Monday, May 4, 2009

Why a Gifted Class?

I currently teach in a self-contained gifted class, and I am often asked if that is what is really best for gifted kids. Just today, I had a family touring the school, wanting to know why a self-contained is better than a pullout. It is so hard to be a parent, and so hard to make those tough decisions about what is really best for your own individual child.

Many schools offer a pullout program, and I think it definitely has its place. For kids that are one standard deviation removed from the regular education program or for kids gifted in only one area, pullout is great! Kids in these categories will benefit from pull out programs because the education is matched to their abilities. They are with their age level peers for socialization, and get the necessary enrichment and advancement where they need it.

That said, for kids that are in the 97th percentile and higher (that small 3% of our population), I am passionate about self-contained. . . Here are just a few of the reasons that I share with parents:

• Giftedness is not just acceleration. Giftedness affects the whole child. A teacher trained in understanding giftedness will be both empathetic and adept at reaching the gifted child in all areas of their development, not just their academics.

• The majority of regular education teachers have had little or no training in how a gifted brain learns. Thus, they are unprepared for the unique academic, social and developmental concerns of a gifted child.

• Studies have shown that gifted kids need only one to three repetitions, while children in mainstream education require at least five to seven repetitions. Imagine the torture of repeating endlessly the tasks which you have already mastered. And when you are successful- you are most often rewarded with more practice of these same skills. No wonder gifted kids check out!

• In a gifted classroom, you have a wonderful support system surrounding you. You have parents, teachers, administrators and fellow peers of your students who know and understand what it is to be gifted. Instead of defending and explaining yourself over and over (and over and over), you are sharing, collaborating and fellowshipping.

• Gifted kids thrive when surrounded by like-minded peers. Because of their rarity in main stream education, based on statistics, most gifted kids in mainstream education will find one or two close friends throughout their entire academic career- if they are fortunate!

• Perhaps my most compelling reason is for the social development of the child. I was in a self-contained class from third through sixth grades. How I wish they had had it in the primary grades back in those days! All children can tell when someone is different. And gifted kids are intuitive enough to sense these differences. They feel isolated, alone, misunderstood and set apart in the mainstream classroom. I know. I felt it every day, and I still feel it now as an adult. If you can give your child the chance to be with people who “get” them and who accept, them how could you not? The alternative is sentencing them to a lifetime sentence of solitude. . .

Now, a self contained classroom is not best for everyone, and I know there are circumstances where it is not the best choice for a family. However, when asked for my professional opinion this is what you get!

28 comments:

  1. When my husband and I were in school, it was common practice to gather gifted kids from many schools into a single gifted class. I loved it. Today, this practice seems to be abandoned (at least where I live) and discredited. (Or perhaps there just isn't enough $.) While I see some benefits to having gifted kids mixed in with other kids, overall, I think grouping is better. I have watched my own sons have no peers, no one who understands how they think, no one in their class to challenge them, no one to connect with. It makes school a mind-numbing and lonely experience.

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  2. My school experience was in an environment similar to your children's, and I encourage you to do whatever it takes to get them out of that situation. Not only was the boredom an intense misery that I had to endure on a daily basis, but by the 4th grade I could no longer bring myself to put pencil to paper for the 100th repetition of the same problem. I completely turned my back on school and dismissed the value of "formal education" for many years. Though I was able to get back on track later in my adult life (the gifted have that luxury) and now have a great job and family, I did miss out on opportunities that I can never get back.

    To summarize:

    1) The challenges facing gifted children in a regular classroom are real and can have long-lasting effects.

    2) Don't underestimate the torture of their boredom.

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  3. Wow - to find a teacher who honestly understands a gifted child! My son is in that 99% range and is 6. I taught for about 15 years and was very worried about where my son would fit in. I attempted to talk to the county about what they could do for him for his K year this year and they pretty much told me "nothing"....so I left my job and I am homeschooling him this year. I feel completely overwhelmed and SO wish that we had other options in our local school system (which currently offers a one day a week pull out program). My son knows he is different, he knows that other children tend to look at him like he is "weird" and we SO wish that he could be in a group of kids that understood him! Gifted children are not gifted one day a week, they are gifted 24/7. So glad I found your blog.

