Three Take-Aways As The School Year Ends

The 2011-12 school year has come to a close.  As I packed up some things from my office, ready for the summer break, I thought about a few points that stuck with me this year in working with gifted students in my high school:

1). Self confidence, self direction, resilience, and passion contribute to students excelling.
If a student has the motivation and drive to excel, to make a difference, and to continue growing, nothing will keep that from happening.  Regardless if some kids get a head start through more rigorous academics, it’s really about each person’s innate personality and drive that gets them there, and keeps them there. Self-efficacy is the belief that you can be successful.  Students who make a difference have this in large doses.  While a high IQ is a wonderful thing, it doesn’t ensure success.

2. Gifted kids need to know that they are more than their grades.
They need trusted adults to help them become more self aware, and to explore how others think and feel. They need to discuss these things with other kids who feel like they do, and who process at a similar level. High grades and high intelligence  may be important, but they are not always indicators of success later in life. A student who is smart AND who is emotionally aware of themselves and others has a real advantage. We need to help develop more than academic and creative talent in gifted kids. We need to help develop social and emotional aptitude, appreciation, and awareness, as well.

3. Not all gifted students in a school have been identified as gifted.
In many districts, it is common to only know about the students who have been identified as gifted as they come through the school district system.  In my school,  a large percentage of the students we receive from outside of our school district may be gifted, but we have little record keeping to reflect that.  One of the biggest issues is that in our district we identify students as gifted using certain criteria, and many of these students were identified using different criteria and evidence that doesn’t necessarily meet our district’s standards.  To discern all this information with each incoming student would be very time consuming.

That means that certain additional students often go unidentified: students who transferred in from other countries/states/districts outside of our own (and their testing records do not end up being recorded into our system); students who come from private/charter/home school situations where they don’t identify kids as gifted; students who are twice exceptional (gifted with a disability) and do not do well on tests; students who are underachieving and their abilities are masked by apathy; students who speak English as a second language so don’t do well on culturally normed tests; and students who fall through the cracks because they live in poverty and haven’t had the same opportunities to nurture their talents.

Whatever the stated percentage of a school’s gifted student population, chances are it’s actually higher. In my school, about 25% have been identified as gifted.  I believe the actual number of gifted students is significantly higher because of the reasons listed above.

So many other thoughts are swirling through my head as I think back on the year full of sessions, groups, conferences, meetings and conversations with students, parents, teachers and administrators.  Whew…hello summer!

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