Author Topic: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not? - Horn O'Plenty Play Update (Reply #447)  (Read 75307 times)

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EllenS

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #75 on: October 22, 2013, 04:21:33 PM »
I would never, ever label a child gifted even if they were.  I'd provide them extra learning material and encourage their interest in advanced material.  The poor kid is probably trying to cope with the expectations, and getting no leadership from his parents in how to be a decent person.

This is how I see it too.  I skipped first grade and did not suffer socially, but I can absolutely see how this could happen (I moved schools so I did not stand out as "that girl who skipped first grade" but rather "that new girl").  I think if the goal for labeling children as "gifted" is to push them to accomplish something (what I am not certain) then okay, but I haven't seen any evidence personally that "gifted" people accomplish more later in life than the average Joes.  If the goal is to have the "gifted" students be best prepared for society I don't think telling them they are special and different and better than everyone else is the way to go about it.

Is it any different than telling the kid who can snag down a fly ball blindfolded that he's an all-star? Or crowning a prom queen who's particularly graceful and lovely? Or regularly giving the solo in glee club to one girl because she has a voice that makes angels weep with joy? Why should academically strong students be the only ones who are *not* noticed for their talents, even if this ends up with them sitting around twiddling their thumbs while the teacher explains the commutative principle one.more.time to those who just don't get it?

If you're going to argue that children shouldn't be made aware in any way that "they are special and different and better than everyone else" because of their intellect, it is only fair to argue that for the whole spectrum of human achievement. We should recognize no stars of any kind.

Having experienced the downsides of a "gifted" label myself, the problem is when recognition becomes about the child's identity, rather than about talent and achievement.  You "do" honors classes, or enrichment classes, or sports, or music.  You "have" aptitudes and skills.  You "are" gifted.

Which means, if you ever encounter something that is hard or frustrating, you will avoid it and/or give up, because "gifted" people don't struggle, and failure erases your identity.  You can't admit when you don't understand something, because "gifted' people always get it and know all the answers.  You walk around terrified that others will find out your dirty secret - you don't really know everything, and you aren't sure you can accomplish anything worthwhile, because you don't know HOW to learn things that you can't immediately grasp by this magical "gift".

While other fields such as athletics or music also sometimes get into identity labelling, they also require practice and work in order to succeed.  A gifted kid, properly motivated, can actually coast through their entire schooling with high marks without actually "achieving" anything. I am all for honoring achievement.  Achievement requires discipline and application.  The label of "giftedness" undermines both.
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Deetee

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #76 on: October 22, 2013, 04:23:54 PM »
Just to chime in with the gifted issue. I worked for a few years at MIT. The people I associated with did not blow me away with their intelligence. Yes, they were smart and got things pretty quickly, but what I really noticed was the incredible, cheerful work ethic they had.

They had persistence, enthusiasm and  and work ethic in spades.  I remember one time, I suggested that it would be useful to look at series of data and lot it a certain way. I also said that I planned to do that, but just hadn't got around to it. My labmate showed up the next morning with all the data entered and calculated for me to graph. It was like that all the time. I don't know if I met any geniuses, but I met some very hard working people who loved their work to pieces.

Twik

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #77 on: October 22, 2013, 04:27:38 PM »
Or - you "are" athletic. You "are" beautiful. You "are" talented. You "are" a high achiever. It can be said in many ways.

"Gifted" is a label, and like all labels, it can be useful or harmful, depending on how it's used. The problem with Connor is that his mother now sees the label, not the child, but it sounds like that is in her nature, rather than inherent in the label. To be honest, there's no real evidence that Connor is gifted in anything other than an unfortunate set of parents.
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TurtleDove

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #78 on: October 22, 2013, 04:33:24 PM »
Or - you "are" athletic. You "are" beautiful. You "are" talented. You "are" a high achiever. It can be said in many ways.