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  4. Hey Mom to 2e- Thanks for coming by! I am glad you found me as well. My school district just started the primary gifted, and I was fortunate to teach the kindergarten gifted class. Wowee, were they fun! I hope your family finds a good program where you live. . . Kudos to you for putting your child first and homeschooling- feel free to email me if you want some resources or tips!

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  5. I'm glad I found your blog! My daughter is in second grade and she has a once-weekly pullout class. I totally agree that a self-contained classroom would be better for her, but unfortunately our district is strongly in the heterogeneous mixing camp.

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  6. Hi Amy! Thanks for popping by. I think next week I will post on how to help your gifted child in a mainstream classroom. Hope to see you again soon!

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  7. I am SO happy I've found your site! I can relate to the problems of gifted kids from when I was in school (I had a daily pullout), when I was lonely and bored. Because I had a large vocabulary, I remember kids (and even a teacher or two) telling me to stop showing off by using those big words! To me, they were just words that expressed what I meant. I also had some wonderful teachers, too- my 4th grade teacher kept me well supplied with ever harder logic problems to keep me occupied while she went over and over (and over) the material with my classmates. She trusted me, at 10, to pay attention when I needed to. Thanks, Mrs. Johnson!

    Now, as the mom of a very smart almost three year old, I have begun to worry about this on her behalf. I don't know if she's gifted, but her father and I both are, and she certainly seems to be a smart cookie. I'm so glad I have a resource for when she starts school! I will be visiting often.

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  8. I taught a self contained class for students with learning problems which I know isn't gifted but I think the reasons would be the same. I think the support of others is so important and even though it segregates the students from the general population, the positives outweigh the negatives. As you mentioned, these students know they are different so this is no new revelation to anyone. I also was able to incorporate lessons across the curriculum which made more sense to my students. I worked on building up their self esteem and I don't think I could have done that in a pull out program. I'm glad your gifted students have you!

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  9. My daughter is at the 99.8% and has been asked to apply for a full day gifted program at a different elementary school in our district. She really doesn't want to leave her friends or school! Unlike so many comments I read about gifted students, my daughter has a very active social life. And she doesn't want to leave her friends to go to a different school. Her teacher is very passionate and has challenged my daughter in the mainstream classroom. I'm not sure if I should pursue a different class when things seem to be going well. Although both of her teachers (regular and her 1-day pullout gifted teacher) agree a separate program would be appropriate. Any comments concerning placing my daughter in an inclusive gifted classroom when she is doing so well in the mainstream class, both academically and socially?

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  10. We are in the process of "applying" to the gifted school within our district. The school we are currently in wants him to stay and thinks they can work with him. I love our current school but question what they can offer him really.It's very stressful as a mom and ex teacher. I want what's best for my 1st grader but how do we really know? I'm glad I found your blog. I will look further into once the kids are asleep!

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  11. I have come to realize, based on the thousands of gifted websites and posters out there, that in fact that are MORE gifted kids in America today than there are normal kids. If there are this many gifted kids in America today, then I believe our standards have been set too low.

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  12. " Giftedness affects the whole child. A teacher trained in understanding giftedness will be both empathetic and adept at reaching the gifted child in all areas of their development, not just their academics." -- because "regular/normal" children don't need empathy...wow.

