Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gifted & Talented

I heard the words 'gifted & talented' this morning.
I don't know what to think about this label.
I would really appreciate any thoughts on the topic.

I dropped my boy at school this morning and his teacher wanted to speak to me.
We've known since our boy was two that he was fairly advanced, particularly with numbers.
I was surprised when at three he could do Year Two level mental operational maths.
I was even more surprised when at four he was adding his play money and just started counting in fives. I'd never shown him, he just knew. I got tears in my eyes and asked, "How do you know that?"  His standard answer at the time was, "I just learned it up."
He talks about percentages, and understands what that means.
He can not only tell the time but tell you how many minutes it is until a certain time.
He can read five and six digit numbers, understands the concepts of addition, subtraction and multiplication.  He can double any number quicker than I can.

I didn't say anything when he started school, I just wanted to see how he went.
His teacher picked up on his 'exceptional' Maths skills last term and told us she was going to have him assessed by the learning support team to see what level of extension he would need.
This morning she told me he will be doing the Year 1 (he's in Prep) tests to see where's he's at across the board.  Then they'll make a profile on him for the 'Gifted & Talented' program.
That was the first time I'd heard the words 'gifted & talented' associated with my boy.
When I was teaching I heard it a lot.  And it wasn't always good.

Teachers (including me) were a little fearful of having a gifted & talented child because that meant extra pressure to write extra programs and follow up with extra extension work. (I was flat out just trying to keep up with regular classroom work without having extra stuff!)
Parents would sometimes think they had a gifted & talented child (when really they were just above average) and would push for their child to be assessed.
Children tagged with the label may have felt extra pressure to perform and then didn't know what to do with their 'gifted & talented-ness' in the end anyway.
As a parent I feel like I shouldn't say anything to anyone for fear people will think I'm bragging.

I don't know what to think to be honest.  It makes me a little nervous.  But it can be good, right?
It's a label that sounds good, but honestly, if he's happy, busy and has nice friends at school, what more does he need?
I do wonder what he'll be or do when he grows up, but the thing I want most for him is to be happy and contribute positively to society.  Does anything else really matter?

Of course I'm incredibly proud of my amazing little man.
I've just never liked the term 'gifted and talented' very much.
Because all kids are gifted and all kids are gifts.


  1. Boy 2 is not G & T but close enough in the assessments (top 6%) for me to have an inkling of what you are thinking.

    The problems (and you would be well aware) may arise if he gets bored. Boy 2 was very non-compliant when bored. When stimulated and challenged he is a delight (his teacher's words, not mine).

  2. Madmother - yes, that is what I'm most worried about. Prep is still play based and he's happy to play all day. But once he gets to desks & chairs and it's too easy, I am worried about how his behaviour will go.

  3. I can't speak from a parent's perspective on this one, but I was in quite a few 'Extended' classes during primary and high schools. I wasn't a 'genius' or anything, not by any stretch of the imagination; I just learnt stuff quickly. It was great in primary school - I was really happy doing homework in Prep and Grade 1 and I also did extra learning with my Mum (yep, I was such a nerd!). During primary school it was mostly with reading and words, but in high school it was also things like maths and philosophy.

    It wasn't until high school that it all went a little pear-shaped for me. I think they (the teachers) started pushing too far by then and my parents were so used to me getting perfect marks that they started wondering what was going on as well. But it reached the point where, in Year 12, I didn't even do maths and just took the easiest subjects possible.

    It's such a fine line. I think a child needs to be challenged but not pushed. But your little boy sounds like such a gem, maybe just try and take it year by year, term by term and just see how he copes?

  4. Thanks Megan! It's great to hear from someone who's been through it. That is just what I want, for him to be challenged, but not pushed. x

  5. Oh Yay :) am so happy for him and you - that is good stuff :)
    I know when I was in school 'gifted and talented' didn't exist but by the time I was in grade two I went to the grade 5 classroom every time I needed to get a book for reading - my teachers- from memory - told me it was because they had more interesting ones - and by the time I reached grade six I was just bringing in my own - no one ever said i was ahead of the class in English and Literature although I've always found it all (except correct spelling) easy...but I think I was lucky, because the other stuff (like Maths) was still hard. Part of me wonders if its because my parents really wanted me to succeed at that so I, being overly stubborn, didn't...hmmm...
    But I know it felt good knowing I'd always been able to read and that I was good at something just naturally, and I hope that is how your son feels always about being good at everything :)

  6. i done a presentation on this and if you want would be more than happy to put up on my blog for you.

    you know the downside to it. sure it 'extra' work for the teachers but really, can the teacher sit there and tell you that EVERY child is working at the same level? haha.

    i would be doing a lot for him at home. i would ask him if he wants to be in the class with the extra 'attention'. i would lay it all down on the table for him. sure its a big decision for him to decide but its something that you and hubby and him can all decide together.

    i was in a few 'special' classes when i was school. mum never pushed me and it was always my decision to do them. even when i was in kindy.

    he sounds like he knows his stuff.

    is there anything his teacher is doing at the moment to advance this?

