Dr. Wanda Routier, Former WATG Board Member
It seems as though our world, especially in education, is trying to remove labels, which for the most part is a positive move. Most schools today have some sort of inclusionary programming, in which students with varying degrees of exceptionalities are included in the regular classroom. This inclusion movement (which began decades ago, and was termed ‘mainstreaming’) is attempting to break down barriers and remove labels so that students see each other as classmates, rather than “smart” or “autistic” or “in a wheelchair.” The irony is that special education requires a label in order for a student to receive services; however, that label does not have to be the main descriptor of the student in school. The same should be true for gifted students.
For anyone who knows truly gifted students, you know that they have just as significant and unique learning needs as students with disabilities. Meeting the needs of gifted students may require adjustments to the classroom, the curriculum, instruction, assessment, or the schedule. Above all, meeting the needs of gifted students requires “Different Not More.” In other words, gifted students need different work, not more work; different classes, not more classes, etc.
There is an interesting article on the Kendall Hunt website that gives several ways to start to effectively challenge gifted students. Teachers do not have to change everything all at once; each small step implemented helps meet the needs of gifted students. The article stresses the importance of asking our students how to best serve them. We need to ask them how to improve our teaching, and what they need to learn best. We need to be willing to learn from our students. They are the best guides to meeting their needs.
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