    "Studies have shown that gifted kids need only one to three repetitions, while children in mainstream education require at least five to seven repetitions. Imagine the torture of repeating endlessly the tasks which you have already mastered. And when you are successful- you are most often rewarded with more practice of these same skills. No wonder gifted kids check out!"
    -- ohh these poor gifted kids....torture? really? What about the "regular/mainstream" kids that realize that the gifted children are "special" and even if they wanted to be apart of such a "club" they wouldn't be allowed to do so. Why would schools pull students out and start DIVIDING children and separating them by their intelligence? THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA!!! At even an early age schools are trying to show children that their are differences in people. Gifted children should just go to a whole other school and be gifted together. Why mark these children as "superior" to other children because they are given individualized attention and intelligent fun activities than "mainstream" children? It's sad. What's even more sad is that adults are making these decisions and bragging about their smart child. You definitely don't see parents of children with lower IQs bragging. They are struggling. I used to be a Children's Case Manager for many children with learning disabilities who struggled, cried, felt dumb, felt inferior due to their intelligence. I think schools should be divided (mainstream/gifted). That way mainstream children don't have to have their "lack of" intelligence thrown in their face everyday.

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    1. Wow bitter? These are children who are every bit as different as the learning disabled. They have unique challenges. Would you suggest placing the bottom 3% in the mainstream classroom and just hoping for the best? No because those children need more help and so do gifted children. Every child should get the chance for an education that is paced for their ability not held back not thrown forward. Those who need more challenge should get it and those who need more help should get it too. Most of the public education in this country is only geared to help the bottom 70% of children. Only those children receive anything that could be thought of as education. The top 30 never reach their potential unless a parent or teacher steps up and finds a way to keep them inspired. As a nation we should be trying to get everyone to reach their potential not teaching so that only the bottom half learns. It is no wonder our national rankings are so low. Should children be segregated by their intelligence? Yes 100% they should, so that every child can learn at a pace that meets their potential. Holding other people back is not the right way to get ahead.

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  13. "In a gifted classroom, you have a wonderful support system surrounding you. You have parents, teachers, administrators and fellow peers of your students who know and understand what it is to be gifted. Instead of defending and explaining yourself over and over (and over and over), you are sharing, collaborating and fellowshipping"

    -- right because the mainstream kids don't need a support system especially the kids that go home to alcoholic/drug using parents or have to listen to their parents abusing each other -- wow...I hope all my kids are going to be gifted. Gifted sounds like it's just a better life and a better school environment.

    Oh and the part about "putting the gifted children around similar like-minded peers"..I absolutely love this because god forbid stupid could rub off on these gifted children if they are subjected to mainstream kids all day. Good call.

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    1. Clearly the self esteem you lack bares its ugly head in these rants of responses. Saying that gifted children need special attention is not the same as saying that typical children do not.

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    2. No one said that mainstream kids do not need a support system, because this is not a blog about the mainstream program. The support system they're talking about is for education, not necessarily problems in their life.

      Also, please the part about the stupidity rubbing off, that's just completely immature! If you don't want to hear about the gifted program, then don't read this blog!

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    3. Yes, we are discussing the EDUCATIONAL needs of the gifted child. (That was a bit of a rant above by the other "anonymous," wasn't it?) Although we had decided to keep our son (2nd grade) at our neighborhood school this year (where he has been since kindergarten), I have noticed how his learning style has evolved, and next fall, we will be entering him at our district's "Highly Capable" program which is at a different school. I wince a bit when I hear the term "gifted." I believe that all children have special "gifts" whether they are in sports, the arts, or academics. Anyhow, we have enjoyed our mainstream local school, but our decision to move him is based on helping him to reach his potential, and we won't know until we give him this opportunity.

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  14. My child's school has no gifted program...which is a pity because there are several gifted children in my child's grade (including my child.)

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  15. Wow, that is some serious hostility towards kids outside of the norm. The separation of kids by their ability seems to be acceptable if it's done under the guise of age groups. Well, how would you like to sentence your 17 year old to repeat second grade? What at about a life sentence of repeating each grade 2-3 times? That is the equivalent of what is asked of gifted kids in mainstream classrooms. It's a cruelty to do this just to avoid bruising the egos of their classmates.(or more likely, the parents of their classmates)

    We do not "mainstream" athletes or musicians or children with large feet. Surely those with advanced verbal or quantitative abilities deserve the same consideration?