What I am saying (and I think EllenS is too) is that the "athletic/talented/smart" people are honored for their achievements - Jack hit a homerun! Abbey sang the National Anthem at the televised rodeo! Jane won the spelling bee!  I am all for honoring academic achievement as well.  I think if a child is gifted that child should be honored for using her gift, not told she is special and doesn't have to try because she has this gift.

Yvaine

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #79 on: October 22, 2013, 04:55:04 PM »
Or - you "are" athletic. You "are" beautiful. You "are" talented. You "are" a high achiever. It can be said in many ways.

What I am saying (and I think EllenS is too) is that the "athletic/talented/smart" people are honored for their achievements - Jack hit a homerun! Abbey sang the National Anthem at the televised rodeo! Jane won the spelling bee!  I am all for honoring academic achievement as well.  I think if a child is gifted that child should be honored for using her gift, not told she is special and doesn't have to try because she has this gift.

Outside of SS parents like the ones in the OP, I don't think gifted kids are generally told they don't have to try. In my experience, it was actually sort of the opposite--there were some areas where I just wasn't naturally talented, and even with trying I was kind of meh, but I was so naturally good at other things that adults tended to assume I just wasn't ~applying myself~ to those areas where I was meh. There are subjects I could do in my sleep with no work, and others that were always a ton of work, and adults consistently got them backwards.

Lynn2000

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #80 on: October 22, 2013, 04:55:42 PM »
I was thinking about "labels" too due to this thread. Certainly some compliments are important and knowing your strengths is valuable, but in some cases parents push/allow others to push it to extremes. Like being the kid who "always" gets an A, and you start to panic about not getting A's, and other people (fellow students, teachers, parents) make a big deal out of it when you get a B+ or even an A-... That kind of pressure on one tiny thing over years and years--the formative years--is just not good for kids, I think.

But it's not just academics. I think young athletes must feel the same way, especially as they get a bit older and might have a college scholarship riding on maintaining "what they're good at." How many kids have gotten injured and lost a scholarship and had to completely readjust their life and felt like they were disappointing everyone around them? Or a kid who's "popular" and is praised for this by many people, including peers and parents--ironically this often means doing less-than-nice things to remain at the top of the social hierarchy, rather than doing nice, fair things that literally make one "popular," i.e., well-liked by many. I know in the "ridiculous criticism from parents" thread, many people talked about how their popular parents just didn't know what to make of their quiet children.

Sometimes you start to feel crushed by a label, and acting out becomes the only way you can think of to escape from it. I think Connor has a lot of other stuff going on, too. I feel bad for him.
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Twik

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #81 on: October 22, 2013, 05:09:22 PM »
Or - you "are" athletic. You "are" beautiful. You "are" talented. You "are" a high achiever. It can be said in many ways.

What I am saying (and I think EllenS is too) is that the "athletic/talented/smart" people are honored for their achievements - Jack hit a homerun! Abbey sang the National Anthem at the televised rodeo! Jane won the spelling bee!  I am all for honoring academic achievement as well.  I think if a child is gifted that child should be honored for using her gift, not told she is special and doesn't have to try because she has this gift.

"Gifted" is an educator's label. Educators do not intend to say "this child doesn't have to try hard, because s/he is gifted and will be able to do anything without straining a mental muscle".

The intent is to say, "this child is intellectually advanced. Instead of putting them in a mixed general class, let's put them in a class with more challenging material. Because, let's face it, if we don't, they *will* come to believe that they are 'special' and 'dont' have to try,' because they actually don't have to in order to keep up with the class."

There are lots of arguments about whether this is actually a good idea or not. But it was not intended as a fawning, "Oooh, you're so smart! You're speshul!" sort of label. "Gifted" is not an "honour". It is a sorting code, to send children who can deal with advanced topics into classes where they are pushed, just as, say, children with certain reading/perceptual problems would be taught in a manner that was specifically targeted to their needs. This was developed when it was discovered that many children who are highly intelligent did poorly in school, and often became disciplinary problems, because they were bored and lacked challenges.

Back in the days of the one-room schoolhouse, the problem wasn't as apparent because teachers could let students progress at their own pace. In today's busy classroom, certain students may not flourish under "normal" teaching methods.

