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The Ineffective Gifted Label, by Sue Breen

Sue Breen, giftEDnz board member, writes for the International Week of the Gifted.

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The ineffective gifted label


Given the time, energy, research and commitment given to the gifted cause throughout the last decades one could assume that most people would now understand the importance for our young gifted to have their learning and emotional needs met.

Why is this not the case?
Why are we still fighting for equitable funding and appropriate educational opportunities?

One reason is that these young gifted students are still perceived as being over-advantaged to begin with. When advocating for resources for the gifted we don’t have the ‘heart-string-pulling’ that other children with their own special needs can evoke.

Another reason is that there is not single universal definition for giftedness, and each child comes with their own areas of strength and areas of weakness. So easy for everyone to concentrate on what a child is not able to achieve and organise a programme to ‘fix’ the under-achieving areas. (Socialisation and fine motor skills to mention just two.)

Why is the gifted term so divisive?
“All children are gifted” or “I haven’t had an Einstein go through my school - ever!”
These are two common, yet totally opposing views that are often heard.
A universal definition would be so advantageous.
If you are saying your child is gifted then what I am hearing is that you think your child is better than my child.
I have a whole group of individuals in my class. Why are you bringing me a psychologists report? I’ll be evaluating your child with how he/she performs in my class.

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’?

In NZ schools these terms tend to be used as:

  • gifted=intellectual and talented=creative
  • interchangeably (two words meaning exactly the same thing), or
  • as if it was one ‘gifted-and-talented’ term (to be inclusive and because we are not really sure where the dividing line is).

What can we do to help this situation?
Given that I can’t see a universal definition happening anytime soon, we have to be stressing that we are talking about equity of opportunity/resources and catering for the individual child’s learning/emotional needs.

We need to provide teachers (and other professionals who interact with our gifted youth) with relevant information, professional development opportunties, resources and give parents and the students themselves the tools to allow them to interact effectively with those within the school system.

If we cannot all be singing the same song, in the same key, then at least let us all be singing from the same songbook.

Onion Singers by David Allen and Travis Price. 

Onion Singers image by David Allen and Travis Price.




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