Passion and Dedication: Key Traits for Teachers of the Gifted
We know that good programming for gifted learners begins with good curriculum and instruction, which means it also begins with good teachers. These are teachers who understand gifted students, care about them and empathize with their educational needs. Teachers who are most effective in working with gifted students typically exhibit many of the characteristics of their students. They prefer abstract themes and concepts, prefer open and flexible learning venues, and enjoy logic, analysis and rational thought. Nonetheless, the social qualities of the teachers are as important, if not more important, than the intellectual characteristics. Emotional intelligence is as important as knowledge and skill when working with gifted students. For a teacher to implement effective differentiation, he or she will need to be able to view the students as individuals and connect with them on a personal level. They have to be able to understand how gifted and talented students can think, solve problems, be creative, and be able to challenge them in areas of interest to them.
These teachers need also to have self-confidence, enthusiasm, passion for learning in selected fields, and a preference for working with gifted children. They would need to be understanding when gifted students challenge them, correct them or ask questions they have no clue how to answer. They would need to be able to provide “managed risk” environments where perfectionist students can be encouraged to be comfortable with levels of failure that help them to grow.
In our SIG programs, we seek teachers who exhibit such characteristics. We want teachers who are dedicated enough to give students their time during the summer, who are passionate about the fields they teach in the courses we offer, and who love working with high ability and creative young people. If we expect students to develop into lifelong, engaged, enthusiastic, creative learners, then they need to have teachers they can emulate now and surpass later in their personal growth. We hope that all gifted students will have the opportunity to work with such talented teachers and that these talented teachers will have the opportunity to be challenged by these amazing young people.
All the best,