There are many educators who hate labels in general, and have good arguments against them. But "gifted" is really no different than a soccer coach mentally dividing his charges into "fit, well-coordinated, knows the basics and more" versus "Kids who trip over shoelaces and kick selves in head when trying to connect with ball," then giving them drills to improve their skills in a level-appropriate way.

Connor's problem is not that he has, perhaps, been labelled "gifted" by an educator or psychologist somewhere down the line. It's that his parents cannot see him for what he is, a small child who has not been properly socialized. He may be a genius, or he may actually be completely average. His curse is his parents.

My cousin's memoir of love and loneliness while raising a child with multiple disabilities will be out on Amazon soon! Know the Night, by Maria Mutch, has been called "full of hope, light, and companionship for surviving the small hours of the night."

EllenS

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #82 on: October 22, 2013, 06:56:45 PM »


Connor's problem is not that he has, perhaps, been labelled "gifted" by an educator or psychologist somewhere down the line. It's that his parents cannot see him for what he is, a small child who has not been properly socialized. He may be a genius, or he may actually be completely average. His curse is his parents.

Agree, agree, agree. It is the parents who are the problem, not the word.  I think labelling becomes a question of identity when the parents start valuing/sorting their own children that way, rather than it being a "school level" thing as you described.  And yes, any identity label can be damaging.

My own folks were not SS, and I was held to very high standards of polite behavior, but my mom repeatedly told me that what made me so unique and special and amazing, was the way things came so easily to me and I just "got" things without even trying.  It took me years to overcome the fear of making mistakes and failing, and even more years to recognize the difference between impressing people and real achievement.
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baglady

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #83 on: October 22, 2013, 09:53:54 PM »
I think the *worst* thing you can do to a "gifted" child is refuse to discipline him/her. And by discipline, I mean both socially and academically/intellectually/artistically. The 10-year old who can do college-level math, sing like Joan Sutherland or Whitney Houston, or sink baskets like Michael Jordan is going to grow into just another 20-year-old with a good head for math/pretty voice/decent hoop skills, if s/he has relied solely on natural talent and not learned how to practice and improve on those talents. And the 10-year-old who has not been called on boorish behavior because that would "stifle his/her creativity" is going to grow into a 20-year-old boor whom nobody wants to be around. Calling your mother fat and punching her in the stomach is not "creative." It's reprehensible.

PP's have made some good suggestions for Josh's mom. Some variation on "We don't arrange play dates for Josh; at his age he manages to keep his social calendar full all by himself" should suffice.
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kareng57

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #84 on: October 22, 2013, 11:24:40 PM »
I question what the purpose of labeling children as "gifted" is.  Are they placed in accelerated classes?  Do they do statistically amazing things as adults?  I guess I just don't see the value in labeling a child as "gifted" unless there is some heightened expectation or performance that is typical of those labeled in this way.  Personally, like some of the other parents on this board, I have uncontroverted proof that my child is beyond amazing in every way (;-)) but I see no reason to make an issue out of this because it would either place a lot of undue pressure on her or make her extremely socially awkward and likely unhappy because she would not be able to relate to her peers.  I confess I just don't get it.

It's useful because a gifted child in a regular education program will likely be so bored through school that it will kill any love of learning or ability to study later in life. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but that does seem to be the tendency. I was in a gifted program starting in middle school. It made a world of difference to me. I still had a difficult time when I got to college (zero ability to study; it sounds absurd--how do you not know how to study?--, but it's a real thing); however, I think it would have been much, much worse if I hadn't had those few years. I wish I could have started earlier.

ETA: It's hard to express the above without sounding like I'm bragging. Compared to the other kids in the gifted program, I was not exceptional. I think many of my classmates benefited even more from the gifted program because they were so gifted that it would have been almost impossible to have a normal experience growing up. The social aspect is another major benefit of being labeled "gifted." You aren't the weird one anymore; you're one of many like you.