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  16. My son is gifted, he has been tested and falls into the 99% percentile. He works ahead in class but doesn't learn anything new, sometimes I wish he was just normal. It is frustrating trying to get him the proper education.

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  17. I remember the first day of my first school year. I read the book for learning to read within the first hour. This book was supposed to last the whole year.

    I knew then I had landed in hell. Hell lasted 12 years until I could finally move to the university.

    People don't understand the level of mental torture mainstream classes can be to a gifted child. It is not far from a drop of water falling on your head minute after minute, day after day.

    Of course my childhood was in a Latin American country, so different, there was no special classes, or even no skipping years. Sigh. Anyway.

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    1. I feel you! I was dying in mainstream classes! Once I found out I had gotten into the Gifted program I thought I was dreaming!

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  18. This sounds like an amazing conceptual experience. Is there anything concerning teenaged kids and high school students facing the same boredom?

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  19. I'm a 13 year old child in the gifted program, and might I say, this post encapsulates nearly my whole life so far. However I would like to point out that many gifted children can be very sneaky. Also, the part about having a hard time finding friends in the mainstream program, that was the exact opposite for me, I had many close friends with whom I would go play with on a daily basis.

    Just remember, young gifted children's brains are very complex and you may not always get the full story on your first try.

    If you have any questions just ask! I'd be happy to answer.

    Gifted Kid 123 signing off!

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    1. I'm fifteen, and in a regular high school scenario. Except for the expectations. The ease with which I grasp a concept is embarrassing for me, and I feel guilty about understanding things that my classmates don’t seem to be able to comprehend. Because I 'get it,' my teachers expect more from me, as do my parents and classmates. And it's simple for me to ace it all.
      However, I feel as it the expectations everyone is holding for me are being somehow imposed on my younger siblings by teachers before they have reason to. I don't want to be a standard of excellence, because I don't believe I'm doing all that great, though compared to my 'peers,' I am.
      Thankfully, the school system let me skip grade one, but that was then and my problem is now. Now, people that I had thought were my friends resent me. Actually, I've had several people urge me to drop my classes and take them independently. But I like the environment of a classroom, and I like my teachers-most of them-even if I don't particularly like the slow pace and hostility.
      I'm not a gifted child, I recognize that. But I'm not regular either? At least, I'm progressing mentally at a higher rate than my older classmates. And I'm opposed to inaccurate labels put on me by everyone. If I knew why they gave me these tags, then I would be a genius, and thus make the labels accurate and disprove my hypothesis, and turn my life into one big paradox. In other words, I don't know why they would think these words apply to me.
      I always wanted to be normal. And if someone asks me why I'm not, I would blame my dad. But I know that him giving me incentive to try during the few weeks of grade one I actually did isn't an actual reason.
      I knew I was different when I got accused of plagiarism in the fifth grade because I had a larger vocabulary than the new teacher thought I would. I knew I was different when I decided I was going to be the Valedictorian when I was in grade three. I knew I was different when the kindergarten teacher told me to play because she couldn't make me any more workbooks. I knew I was different when I went into preschool reading. I've always known I was different. But I don't know why or how. And I never wanted to be.
      The last thing I wanted to be was special. Early on, I knew that special kids don't get a chance to be normal. I just didn't know what to do about it until it was too late. Until everyone else already knew I was different, until I was branded as 'special.'
      And I feel like there's no changing now. I feel like I'm stuck, and that I’ll never quite fit in anywhere. At school no one is in the same situation I am. At least no one that I know. And at home? I know my sisters aren't, and my brother isn't old enough to tell. It's plain to see that my mother doesn't understand me at all, and my dad might, but he works so much that I never get a chance to really talk to him.
      I'm not being understood by anyone, and I guess what I'm looking for is someone that understands a bit of what I'm saying because they've been in a similar situation . And if you have, any advice on what I do to get through it? I want to know if it ever ends.
      I hate not being able to relate to my classmates the way that they can. I've always been a loner, but it's still nice to have friends. Real friends. Or even better, friends that understand your point of view, what you mean, and that understand why you do what you do. But how could I expect someone to understand me, if they don't even understand what I understand.Expecting them to understand where I'm coming from is kind of pointless.
      So, Gifted Kid 123, or whoever else read my comment, if you get me, thanks. And if not, I'm sorry for the pointless waste of time.

