A Full Plate

A Full Plate- Why aren’t we serving our gifted students?

Very exotic, often too filling, a little unsettling, and very different.
I’m speaking about our gifted student population.

Do gifted students need a special diet, a cafeteria of choices, or an eaterie of their own; because serving them with others truly isn’t working?



We all know that gifted students are different, but most people don’t realize how much and how different their needs really are. We pay a lot of lip service to those “poor smart kids”. but it’s more than just quirks and chattering about their interests that sets them apart. It’s a different experience. It’s like walking into another world.


Over the years I’ve seen exactly 1 circumstance where I felt the gifted population at a school was being fed the diet that would encourage them to thrive.


In that tiny office, there was a castle.


I was lucky enough as a substitute teacher to pop in and journey to a land of paper towel tubes that transformed into a knightly residence, watch a battle with armor designed with individual coats of arms, and listen to stories being told with Guinevere as the narrator. It was a dream come true. I didn’t want to teach in that room; I wanted to be a student in that room. I saw smiling faces exuding with excitement, but I was merely a visitor. I was invited there by several students and I didn’t want to leave. Even 20 years later, I still remember the feeling that someone understood. That was the most delicious experience of a gifted program I’ve ever witnessed, but most gifted students are not that well served.


I’ve been more party to the traditional extended or accelerated workbook practice and biweekly hour that most gifted children experienced during my teaching tenure. Though I was drawn to nontraditional practices in my classroom like “24” competitions, math game days (when the Thinkfun games came out), and student invention prototypes sent via email to real companies, curriculum makes little room (and much, much less in this current educational climate) for inspiration and creativity; for individuality and passions.


There are some great pull-out programs, but they seem to be increasingly rare as time, attention, and resources continue to focus on testing as the bills continue to add up in education. What’s it like to be misunderstood 90% of the time and be able to breathe the other 10%? Don’t our kids deserve more? Would a separate school solve many of the problems? Why can’t the gifted population be served? Is their palate too demanding?


Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is, of course, a fictional school for mutants who don’t fit into the human world, but is it really necessary? Doesn’t that just shed light on their differences? Do we want our gifted students set apart or melded with others? Do we really have a choice? Is there a choice?


I was often told that I was “too hard” of a teacher. As most teachers, we all have the parents who love us and the parents who despise us (and of course, many in between). When I had the time, I taught with conceptual understandings as my goal. I wanted students to truly understand. I taught with depth in mind. I reached many students, but not others. Is it because I was gifted myself and couldn’t bear to teach in a way that didn’t serve the students with whom I identified? I often felt like I was merely going through the motions of passing on genuine learning to many students. Was I blind to their needs? Wouldn’t a teacher who’s not gifted also be blind to the needs of our gifted students?


What’s the difference in instruction? After all, can’t all student needs be met in a general education classroom of today? We’ve already revamped our schools to readily support our physically disabled, most schools have auditory and visual devices to support students with sensory issues, but what has changed for the gifted? Do they require different content, different testing, or a different kind of school? There’s a real lack of continuity and support across schools. You never know what you’ll get until you get it…or not.


Yes, there are options. There are magnet schools or well-run gifted programs. There are also ways that the gifted population can get glimpses into their own version of heaven through compacting, acceleration, tiered assessments and enrichment, but we all know how sporadic and minimal they really are for a child who’s often bored. After all, most of the *fun stuff* comes upon completion of everything else. Many gifted classes only begin after school. So, the mindset becomes “suffer through and then you can enjoy learning” again.How long would you be content to complete work below your level before you’d just give up? Many students give up before they’re rescued.


Wouldn’t every student benefit from a natural pace, interest, and intellectual level plan?


Don’t gifted students deserve a different menu? 





2 thoughts on “A Full Plate- Why aren’t we serving our gifted students?

  1. Yes they do, it is more about giving them things they can’t do,
    the same problem arises at the other end of the scale. there must be some less bright (I was going to say dim (english english) but that’s politically incorrect nowadays, apparently) kids who would be quite happily served with things that the could or can do without burdening them with the need to EXPLAIN everything. for example it is quite possible to learn a routine for adding numbers, to carry it out correctly and to have some idea that the result is correct without having to understand and explain the method. We are fast moving into a situation of labelling kids as “unsuitable for college and career if they can’t explain why 2 times 3 is equal to 3 times 2.


    1. Howardat58, if students can show proficiency I don’t think they should be mandated to go through all of the steps, but I think some kind of explanation is appropriate for all students.

      I always liked the quote by Albert Einstein: The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple. It’s a brain-stretcher, I’ll admit, but I’ve seen many students surprise me with their explanations. As a veteran teacher I’ve had to weed through those explanations often, but generally, students CAN explain their understanding when encouraged to do so.

      My concern is that our educational system is swinging from one end to the opposite. I was that child in the 70s who was bored in school and went to the library on weekends to research interesting topics because school offered me little. These days it seems to be headed in the direction to serve similar students to me, but is aiming to disregard more traditional learning styles.

      So, what’s the solution?


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