I understand completely, regarding school.  However, the problem that I experienced was that many parents of gifted kids expected outside-school-activities (sports, music, youth groups etc.) to automatically provide enriched programs for their kids.

Re Scouts - late Dh was a leader and had to deal with a mother-of-gifted-kid who was a royal pain.  "You need to understand that Sheldon is gifted, he is bored with the regular program, it is your job to provide him with something more challenging than the program for the other kids".  Uh, no, it wasn't.  It was her job to to provide enrichment, if she thought it was necessary.

It really did not turn out well, anyway.  "Sheldon" constantly bragged to other kids and had fewer and fewer friends through high school.  OTOH, there was a neighbourhood child "Craig" who was a year older than my older DS and I was amazed when I attended the school awards ceremony. I knew Craig a little (he and DS #1 were in Band together) and liked him well enough but I was astounded when I found out about how many scholarships/awards he got.  His parents were always kind of low-key about it and never bragged to other parents, although I am sure that they were very proud.

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #85 on: October 23, 2013, 02:45:04 AM »
Gifted is a label people tend to hold onto for dear life. If you were to start a thread on a random message board about "who was Gifted and Talented in school?" people will come out of the woodworks to declare that they were and the self-bragging would gill the thread. "Too smart for school". Reading and understanding Proust at age 6. Solving advanced calculus problems at age 7. And it generally goes on and on..  As far as I can tell only about 7 people on the Internet (including me) were not given that label.

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #86 on: October 23, 2013, 09:15:38 AM »
Gifted is a label people tend to hold onto for dear life. If you were to start a thread on a random message board about "who was Gifted and Talented in school?" people will come out of the woodworks to declare that they were and the self-bragging would gill the thread. "Too smart for school". Reading and understanding Proust at age 6. Solving advanced calculus problems at age 7. And it generally goes on and on..  As far as I can tell only about 7 people on the Internet (including me) were not given that label.

A surprisingly high percentage of gifted people end up dropping out of high school, and most achieve average things with their life, so the label is their one "claim to fame." I was in a gifted program as a kid and am now a Ph.D. student. Most of the successful academics I know are bright (not necessarily gifted) but much more importantly, motivated. Honestly I think being able to work so fast/efficiently holds me back because what might take another student 40-50 hours takes me 30, and I'm just not motivated to have more than an average/high average work output, so I end up leaving early to go socialize or pursue hobbies. I'm very content with that balance, but I know if I put in 60 hours/week I could probably achieve tons more and there's a bit of guilt there. The students I know who are both gifted AND highly motivated are rare, but they are definitely super stars academically.

My advisor is arguably a genius but he is not motivated towards the traditional type of achievement in his field (publishing tons of papers in important journals, the respect of his peers, etc.) - he cares more about just doing good science whether people notice or not. So he is moderately successful (tenured professor, director of a research center with ~$5 million in equipment) but he is not a "big name" in the field per se.

Those of us who are comfortable with being above average intellectually but around average achievement wise don't need to fall back on a label to prove that we have worth.

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #87 on: October 23, 2013, 09:31:44 AM »
Gifted is a label people tend to hold onto for dear life. If you were to start a thread on a random message board about "who was Gifted and Talented in school?" people will come out of the woodworks to declare that they were and the self-bragging would gill the thread. "Too smart for school". Reading and understanding Proust at age 6. Solving advanced calculus problems at age 7. And it generally goes on and on..  As far as I can tell only about 7 people on the Internet (including me) were not given that label.

A surprisingly high percentage of gifted people end up dropping out of high school, and most achieve average things with their life, so the label is their one "claim to fame." I was in a gifted program as a kid and am now a Ph.D. student. Most of the successful academics I know are bright (not necessarily gifted) but much more importantly, motivated. Honestly I think being able to work so fast/efficiently holds me back because what might take another student 40-50 hours takes me 30, and I'm just not motivated to have more than an average/high average work output, so I end up leaving early to go socialize or pursue hobbies. I'm very content with that balance, but I know if I put in 60 hours/week I could probably achieve tons more and there's a bit of guilt there. The students I know who are both gifted AND highly motivated are rare, but they are definitely super stars academically.