  7. Carly - I'd love to read it. Yeah, of course every child is different in a class, the extremes can be difficult to cater for though, huh?
    Your suggestions are great, thanks.
    His teacher is still at the assessing stage with the support team, then they'll decide what to do with him.

  8. April - Exactly why I don't want to be too pushy. I hope he always feels good about it too. x

  9. The good thing, to my mind, about having your child recognized as being gifted and/or talented is that they will be extended and not get bored. You would know as well as any what it's like to have a bored child in your class. I wish there was a better system for education because while an age based one is easy and works for many children, it doesn't work for those who are outside the average range. At least Gifted programs and extension groups for children who are above avergage along with remedial or recover classes for those below does help some of the kids who, otherwise, might become bored nuisances and lose the impetus to learn.

  10. Kallie - I'm not sure how much things have changed since I left, but when I was there it was and hour or two a week out of the classroom. That still leaves a lot of time to be bored in class. But it could all be different now, just waiting to see what happens. :)

  11. Your thoughts about labels are really common. I often get emails about this issue and talk to other parents about it. You'll find that teachers also have different approaches. I remember one teacher in particular saying about one of my boys "Don't tell him he's smart, that's the last thing you should tell him".

    Other parents also seem to get upset if a child is labelled as gifted and talented and theirs is not. A relative of mine recently chatted to me about the uproar in the playground among kindergarten mums who thought their child should have been placed in the class that was for gifted kids...

    Anyway, all I can say is I think that some of the main things to look out for are that your child has a great group of friends at school, your child's teacher makes sure your child is not bored, your child's school is prepared to make sure your child is not bored and your child is also learning all the important social skills as well as the academic ones.

    Gifted kids often also set very high standards for themselves that they can not meet - and I think that's something to watch out for - I read that the best antidote for this is to emphasise the importance of effort instead of the quality of the outcome. Do you know what I mean? I thought it was really good advice.

    Not all 'special' classes work well even for gifted kids in my experience. It depends on the mix of kids in the class, whether half of them have been hot-housed and how interesting the teacher is.

    I will be interested to read how things go for your little man. All the best

  12. Yvette - Thanks so much. The jealousy issue worries me too. I did read about emphasising effort more than outcome and had forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. I resisted the idea of having "gifted" children; didn't know anything about it, didn't want to seem like I, or they, were boasting.
    Then eldest son began Grade 3 he was the "teacher's helper" because the teacher couldn't keep up with him.
    About this time I too became a teacher (high school) and my school offered a Select Entry Accelerated Learning Program. Eldest son top scored on the exam and has been happily part of the program for the past 3 years. He's made friends with similar interests, who get his dry sense of humour, and is happy at school.
    Second son is currently in grade 6 and will also sit the test for the SEAL program. He's really looking forward to "doing some hard maths". I'm so glad we embraced the whole gifted & talented thing, for the boys' sake, not for ours.

  14. I was never labelled at school, however when I was in Year 3 the teacher used to split the class into reading groups, and she would go around half the class giving them help, and I would go around the other half! As with any one, there were many things I wasn't good at, but I excelled at reading!
    I think it's great that the teachers have picked up on this and are able to accommodate your son. Much better than him getting bored down the track and potentially acting out as a result. My son has just turned 4 and I see him excelling in certain areas. I have had friends pushing me to get him 'assessed' to quantify his abilites. I have no interest in that at this stage as he is getting his needs and interests met through what we do at home and his play. Yesterday he wanted to know exactly how the sun moves around the earth to make it night in Africa when it's day here, so I set up his globe with a tennis ball and a torch attached, etc, to try and show him! That's enough for him for now. I will take his teachers lead when he gets to school, if he seems to need extension work at that stage we'll address it then! Like you, I am a little concerned about labels, however I think you should just see this as an opportunity for your son to reach his potential and continue to monitor it so that he is having fun and learning as he goes, and it's never a burden. There is nothing wrong with being proud about this and talking about your son's abilities and achievements, after all, they are pretty amazing! It's not taking away from every other child's unique gifts and abilities to do so. If every child was lifted up in this way and given the opportunity to learn in a way that suited them, imagine how great each child's confidence would be! Good luck Thea, he can't go wrong with a mummy like you!

  15. I just re-read my comment and realised I really went to town with the exclamation marks... sorry! (couldn't resist...)


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