How do we define and support other kinds of gifted?

<p>This is something that I have been thinking about for a long time and these are some kind of random thoughts on the issue ---
When Bobby Fischer died one of his obits in the NY Times opened with a line something like “When we think of child prodigies we think of math, of music and of chess.” That really does seem to be born out by the postings here – we see many, many postings of kids well advanced in math and music (fewer chess players on this board) but very seldom do we see the kid who is very advanced in (for lack of better word) the humanities. There are lots of kids who read a lot, and kids who write well, but how do we identify the kids who are truly “gifted” in these areas? Can we tell at an early age? How do we support these kids?
Both of my kids are extremely rational thinkers, and have been since an early age. They could construct an airtight argument by the time they were four or five and have always been able to spot the central fallacy in an argument right off the bat. They see connections across fields of thought and get the big picture as well as all the details. They make distinctions in their thought that many well-educated adults don’t see. I remember one Easter dinner when they were about 8 and 10 we had a good friend, a priest who teaches theology at a top 25 university to dinner. The subject of faith versus religion came up and the discussion was quite lively, with both boys right in the thick of things. After dinner our friend commented that the boys were presenting, discussing and refuting concepts that his grad students had a hard time coming to independently. To our boys it just seemed natural.
This proved to be a problem in school -- they often found themselves impatient with a teacher who plodded through material (in particular Social Studies teachers) or literature teachers who got hung up on the mechanics of a piece instead of delving into the content and context of a work. Their response was to hide behind a wall of shyness – just don’t make waves. Bring it home and talk it out at the dinner table, cause the teacher will just shut down any in depth conversation in the classroom.
The gifted programs at the school didn’t help – they pushed Math Olympics and engineering programs, but not debate or creative writing or… Both kids were in the gifted program for a time, but found that it just did not match their interests or their needs and dropped out in middle school.
I don’t want to make them sound perfect or even suggest that they are “prodigies” of a sort. They both had spells of laziness and they both are stubborn to the point of harming themselves (S1 while he was in kindergarten “I know I know how to read, why does the teacher have to know – it’s none of her business. This was an attitude that they both had a hard time shaking) . But having raised these two (S2 just graduated from high school) I know that there are kids out there who are not getting the support they need for some reason.</p>

<p>What is advanced in humanities? We do recognize people who speak several languages at a young age. Writing well is subjective. If they're awesome writers they should write some books and see if they can get one published. </p>

<p>Also, if they are very gifted, not getting recognition at age 8 and 10 isn't a big deal. They'll do something in the future and be recognized.</p>

<p>In our public school system, gifted programs definitely focused on non-science/math areas. In elementary and middle school, kids read Shakepeare, put on plays, and participated in mock trials and National History Day activities.</p>

<p>No "gifted" programs in HS, but HS offers advanced math and science for 8th grade and up. Kids in 9th and 10th grade English and SS can do independent honors projects, and get points added to their GPA if these projects are completed satifactorily. 10th grade can start taking AP social studies sequence. 11th grade can start on AP English sequence....and continue with independent honors projects. Competitive Social Science Research program in 10th-12th grade for superstars.</p>

<p>HS EC's include all kinds of social science and theater enrichment. Some in Middle School, as well.</p>

<p>I don't think humanities and social science are "2nd class" gifted in our school system.</p>

<p>I concur with QwertyKey.</p>

<p>Qwerty, the question is not about recognition, but rather about how to help kids develop their strengths. It seems, and it may be just our local experience, that kids who have strengths in areas that can be more easily judged by objective standards are easier to identify and get the kind of support they need to develop their strengths. Kids in more subjective areas are less likely to be given the support they need. Part of the problem is how do we identify these kids? Is that kid really smart or just a smart a**?</p>

<p>^ First of all, I think debate and [legitimate] mathematical skill are strongly correlated because both essentially come down to logical reasoning. Debate can be a great activity for kids who like real-world issues, public speaking, and logic. I wouldn't necessarily classify it as either STEM or humanities focused.</p>

