High Achiever vs Gifted Learner

What Teachers Expect

group photo of students
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The High Achiever

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “I know that my child is smarter than average, so why is he/she still not being invited to be in the school’s gifted and talented program?” If so, trust me, you are not alone. As of 2014, only 25% of gifted children are considered to also be high achievers at school. This has nothing to do with the child’s academic potential and everything to do with the child’s attitude toward his/her subject matter and/or teacher in the classroom. Unfortunately, however, most teachers do not understand this fact about gifted children. Most teachers still believe that gifted children are high achievers. So, what do high achievers look like in the classroom? They are the students who:

1. Know all the answers
2. Always raise their hand
3. Are teacher pleasers
4. Complete and turn-in their homework
5. Stress over making the honor roll
6. Do not mind group work
7. Follow directions
8. Easily conform to a variety of classroom environments
and the list just goes on and on.

The Gifted Learner

The majority of gifted children, an estimated 75% in American schools, are not high achievers. They are highly intelligent, but they often get overlooked for their schools’ various gifted and talented programs. Thus, even though they have the higher intelligent quotients (IQ ratings) than the majority of their same-age peers and more academic potential, they may not be displaying the same amount of academic achievement as their high achiever peers. Here is a brief list of what gifted children look like in the classroom:
1. They do not know all the answers, but they know more than the average child about topics that interest them.
2. They do not always follow classroom rules, because the rules do not make sense to them.
3. They have a tendency to have issues with authority-unless they really like their teacher.
4. They have a tendency to not complete their homework or forget to turn it in.
5. They do not stress over being on the honor roll.
6. They do mind group work and would much rather work alone.
7. They have a tendency to make up their own directions concerning assignments, and they have a tendency to have a better reason to implement their idea than to follow yours.
8. They do not easily conform to a variety of classroom environments,

Teachers Often Get the WRONG Impression

Sometimes, our gifted and talented children can also be labeled as disrespectful or as trouble-makers in school. They generally master the class material in half the time it takes a high achiever to grasp the concepts, they get bored and start goofing off, texting, playing on their phones, or just staring into space daydreaming instead of being engaged during class. This behavior can come across as being quite rude and disrespectful to many teachers.
On the other hand, when the gifted child is excited about the class material, she may be overly excited during class. She may ask question after question until the teacher no longer has an answer, thus embarrassing the teacher in front of the class or making the teacher think the student is being ridiculous in questioning. She may know MORE about the class topic than the teacher and correct her teacher when they are not up-to-date on all the facts being presented to the class. Likewise, she may also speak out of turn or just appear to be overly zealous about the class material. Oftentimes, this behavior also comes across to teachers as being disrespectful, because the child is appearing to be too hyper.

How Can Parents Help?

So, as a parent, how do you fix this issue in education? I often recommend trying to find a charter school, a private school, or even try to home school your gifted student. If these types of educational settings are just not going to work with your family’s circumstances, then research the teachers at your school. Find the teachers who truly understand and love gifted kids. Request and even demand that your child is put in those teacher’s classrooms. The teachers who are generally more creative, laid-back, and truly love gifted children have great responses from gifted children naturally. Even if the subject matter is the most boring subject on planet earth, because your child likes her teacher, she will perform well in the class.
Gifted children are great at reading their teachers. They need teachers who are real people, not fake, not political, and who genuinely care and like their gifted students. As children morph into tweens and then teens, you may begin to notice a trend in your child’s academic grades and success. Oftentimes, our gifted child’s attitude toward his/her teacher determines the child’s grade in the class moreso than his/her actual ability.

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