While gifted students look perfect on paper, their teachers know that in the classroom they are not all the academic angels and stellar scholars that people assume they are. Successful teachers of the gifted require a special understanding of their students’ social and emotional needs.
All AboutEmotional Needs
No one can deny that our gifted students have great power. They may be intellectual powerhouses, grasping concepts years ahead of peers. They may be emotionally sensitive, becoming aware of issues such as mortality at an early age. They may be leaders of people, showing leadership qualities from the very beginning. How do we teach them to use this power?
At NAGC2010, I attended a session about social and emotional focused on self-evaluation or “sharpening the saw.” Rather than simply offering vague recommendations for students to “get in touch with their emotions,” Tim Gott introduced a very practical pathway to assist children in assessing their own emotions.
I always find a list of the common characteristics of giftedness useful when thinking about my class. However, one list is never enough. So, here’s a list of eleven lists of gifted characteristics and identifiers. Each one offers a slightly different look at the gifted mind.
As a teacher of gifted students, you will be in the unique situation of teaching classrooms with a majority of introverts, a population typically in the minority in general classrooms. Consider how you can set the stage to improve these students’ learning, socializing, and happiness.
What a concept! Students’ behavior will improve when they work with a teacher who enjoys them! However, anyone who’s had to wrangle two or three dozen gifted minds at once knows there’s much more to the story than angelic super–computers who eagerly obey your every whim. In fact, gifted students can present some interesting behaviors that throw off unprepared teachers.
We start the year in language arts with the theme of courage. Here are three quotes I’ve used representing different viewpoints about courage, from Shakespeare, Churchill, and Mark Twain.
In class, a child suddenly explodes at another for making a clicking pencil sound, a student shuts down for the day after making an error while presenting, a distant natural disaster effects children’s moods. As a teacher, this layer of complex sensitivity builds on your already difficult job of tracking academic progress. To be effective, you must also navigate this emotional minefield.
Previously, we discussed using morality, multiple intelligences, and scholarly habits to analyze characters. Not only does this add deep layers to questioning, but (more importantly) it provides opportunities to discuss gifted students’ unique emotional needs. Personality types are another tool that serve these two needs.
Not only are they dealing with the usual trials of growing up, they are often doing it with an increased awareness of their faults, a frustration with being unable to do everything well, and a world that often doesn’t know what to do with them. Worse, they often lack the emotional tools to accompany their increased awareness.