<p>I think it's best to avoid the term 'gifted', which implies some innate capability having little to do with the other aspects, and use a term like 'strength' which could be a combination of innate capability, interest in a particular area, internal drive, and passion. There are many kids who would do quite well in various areas, perhaps even be categorized by some as 'gifted', yet just lack the interest and drive in that area so it never becomes apparent that they might do quite well (at least not unless and until they become interested in the area). </p>

<p>Given that, it's easier to notice some 'strengths' versus others. Artistic capability may be more apparent than organizational capability. Math capability may be more apparent than spatial capability, reading comprehension versus capability to lead people, etc. Some things are just more easily measured and quantified.</p>

<p>Kids who are good writers may work on a private collection of stories or poems, sometimes illustrating it themselves. There's nothing to stop a child from doing this. Later they may be recognized by the Scholastic association, or published in the HS literary magazine (if there isn't one....start one). </p>

<p>AP Euro & APUSH are challenging courses that require writing and close reasoning. What about the History Fair? and Debate, as another poster mentioned.</p>

<p>I agree sometimes at the elementary level teachers aren't quite up to speed on some subjects that your child may excell at, but by the HS level there are many many options, unless you are in a truly deprived school district.</p>

<p>CTY has some classes in humanities and writing.</p>

<p>I worked very hard on the advisory committee to our district's Talented and Gifted (TAG) program. They work under the model of 5 areas of "giftedness": Specific Academics, General Academics, Creativity, Leadership, and Visual/Performing Arts. There are 3 levels in each area, ranging from needing to jump ahead grade levels to having differentiated curriculum in the regular classroom. </p>

<p>We worked really hard for several years to improve our schools' response to kids with all of these strengths. The 5 areas were supposed to be given equal attention in developing programs. But as you can imagine, it was easy for the teachers to come up with plans for specific academic gifts ... especially when they started right off with math. They found all kinds of tests for placing kids in math. Then they found some reading and language arts curricula that had differentiated materials built right in. They stumbled when they got to science, and never got around to finishing their plan with social studies.</p>

<p>They bounced around the idea of using some kind of national tests for creativity, but never really implemented them. We argued for months about how to define giftedness in Leadership, and how to respond to it ("You give them leadership positions in ECs!" was the most advanced idea). People thought it was pretty obvious when kids were gifted in the Arts, but then they seemed to think those kids manage to get their own rewards ("Don't the best musicians naturally get the solos and stuff? Can't they just play harder pieces?"). Real, experiential improvement just never got to the table, sadly.</p>

<p>Sometimes I feel like we did make progress - just between my 2 Ds, who are 4 years apart, there are very recognizable changes in how the district handles kids with these needs. But mostly I think we only crawled a few inches, and the kids who have gifts other than being able to get 100% on every math test are still very frustrated and unfulfilled. It gets old being the kid who writes her own stories, and does projects on her own, when even in HS teachers take no interest (we had an English teacher at P-T conferences say to us, "She's always writing in a notebook during class ... what's that all about?"!!! Duh! ASK her!!).</p>

<p>Our district isn't yet even as sophisticated as what 2boysima describes; parents who want those kinds of experiences pretty much have to look outside the schools. We did everything we could for our kids to help them fill in the gaps, and learn to deal with the "real world" of teachers who usually didn't "get" them. Especially my D2, whose gifts are in the much-misunderstood area of creativity - and who didn't always perform "like a TAG kid" in academics, so she was pooh-poohed for years, and it did a number on her self-confidence.</p>

<p>I know a lot of people around the country are working hard to counteract this issue, and get away from the model of academic competitions and extra busy work. I hope kids in the future get met with a much more thoughtful response, but I'm not holding my breath.</p>

