If You Think Your Kid is Gifted. Think Again.

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This blog post came to me as I stood in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (I felt a little bit like Nicolas Cage in the movie National Treasure).

It was an epiphany.

It was almost like someone was screaming it in my year.

“Write this blog, write this blog, write this blog… and stop calling them blogs…”

Oh wait. Someone was.The Rotunda at the National Archives.

No, it wasn’t Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin (the voices in my head have stopped… for the most part).

The idea came to me from my mother-in-law. She came up with this observation as my Evil Spawn (her Evil GrandSpawn) was getting reading to look at the great American Historical Documents.

Included were the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Louisiana Purchase.

And I almost forgot. Elvis’s Letter to President Nixon (the one where Elvis wanted to lead the war on drugs… although we didn’t actually see this letter, I would have liked to…).

Actually we didn’t really “see” any of the documents clearly. Walking into the National Archives is live walking into a cave. It’s 42 degrees and dark. Really dark.

It’s like being locked in the trunk of a car (this is a whole different blog).

When we walked into the archives, I felt like a spelunker (Google it if you don’t know).

The good people at the government keep the National Archives like this to preserve “the original documents.” (Yeah, like the ones they let you see are the “originals”.)

They couldn’t fool Nicolas Cage and they can’t fool me (Copies I say! … and yes, I do expect to be audited at any moment).

During my time as a school administrator (6 years… or 42 years in getting treated like a dog years…), I have learned many things.

One of those things is that the majority of parents who are proud owners of a smart student believe their child is gifted.

To parents… Straight A’s = Gifted.

No it doesn’t.

Have you seen the Honor Roll lately? Every kid in school is on it.

C’s used to mean average. Now they mean possible IEP (but this is a rant for another blog…).

Truly gifted isn’t being in the top 20% of the class. It’s more like 1/20th of the top 1% of the class.

I have met a ton of really smart, bright, successful students and I can count on one hand the number of students who have really been truly gifted.

In my opinion public schools need to spend more time and money on the top 20% of students (or “gifted students” as mom and dad call them).

Realistically, this probably isn’t going to happen.

But the good news is gifted education is everywhere.

And this is what my mother-in-law was pointing out. The best gifted education comes from parents.

Through travel, the library, extra work on the internet, camps, and other experiences that families can provide.

Gifted education in schools is needed, but if it’s not, it can still be provided by those proud parents.

And if you think those parents are a little delusional on their child’s abilities… you should meet Grandma.

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11 Responses to “If You Think Your Kid is Gifted. Think Again.”


  1. koolkat222
    on Jul 16th, 2009
    @ 7:03 pm

    Another good one, Michael- you crack me up! Clever, witty, & sarcastic (with truth) all rolled into one.


  2. Sharon
    on Jul 16th, 2009
    @ 7:59 pm

    You had me worried with the preview that came in my email. I’m a teacher of the Gifted, and I was a little nervous that you were going to destroy my view of you (hilarious and truthful). While I’d argue that we can stretch your 1/20th of 1% to 1% (I’ve seen the difference between that top 1% kid and the top 3% – it’s a little scary), you’re bang on with the rest of it. And yes, we do need Gifted ed in schools, simply because I think making a gifted kid sit through 12 years of compulsory “education” where they rarely learn anything cruel and unusual punishment. But there are so many opportunities that we need to take advantage of as parents, too – and those things can make up for an awful lot.

    The unfortunate part is that many of the parents who complain that we’re not doing enough for their gifted kids are the same ones who wouldn’t set foot inside a museum unless there was hockey involved (I’m Canadian, eh). When a parent of a child who tells me about their trip to the art gallery on the weekend and the tour of the Parliament Buildings they took over March break comes to me and says they think the school isn’t doing enough, I’m more likely to listen.


  3. Joe D'Amato
    on Jul 21st, 2009
    @ 2:03 pm

    Mike,

    You are right on target. I have been having these conversations with parents, teachers and administrators quit a bit over the past few weeks.

    I agree that our grades appear inflated thus giving everyone the impression that there is an immense amount of learning and “gifted” students. With about 40% of my students on the honor roll (90% and up) I begin to wonder what we are measuring with grades.

    My enrichment classes seem to be for kids who have a 96% average or higher and a good work ethic. Is this truly a good representation of the students who should be accelerated? I am not sure.

    This is something we will wrestle with in the fall–grading and selection for our “honors” program.


  4. Todd
    on Jul 22nd, 2009
    @ 9:24 am

    Great blog entry. I would even go a little further with the whole grade discussion. Some gifted students are actually in the bottom 20% when it comes to grading. It has been my experience that we often assign grades based on how well a child can “play” school rather than how much they have learned or how well they can solve problems. We have taught our kids that it’s more important to conform to the system ie..get the worksheet finished, do neat work, memorize than it is come up with an original thought. Our gifted students often become frustrated and refuse to conform because they think differently and deeply about topics that we simply want them to memorize a few facts from.

    I don’t care about grades…unfortunately, I can’t really tell my daughter, the teachers in our building, or the students that fact.


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  7. Deven Black
    on Aug 8th, 2009
    @ 9:54 am

    I have a HUGE problem with your definition of gifted. Being gifted has nothing to do with grades and everything to do with brain function.

    Perhaps if the teaching in your school were perfect and every child is properly challenged and received teaching finely attuned to his or her developmental level and learning style, then you might be able to determine gifted-ness from grades. But I assure you that, perhaps not in your school but in ones nearby, there are gifted children receiving Cs or in your special education classes because they are bored silly by assignments and lessons that are less-than-challenging or because their mode of thinking and/or expression does not fall within the very narrow parameters most schools allow or are able to assess.

    Todd, above, has it right. I would expect a principal to be helping the staff to understand that many student’s learning or behavior problems are more about the teaching, curriculum and school environment than about the kid.

    That’s what my principal does, and he challenges us to justify out grading policies, teaching methods, curriculum structure and every other aspect of school, including his leadership. No, this is not some private school, this is a large public school in a high-poverty urban area.


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