My advisor is arguably a genius but he is not motivated towards the traditional type of achievement in his field (publishing tons of papers in important journals, the respect of his peers, etc.) - he cares more about just doing good science whether people notice or not. So he is moderately successful (tenured professor, director of a research center with ~$5 million in equipment) but he is not a "big name" in the field per se.

Those of us who are comfortable with being above average intellectually but around average achievement wise don't need to fall back on a label to prove that we have worth.

Many of us underachieve spectacularly.  I have a chip on my shoulder a mile wide about being saddled with that label.  If I refer to it today it is with heavy " ".  One of the reasons I wish the label would be retired is that it's meaningless for lots of kids who test well but cannot put two and two together-- as in, cannot produce results.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the resources available to kids to give them an extra edge, especially when they are bored in class and need more to stimulate them but there are so many people who get excited about the kid being put in a gifted program and then sit back and expect them to succeed at life.  In my family I was the gifted one and my sibling was not.  My sibling was the C student who was given lots of approval and encouragement to do the best possible job without the "gifted" halo hanging over his head like an unfulfilled promise.  He graduated with a masters degree and gone on to be wildly successful and is in my opinion, the truly smart one, because he built up those smarts and coupled them with real world application.  Me?  I never even learned to study and could not compete in a college enviornment.

I think that what we see more often today than ever before is kids who are given that label and then suddenly nothing is good enough for them because of the parents.  Either they get away with murder because no one wants to reign them in or they're pushed to achieve at cost to their personal comfort and criticized for not being as smart as the parents were lead to believe.

I think this must be an American phenomenon because I remember recently reading a study of what people are most likely to say positively when asked about their children.  In many European countries it was that they were easy going kids and happy kids.  In America it was that they were smart, wicked smart, smarter than their peers, passing milestones quickly... Disconnect much?

wyliefool

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #88 on: October 23, 2013, 10:45:07 AM »
I think the *worst* thing you can do to a "gifted" child is refuse to discipline him/her. And by discipline, I mean both socially and academically/intellectually/artistically. The 10-year old who can do college-level math, sing like Joan Sutherland or Whitney Houston, or sink baskets like Michael Jordan is going to grow into just another 20-year-old with a good head for math/pretty voice/decent hoop skills, if s/he has relied solely on natural talent and not learned how to practice and improve on those talents. And the 10-year-old who has not been called on boorish behavior because that would "stifle his/her creativity" is going to grow into a 20-year-old boor whom nobody wants to be around. Calling your mother fat and punching her in the stomach is not "creative." It's reprehensible.

PP's have made some good suggestions for Josh's mom. Some variation on "We don't arrange play dates for Josh; at his age he manages to keep his social calendar full all by himself" should suffice.

The TV show 'Numb3rs' addressed this actually. One of the 2 main characters was a child prodigy math genius. Now he's an adult (30s) professor and in one show he's having a bit of an existential crisis because as he says 'I'm no longer ahead of schedule.' Once the child prodigy grows up, they're just another adult. It can ocme as quite a shock.

Twik

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Re: "Gifted" Child - Engage or Not?
« Reply #89 on: October 23, 2013, 10:53:29 AM »
However, child prodigies usually *know* they're different. Refusing to label them "gifted" doesn't mean that they don't realize they're learning at a much faster rate. The original intent for educators to call some children "gifted" was so that their education could be patterned to their needs.

If Connor was *really* reading and annotating the dictionary at 3 (and I'm not sure I believe he wasn't just randomly making scribbles on it - parents can be very self-deceptive), there's no way he'd grow up not noticing that other children don't do that.

Gifted doesn't mean "the next step in evolution". It means "can learn in one month what the average child will take three to master". It certainly doesn't mean "cannot behave as a civilized person".
My cousin's memoir of love and loneliness while raising a child with multiple disabilities will be out on Amazon soon! Know the Night, by Maria Mutch, has been called "full of hope, light, and companionship for surviving the small hours of the night."