<p>emmybet, I think you get what I'm thinking about here. It is not about recognition or even about appropriate courses, which were few and far between in our district, but more about how to move in direction of even understanding that these kids are out there and have an unmet need. Your TAG team sounds much like ours -- math and music are fairly easy to deal with, science and art are maybe given a chance, but from there it gets kinds of nebulous.</p>

<p>It just ends up being up to the parents. I was sad to read how your sons felt they should hide who they were at school - we went through much of that. I had to tell my 8-year-old that she was going to have to learn to value herself and ignore the adults who constantly tried to cut her down (because her gifts didn't fit their impression of what was important, and she couldn't do the all-100% work they thought were the only proof of ability). </p>

<p>It is demoralizing to a child that age - and yes, an 8-year-old can be very hurt, can become depressed, and develop some pretty major poor self-esteem, that can't "wait" until HS to be turned around - when they are ignored or told to their face that they aren't special. I'm not talking about the "everyone is special" syndrome and "don't damage my self esteem for any reason" epidemic. I'm talking about kids who do something truly advanced here - my D wrote and directed her own musical play in 2nd grade, only to receive an "Oh, that's nice" from her classroom teacher; the TAG "specialist" completely ignored it, and continually denigrated her because she couldn't spell as many hard words as the "real" smart kids. </p>

<p>If parents don't remind these kids every day that they have to make their own meaning, it is very likely that within a typical school district they will throw in the towel, and sadly only hurt their own chances in the future. We didn't gift-wrap opportunities for our Ds - they had to take ownership and follow through, and they didn't always do it perfectly. But at least they knew someone consistently believed in them and would give them chances to fulfill their potential.</p>

<p>I will always be grateful to the teachers - whom I can count on my two hands, with fingers to spare - who were able to see beyond the conventional in my kids, and in many others, and who were prepared to be creative in offering them exciting and challenging opportunities. I always said it was the teachers who at least could give my D a wink that said "I get you" that made all the difference in her life.</p>

<p>Ellebud, my kids' experience was slightly different. Elementary school was good, with one exception every teacher who "got" my kids was in elementary school. Middle school was miserable for both of them and by high school they had in fact moved into a "just get along" attitude. Many, many teachers who were either indifferent or even hostile to a kid who challenged the status quo. </p>

<p>Interestingly while teachers often missed it, other kids didn't. Most of the validation my kids got in school came not from teachers but from other kids. Kids know who the really talented kids are in any group and understand that very often the teachers are rewarding things other than they profess to be looking for.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Interestingly while teachers often missed it, other kids didn't. Most of the validation my kids got in school came not from teachers but from other kids. Kids know who the really talented kids are in any group and understand that very often the teachers are rewarding things other than they profess to be looking for.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>This is exactly the what we experienced with D from elementary school on. OTOH, S was one of those kids who got "noticed" (maybe even too much) from day one.</p>

<p>In our school district the kids have an option of applying for 2 magnet HS options both of which focus on science/math/tech. They are both terrific, but there is nothing comparable in the humanities, writing, fine arts, performing arts, etc. I would love to see these areas develop programs, but with the current budget issues, I don't see it happening.</p>

<p>In our district, the theoretical basis for our high school gifted program is that Bloom's taxonomy needs to be "turned upside down" for these kids - in other words, way less time is spent on knowledge, understanding, and application, and way more time is spent on analysis, evaluation, and creativity.
A couple of important things to understand, however, are that gifted kids are AT RISK if their needs are not met. Specifically, they are at risk for underachievement and behavior problems, and in the worst case scenario, drug and alcohol abuse. And, the most challenging thing about having these kids is not stimulating them academically, because parents can usually find ways to do this if the schools are not, but bringing them up to function socially. In the end, this social functioning will be absolutely key in how successful they are in life.
Does your state have an association for gifted advocacy? This might be a good place to start if you need to make inroads with your school system. Or, check out the National Association for Gifted Children:
NAGC</a> :: Home
Thanks for the thread!</p>

