In this fact sheet some common misconceptions about gifted students are being addressed, that make quite a bit of sense to me.
1. Gifted students are a homogeneous group, all high achievers: Even though I have always been a high achiever academically, I know many gifted students who were not. When I think of the people in my seventh grade gifted programme, I see no lower rate of school drop-outs or those repeating a grade than I do amongst others in my seventh grade class. Now that is still quite a selective group, since we’re all at a high level high school, but it’s just to illustrate that one’s intellectual ability doesn’t equal academic achievement.
When learning disabilities like dyslexia complicate the situation, as was the case with many of my fellow gifted programme attendants, the situation may even be more difficult, since then the student may be able to achieve academically, if only he has the ability to access the material in a way where he isn’t hindered by his difficulties.
2. Gifted students do not need help. If they are really gifted, they can manage on their own: I so hate this idea. It presupposes that if you are gifted, you automatically possess all the knowledge that you need. Granted, a person is generally recognized as gifted by the grace of his performance on an IQ test, and IQ tests often include many questions of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that a gifted student always automatically acquires this knowledge. If he doesn’t have access to information, he simply won’t. That’s been quite an issue for me throughout elementary school: I wasn’t challenged academically in school, and cause I am blind I had limited access to information, so most of what I learnt, I learnt from what my Dad told me or from a children’s audio magazine I was subscribed to.
And that’s only speaking of academic knowledge. I won’t go into all those other issues, since then I’ll be creating a ten-page rant on the “intelligence equals capability” mindset and how it’s been troubling me over the past several years.
3. Gifted students have fewer problems than others because their intelligence and abilities somehow exempt them from the hassles of daily life: Sometimes, I think the contrary is true. When you have high intelligence, you often understand much more of the “big issues” at a younger age than your peers do, but that’s not to say that you can handle it. A five-year-old, intelligent child may not be bothered as much by “simple” things (if that’s true, I doubt, but suppose it is), but she is likely more disturbed by the big problems like death or poverty, cause she can understand these issues better than her average age peers can. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not fun watching the news and understanding all the big stuff that’s going on in the world but not being able to handle it emotionally cause at age six you haven’t had enough experience to place the issues in context.
4. The future of a gifted student is assured: a world of opportunities lies before the student: Should I really go into this? I hate that “intelligence equals success” viewpoint, and it’s still far too prevalent. I’ve gotten increasingly frustrated by this idea, now that I’m seeing once again (after 1998) that I’m not going everywhere smoothly.
5. Gifted students are self-directed; they know where they are heading: I don’t know exactly how to interpret this, but if it is to mean that gifted students know exactly what they want and can direct themselves to this goal without encouragement, it’s most definitely false. The part about knowing what they want is false, since many gifted students have a myriad of interests, so their ideas of what they want may change rapidly over time. And they’ll most certainly need direction in how to achieve their chosen goals, since they cannot be expected to have all the knowledge required to reach their goals without help.
6. The social and emotional development of the gifted student is at the same level as his or her intellectual development: Of course, I’m deeply touched by this misconception. It’s so prevalent among the general population, that I’ve often been extremely misunderstood for having problems with social and emotional development while I’m so intelligent. Either you acknowledge I’m intelligent, or you acknowledge I have these problems – both is almost impossible. As a result, oftentimes I’ve felt my problems being ignored cause people wanted to have my intelligence recognized, or in elementary school I felt my academic ability was invalidated cause people couldn’t believe I was intelligent when I had clear behaviour difficulties.
7. Gifted students are nerds and social isolates: This is an overly generalized statement. While it fits me in some ways – although I would not consider myself a nerd in the traditional sense of the word -, it probably doesn’t apply to every single gifted student, just like it’s impossible to make such assertions about every student of average intelligence.
8. The primary value of the gifted student lies in his or her brain power: Intellectual/academic ability used to be the only positive quality I could make up for myself before I thought about my creativity – hmmm, is it really weird that I can only think of two positive and one negative qualities of mine? -, and I like that one much more. Because intelligence is so oftentimes distorted to lead to stupid expectations, I’ve come to hate the fact that I’m allegedly so intelligent, even though I still list it as a positive quality (more cause everyone else does, than cause I truly think it is). However, in all times when I felt I was lacking significantly in some areas – like in the second half of ninth grade and in most of this year -, I’ve considered my artistic/literary qualities much more likeable than my academics.
9. The gifted student’s family always prizes his or her abilities: Mine did and does, but that’s probably cause I come from an educated family. If I came from a family of athletes, that’d probably be valued much more and people may not have validated my intelligence. Also, asynchrony in the child’s development may contribute, since when the child has many problems in other areas, her academic ability or intelligence may not be recognized or acknowledged.
10. Gifted students need to serve as examples to others and they should always assume extra responsibility: Well, if a student is ahead of the rest of his class, he may be expected to help other students, for instance, but it makes no sense to expect extra responsibility out of a student just because he’s more intelligent. “You have to be wiser and stand above this,” is a comment oftentimes made by parents to the oldest child in sibling arguments, and this may apply to a certain extent for intelligent students. Again, asynchronous development may be troubling this.
11. Gifted students make everyone else smarter: Of course, a gifted child may be able to help other students, but that’s not to say that in this way, the others will become smarter. The others may acquire knowledge they did not previously have, but if you equate this with becoming smarter, you can also say that teachers make students smarter. It’s true, in a certain way, but not totally so.
12. Gifted students can accomplish anything they put their minds to. All they have to do is apply themselves: All these remarks so push my buttons. It’s that old-fashioned expectations thing again, and it makes me feel so frustrated. This is a different sort of issue than that with blindness, since it isn’t society’s general attitude that blind people are high achievers – it’s the contrary that we, according to some philosophies, have to defeat -, whereas in general people believe intelligent people to be achievers, and it’s the gifted population that’s trying to get rid of this stereotype.
13. Gifted students are naturally creative and do not need encouragement: Of course, gifted students do need encouragement in being motivated or challenged. With regard to creativity, it probably depends on how you define “creative” and it also depends on the person.
14. Gifted children are easy to raise and a welcome addition to any classroom: Gifted children are oftentimes difficult to raise and may be a challenge to classroom teachers, for they often require a different approach than other students or children. They are often more intense, more sensitive, and more easily bored, so parents and classroom teachers may have great difficulty keeping up with them.
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