R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Gifted Education
R-E-S-P-E-C-T— find out what it means to us— in gifted education. RESPECT is not just a well-known song; it’s a way of approaching our attitudes regarding differentiation for gifted and talented students. I think there are several places where respect comes into play in our classrooms.
First and foremost, I think we as educators must respect what gifted students bring to us and recognize that those characteristics drive our plans for these students. We need to respect that they learn quickly, remember things well, and can think broadly, with agility and skill. With this respect in mind, we would naturally want to compact for prior knowledge that the student brings, move at an accelerated pace with new material for those students, and offer flexibility of topics as well as application of new information in areas of interest to the students.
Students also must be respectful of the difficult task that teachers face each day. It’s been my experience that the vast majority of classroom teachers desire to meet the needs of all students and believe they are doing many positive things in reaching this goal, while facing incredible challenges in pursuit of individual differentiation. They generally receive insufficient training for teaching gifted students, face a wide range of abilities in heterogeneous classrooms, and often do not have gifted education support systems in place in their districts or states. These reasons make it critical for gifted students, in a respectful way, to let teachers know when curriculum is too easy or when they have suggestions for topics and skills they would like to study.
Parents have the sometimes difficult task of respecting both the student’s abilities and the teacher’s dilemmas. Parents must be good advocates for their children and work with their teachers as a member of the child’s educational “village.” Parents have the opportunity to have in-depth knowledge about their children’s interests and abilities beyond a school setting and can provide useful information and suggestions to teachers so as to create a powerful learning experience for those students in the everyday classroom.
So in essence, it really pays off for each party to see situations from the student, teacher, and parent points of view for differentiation to succeed. If you have an example of a time when mutual or individual respect has paid off for your student, please share so that others can learn from your successes.
All the best,