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!