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Is giftedness a designer label? By Sue Breen

Designer label picture made for Sue's post.
Image made for this post, CC BY Mary St George.

Sue Breen is a board member of giftEDnz, and contributes to our Special Interest Group on the Early Years.

Here, Sue questions the ways in which we label gifted children, and in which they wear those labels.

Everyone wears many labels at any one time. They wear them whether or not they want a particular label - or even whether they realise they are wearing it.
young/old, friendly, tall/short, glass-half-full/glass-half-empty, musical, creative, bookworm, geek, confident/shy, lonely, sad, busy ..........

Some try very hard to make everyone aware they are wearing a label while others try just as hard to hide their label from view.

If we look at designer clothing labels: - wearing a designer label can make you feel good and look good. (Do you look good because you feel good or feel good because you look good?)

What is it about a designer label? 
Certainly there is the feel, and the look, of quality. Better materials and a better finish are part of the appeal. They are often unique, one-off items. There is a status value.  This is why ‘knock-offs’ are so plentiful and readily available. They allow people who are unable to purchase the actual designer label item to be able to look the part and feel (almost) as ‘special’.

Whether or not the person wearing the designer label item actually intends to give the impression: “Look at me. I am rich. I have good taste. I can afford to wear these incredibly expensive items! Don’t you wish you could too? Aren’t you envious?”  - the person looking on can feel this is what is being loudly stated.

Our gifted students are well aware of this problem. It is difficult to celebrate your achievements when others aren’t yet there. You can be seen as bragging or showing off. If you say/show “I can” - what others hear is: “You think you are better than me”.

Designer labels are often placed very visibly on the outside of the garment. They are often overseas labels, recognisable by a simple and effective logo. A status symbol. (Are overseas labels better than home-grown ones?)

There are many reasons why a designer label is no longer a valued item. 
Is it still a valued designer logo if it has snags, or has a hole or after it has been dropped in the mud? 
Does this equate to becoming depressed and tuning out because no-one understands or to being excluded from the group’s activities because no-one relates to your interests, because you are seen as being different.

What about new trendy labels trying to find their place as a ‘must-have brand?
(Our gifted students who are mis-diagnosed by non-specialists in the specific field as ADD, ADHD, ODD, PDA or on the autism spectrum etc.) 

Is giftedness a designer label?
Unlike sports teams proudly wearing their top of the line clothing we find many of our gifted are unlikely to wear their label with pride. They are more likely to be wearing their label on the inside rather than having it on display for all to see. 
(Sometimes they wish they could do this but the label keeps sticking up at the back of the neck.) 
Those verbally gifted who try to stay under the radar or the avid scientists who become so excited their enthusiasm infects everyone around them are examples of this. What of the student who is uncomfortable with the label at the back of the neck scratching and irritating the skin? 

Often our gifted students are wearing sticky labels that tend to fall off their shirts. This could be students who stand out in one specific area so is only noticeable to those around at that particular time or for that particular activity or under special circumstances - or it could be students chosen for a programme one year but omitted for the following year. The label still belongs to the shirt - it has just been misplaced. This is particularly true for our twice-exceptional gifted students. 

Some of our gifted wear recognisable labels, such as those who are comfortable with their giftedness and are happy within themselves. Those wearing cultural shirts with ethnic motifs also belong here.
Some of our gifted wear unlabelled clothing - either by choice or because of external factors.

The designer label knock-offs can equate to ad hoc programmes, fun activities, ‘one-size-fits-all’ programmes that are put in place with little validity or research base.

The Gifted Education Centre run a number of programmes for gifted students. Often those taking part talk to staff and other participants about the excellence of the programmes and the value they place on being able to take part. They talk about what a difference that finding the Centre has made to their lives. They make huge financial and time commitments to ensure their family is able to continue to benefit. 

Usually when you find a valuable, effective product you share your delight with everyone. Our programmes are excellent - but we don’t have all our extremely-happy-with-the-the-programme people sharing their experiences with others. There are those who prefer to keep quiet and ‘fit in’.  

Often they feel not even able to share their enjoyment and their achievements with close friends or family. A large number would love to have the programmes promoted and advertised widely - so long as someone else is the face on the poster or in the magazine or on the television. They prefer their designer labels to stay in the closet.

If only we could allow all our gifted students, and their families, to wear their gifted label with pride. 

Can we, should we, promote a gifted designer label?

This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

#NZGAW Blog Tour



An organisation for anyone with a professional interest in gifted and talented education.