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Challenge Your Preconceptions about Gifted Youth

Posted by Categories: Education, Gifted Education, Gifted Students

PreconceptionsIn the course of interviewing potential staff to work in gifted and talented programs over the course of many years, I usually ask the candidate to describe a gifted child. I’ve come to expect a wide variety of responses. Many of those characteristics are ones I would expect to hear-both positive and negative-ranging from curious, inquisitive, stubborn, motivated, great sense of humor, wide knowledge base, creative, and so on. Usually at least one perceived negative characteristic will be expressed, such as egotistical, arrogant, shy, argumentative, immature, depressed, or perfectionist. These negative characteristics can be as applicable to any student as to a gifted student.

I often have to prod or lead candidates to what I consider to be the most basic characteristics of evidence of high ability or potential with questions about how they learn new information quickly and easily, understand concepts broadly, demonstrate excellent reasoning skills, possess a wide knowledge base, etc.

Many people seem to have preconceived notions about what gifted children are like, whether they have worked with them or not. Gifted education professionals, as well as many who are not, know that gifted children come in all shapes and sizes, packages, and flavors. Most children (and adults) have great untapped talents, skills, and potential. When we expect certain behaviors based on past experiences or cultural myths, we can easily overlook what is unexpected. These unexpected traits might be monumental—great problem solving ability, amazing intuition, or highly advance knowledge in a certain topic. The next time you meet a gifted or potentially gifted student for the first time, view that student through a clear filter—one that is not contaminated with preconceptions. Let the previously unseen talent emerge and be awed by what you will see. When we are open to all possibilities, anything is possible.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

One response to “Challenge Your Preconceptions about Gifted Youth”

  1. TODD NICHOL says:

    GAT kids are like any other, but more needy in their special areas. At times they perceive their extra ability as a treasure, and at other times, a curse. Simply, they are like any of my other kids. Their “gift” does not define them.

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