.
Because of this, gifted classes are anything but helpful to all children.
What do you think could make our schools serve the children in them better?
Do you work for a school, or are you a teacher working hard to be growth-minded within your group of children?
Has your school turned away from labeling? If so, how has it worked?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Thereâ€™s nowhere we can go in this world where we will find another human being that has lived the exact same situations as us. An ally who totally and 100 percent gets it.
But we look, donâ€™t we?
We love empathetic people because theyâ€™ve been there. Done that. Have insight.
If we are connected by friends and family, and we feel better.
We are bandaged but not healed.
As Close as We Can Get on Earth
Why canâ€™t someone who has had similar struggles heal our hearts?
Because even if we lined our situations up on paper, there would still be one big difference: this person isn’t us.
They donâ€™t have our mind or our heart. They donâ€™t have our past or our future.
Unfortunately, that still leaves us broken and unable, trying to pull everything together.
Itâ€™s frustrating because we are always so sure that if we can just find someone who â€œgets it,â€ we can start to move past whatever is hurting us.
I know how this goes, because I have lived it.
When I speak to other women who have experienced miscarriage, they too have lost a child. I am in the presence of a person who has felt the same loss, so we chat. Offering hope. Offering understanding. Sharing our stories.
Sometimes it just feels good to tell another person who has lived it.
Because God made us to join in fellowship, not live alone.
And it does feel vindicating when I hear her hardest part was right before the baby was taken, too.
That even though she knew her baby was gone, that she also laid her hand on her belly and wept like me for the thought of not having her baby be a part of her body anymore.
Like Iâ€™m not the only one.
Like she gets it.
It does feel a little better to hear it.
But for all the mothers Iâ€™ve spoken with, it never healedÂ me.
It was good for me to know I wasnâ€™t alone, but it most certainly didnâ€™t change me.
My babies were still gone.
I still wasnâ€™t raising them at home with my other two children.
My heart was still shattered.
I was still confused and broken.
Why canâ€™t the empathy of another person fix everything?
Because there is only One who understands everything.
When we’re feeling lost, hurt, lonely, afraid, worried, or broken, we do have somewhere to turn.
Someone who will not only empathize, but who will also heal us from the inside out.
I know itâ€™s true because itâ€™s happened to me.
To get me through the unbelievable pain of seeing our first baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound and then losing it three weeks later.
That held me after learning our twinsâ€™ miscarriage possibly saved my life.
Who broke down anxiety over scans that the cancer in my youngest is gone for good.
I have felt it. I know it.
And so I want to give you these.
When you’re unsure where to look, here are Words from the Bible that explain why Jesus is your best ally.
And why, when youâ€™re hurt, you can turn to Him above all else to receive complete and total healing.
1. Psalm 119:130
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
Thatâ€™s how we feel when weâ€™re broken, donâ€™t we?
Raw and unsure and simple.
Looking for a reason. We’re unable to understand on our own.
The Lord shines light, over time, in big ways and in little, on every pain. Helps heal us through the process of leaning on Him for understanding.
2.) Psalm 119:169
Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word!
When we’re hurting worse than we could ever imagine, we can cry out to God.
We can ask Him to give us understanding according to His Word.
I can attest that He will. He is always who He says He is. He never lets us down.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
All it takes is opening our heart, and we can feel this very real, very present help.
The best way I can explain it is as an overwhelming sense of peace and clarity. Strength to face my problems because there’s an ultimate sense that I am not battling alone. Something I know couldn’t have come from anywhere else. Itâ€™s astounding and beautiful.
4.) Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and do not lean on your own understanding.
This can be super difficult.
It is hard to trust someone we canâ€™t see, especially if we donâ€™t know Him. I get that.
However, if its come to the point where we donâ€™t know what we’ll do if something doesnâ€™t change, then we can open our heart to the Lord, and put our trust in Him.
Things will change. Not in our timing, but in His. So we are patient (or keep trying really hard…because it is difficult!). We keep trusting, praying, and going to the Lord, and we’ll start noticing things happening that canâ€™t be explained any other way than by the God.
5.) Proverbs 3:19
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens
If He created the heavens and the earth in all its intricacies, then His wisdom should surely be what we seek.
To guide us.
To carry us through.
Why wouldn’t we go to the One who knows everything?
6.) Isaiah 40:28
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
We faint. Grow weary. BUT with God, nothing is impossible, and so while we are weary, Jesus carries the burden.
