Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gifted Children and Academic Performance

For the next few blogs we're going to share some experiences with our own children on each of the 5 ways that gifted children differ from bright children that we covered in our previous blog, Your Child Is Bright, But Is He Gifted?  In this blog, we'll talk about academic performance.

Gifted children make all A's, right?  Not necessarily.  We were very fortunate that both of our children naturally (i.e. without much pushing from Mom and Dad) took grades seriously, but this isn't always the case with gifted children.  Often, the gifted child doesn't particularly care about grades.  That was the case for us parents when we (ourselves) were in school.  Our children, on the other hand, perhaps took grades too seriously; if they didn't get A's, they were upset and ashamed, i.e. they took it too hard.  Being too self-critical when it comes to grades is a common trait among gifted children.

It is true that gifted children might not have to work hard to get good grades.  In fact, they might only listen in class, never study, make brief notes at best, and consistently make As and Bs.  They just get it easily.  Once they hit a topic that challenges them, they might not be accustomed to having to focus, so this can eventually pose a problem.  This is one of the reasons we think that gifted education is so vitally important.  For example, our son had always been able to "skate" through class, but once he got to college and took Physics and Calculus, he found he couldn't do that; he actually had to study.  Our daughter, now in college, is having to grapple with Philosophy, which she probably thought was going to be an easy A.  We'll report back on how they're both doing toward the end of the semester.

Parents will notice that children, like adults, organize themselves into groups--for social and many other reasons.  In the classroom it will be interesting to the parents of gifted children to observe the groups their children participate in.  You might think that gifted children will form their own clique, and while this might be true, often gifted children are totaly outside the academically bright cliques, or "groups of their own".  Our own children both followed this pattern, though somewhat differently: our son was much more individualistic, highly selective of his peers, while our daughter was much less selective but tended to assemble or partipate in groups that were - how shall we say? - "creatively unique".  Note that gifted children aren't just the kids that excel in math and science, but also the ones who are exceptionally creative (think Picaso vs. Einstein); our daughter is more of the creatively gifted type.  We'll talk about types of intelligences in future blogs.

Finally, gifted children, because they are motivated in much different ways than other children, often don't pander to their teachers.  It's been said that bright children are teacher pleasers, gifted children are not.  Gifted children often pursue their own intellectual interests, even if they are at odds with the teacher's goals (this can obviously lead to poor grades, or the incorrect label of "unmotivated").  Gifted children will ask their own questions, perhaps before they bother to answer the questions their teachers asked.  We can hardly say that our son bothered himself with pleasing any teacher, but he was more than willing to report to us when a teacher said something incorrect.  Our daughter, on the other hand, tended to be at odds with teachers a little more frequently than our son; her creative approach was often misunderstood by her teachers.

The most important thing to remember about gifted children: academic performance--A's and B's--are not directly related to their capabilities.

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