<p>Our county schools pretend to have a gifted education program; they have a gifted education coordinator. We took it in to our own hands. DD participated in humanities and science camps through CTY. Lucky us, we are in Maryland near one of the day camps. She also did a language (Latin) program one summer at the Joseph Baldwin Academy at a little Missouri school called Truman University, which she enjoyed more than the CTY camps.</p>

<p>It seems as though most of the gifted programs do include humanities related programs.</p>

<p>Another extra curricular activity that my kids enjoyed was Destination Imagination, which is a problem solving program. It involves lots of different thinking. You can form your own team and you can read about it online by simply Googling it.</p>

<p>I think Destination Imagination is similar to Odyssey of the Mind. S has been involved in OM for
several years and loves it.</p>

<p>ECs can be crucial when there aren't curricular supports for these kinds of kids. When we completely burned out on our school district, we considered private school for my D. There is a wonderful K-8 school for kids with "strengths" but who don't always succeed in conventional settings. It might have provided the kind of education and understanding of her needs that we knew would never be available in our school district. We also considered homeschooling, for a year or two, to see if that was where she belonged.</p>

<p>After weighing all of the options, including staying in public school, my D made her decision. She did not want to be homeschooled - she wanted the structure and social experience of a daily school setting. She thought long and hard about the "gifted" school, and finally decided that she didn't want to start over, was concerned she'd struggle with the hugely more difficult courseload (since academic challenge wasn't her only goal), and definitely worried about returning to our HS in 9th grade after such a different experience.</p>

<p>One thing we told her was that we would support a lot of ECs and summer opportunities to balance her frustrations in public school. In 7th grade she happened to encounter one of the best teams of teachers she'd ever had - many teachers gave her that "wink" I described - and she was involved in several very rewarding outside activities, which also gave her several different social groups to interact with. She was able to move forward in music outside of school, in the youth symphony, and at summer music clinics.</p>

<p>She did learn to make her own meaning ... it was a hard lesson, but worth it. She's had her ups and downs in HS, and sometimes looks back on her choices, wondering what she could have enjoyed and accomplished if she'd gone to private school or been homeschooled, but she's satisfied with how things have turned out. She's certainly developed skills in how to deal with frustration, and disappointment, and how to avoid becoming cynical.</p>

<p>My feeling has been all along that college will be her great opportunity to shake off these experiences, and use the strengths she's cultivated. I did step in when the lack of understanding, and sometimes true meanness, was causing her real pain. I do thank the teachers who put time and energy into the terrific extra opportunities that have made my D's experience tolerable, sometimes even inspirational. I credit these individuals, and my D will never forget them.</p>

<p>Both of my kids are out of high school, so for me this is more of philosophical musings and less about looking for programs, etc for them. I think like Emmybet we struggled through high school, looking for a way to match skills and reality of a small town high school. Both boys had interests they pursued enthusiastically on their own. For them it was not really about finding a program that would help them find an interest -- it was about finding a cadre of compatriots who would push back, who would have, if not the same interest, at least one of the same intensity.</p>

<p>Yes, that has been one of the most important elements in my D's life - she knew she could read, and learn instruments, and do all of her "interesting" things all by herself, but it meant so much to have PEERS. She knew cool homeschoolers, but that didn't feel right to her. She knew the TAG school would be full of kids more like her, but that wasn't all she wanted. Basically even though in middle school she was very lonely and felt misunderstood by adults and kids, she has always had some people she could relate to - maybe finding them within the fairly barren public school atmosphere was kind of a fun challenge, actually. Through HS that has increased, as she's gained confidence and learned what works for her, learned who makes a difference in her life. I like the idea of intensity - that's been a big part of the equation for her.</p>

<p>We're pretty much through, too. But thank you for starting this thread. I tried not just to re-open our old wounds. I think telling our stories does help the people coming up, and also we can help each other figure out how we feel about it all, looking back.</p>