We canâ€™t even look for how far His understanding goes because it’s too far beyond what we can fathom.
As children of a Father, we look toward Him, because He knows this world, and he knows our hearts.
He loves and cares for us.
And in that we can find rest.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Not only does God have all the understanding in this world and beyond, but he wants us to seek Him.
He wants us. You. Me. To come looking for him. To call out, “God, help!”
He wants to make our paths clear, to be a lamp to light our way. He tells us plain and simple, â€œCome to me.â€
We donâ€™t have to wonder if we’re enough or if we need to achieve something before we can lay our problems at His feet because Heâ€™s already invited us.
Itâ€™s a standing invitation to be with Him.
Invest in Your Relationship
When we show up. Take Him up on His offer…that is when we see—when we feel–change.
When we look at this, which is only a small sliver of how many times we are told to look to God, come to him, rest in him, it is clear that we have an unbelievably amazing ally in Jesus.
And this God of ours, heâ€™s not only an ally here and there or only when youâ€™ve been on your best behavior.
Thatâ€™s not why He died on the cross.
He died for sinners. He died for you and he died for me.
Because He loves us.
All we have to do is let Him in.
Let Him fight for us, in us, beside us, and we will be stronger.
We will be in the army of all armies, being lead to true victory.
With this love, support, empathy, and understanding, we will be healed.
From the inside out.
When I Thought I was Alive
Before March of 2008, I thought I was alive.
I was 25, engaged to my best friend, and looking forward to our life together with excitement.
Had friends, family, and a job I loved.
Had a home, I travelled, I had the means with which to live the life I sought after.
Thought I was alive.
Until I learned how to live.
Learning to Live
Freedom came to me when, as a visitor to my friendsâ€™ church, the pastor asked, â€œIf God were sitting with you right now, what would be the first thing you would say to him?â€
Though I counted myself a â€œgoodâ€ person, my answer was â€œIâ€™m sorry. I am so so sorry.â€
I was shocked to my core.
Sorry about what?
I challenged Satan challenged.
As I searched my heart for the answer, it became clear. I was indeed so very sorry.
In Need of a Savior
For thinking it was me who had it all under control.
Wanting control in the first place.
My mouth. Gossip. Disrespect.
My selfish life.
Knowing that I felt a stirring for God deep in my heart and doing nothing about it for four years.
Living in sin.
Being less than I knew I could be.
For all of it.
I was overcome by the feeling of all Iâ€™d done wrong.
I sat there, staring straight ahead at this man I didnâ€™t know, asking this question I didnâ€™t like the answer to, and I sobbed.
How could I ever make a life that was worthy of God?
He is far too grand. He is far too good.
How could he love a wretch like me?
But the next words out of the preacherâ€™s mouth were not about condemnation.
They were not saying I needed to wallow in this mess Iâ€™d made, but his direction was clear.
I had to ask for forgiveness. With my whole heart. Truly wanting to have my slate wiped clean.
So I Prayed
So I prayed.
When people share their experiences coming to know the Lord, it can feel a little weird to those reading it (Satanâ€™s move).
So, when you hear what happened next, know that this is not made up.
This not something Iâ€™ve put into writing for some sort of personal gain.
Itâ€™s the honest and complete truth.
I felt myself being forgiven.
Washed as white as snow.
A clean heart created in me by the One who gave His life, so I could be there in that room being saved and found.
To have grace pour down on me.
I canâ€™t really explain that feeling.
It was somewhat like how I felt when I got married seven months later, but not quite.
It was a little like how I felt when the nurse handed my babies to me, but not exactly.
Going forward, I didnâ€™t know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it exactly, but I did know two things:
- I was changed.
- I was alive.
Since then, I have learned that Christianity isnâ€™t for the weak or the proud, nor is it easy by any stretch of the imagination, but thatâ€™s a different story for a different time.
This story is of Godâ€™s grace.
His mercy that fell on me, wrapped up this sinner, and held me close.
Even though life has handed us some serious curve balls since that day, boy am I glad I havenâ€™t walked through it alone.
Going through this life with Jesus inside me and beside me is the only thing that got me through some of lifeâ€™s hardest moments.
What I thought was living almost 10 years ago was nothing like the alive I am today.
The alive Iâ€™ve been given.
The alive Iâ€™ll inherit one day.
Praise God for His grace and mercy.
I didnâ€™t deserve it, but You gave it anyway.
You gave it all so I could live.
And live I will.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Eek. 36:26)