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    2. Hi. I'm 16 year old junior residing in Canada, currently registered to a public high school. And I hold memberships in Mensa, International Society For Philosophical Enquiry, Cerebrals society, Torr, IHS,( list goes on and on) for my social life. Because my peers in school are nowhere near my level of thinking. And after having read your post, I assume you are at the very edge of bell curve as I am.
      I totally get your points.. I assume I'm a similar type of person.

      Let's discuss this via emails
      contact me at
      egpyyuichiro@gmail.com

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    3. Wow! I am not gifted; at least this is my feeling. So..now that I have a son in the 98% I am very sensitive to his struggles.
      The older 2011 posts full of disgust at the thought of parents suggesting self contained classrooms hit a nerve. Many of these children beg for it, not out of superior feelings but out of feelings to find peers who understand them. Peers that do not understand them are very respected by the gifted. They often admire their social, emotional, and/or physical skills. There is no need for those students to feel inferior. We are all different.
      I was super jealous of my brothers athletic skills. We didn't bond much growing up although one grade apart but 2.5 years younger I was. Come find out, he was super jealous of my ease with academics. If we would have only known. And you know what, he has more success than I if you rate success by income. He has a 6 figure managerial position and no college education. Why? He has physical attractiveness and high social skills. Teaching children that they can be successful even if academics is a challenge and teaching children that have academic ease that they can learn from their peers social skills that will needed later in life. So...my thoughts are that no matter the IQ, kids need to learn to work cooperatively with each other. However, segregating education plans is simply the best for all to learn at their own pace. They can learn the social and emotional skills at recess, sports, camps, scouts, etc.
      Now, I say this watching my own son struggle and grow bored. Just this morning, I asked him if he would like to be home schooled. He said "no way, why would you ask? I couldn't leave my friends!". He loves his pull out program. He loves his classroom as well. Not for the education, but for the socialization. He has a huge memory bank of jokes and witty comments that makes the class laugh, and he knows when to use without getting in trouble. A few have called him weird and imaginative even asking him to not use big words in their presence. However, they are great kids and say it with a smile accepting him as he is. He accepts them as well and trys to help when he can with their academics. I just wish all gifted children could socially be accepted like this.
      I work with dozens of engineers as I am a purchasing manager who buys products they design and I source. Many are gifted, you can just tell. They often are socially awkward with me at first knowing I'm not of an engineer mind. I ask them to "dumb" it down for me and joke and compliment their intelligence. When it comes to negotiations with the supplier on costs or timing they look to me as I handle these situations better. They end up being my friend and I can see they enjoy the friendship of someone who is not of their intelligence level, but intelligent enough to accept them.
      Those few special children that are the top 3% cognitively and highly emotional intelligence as well, those are the ones I am jealous of. Hahaha. We are all different and should be given the level of education at our own learning pace in order for us to all be productive humans in society. There is a reason that we are all put here at different levels. I truly believe this.
      I have went on a rant. I just hope a few of these young children commenting on here get the academic support that they need, realize there is no need for isolation, many of us regulars accept who you are, and if you enjoy a pull out program - great! If you want more and a specialized classroom then you deserve that right and no reason for guilt as those of us who have some sense about us know it's not because you want to feel superior. You want normalcy.
      Good luck to gifted parents, gifted children, gifted teachers, and gifted adults the world needs you all!

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  20. I happened to stumble across your blog when googling about self-contained gifted classrooms. Currently, there are 7 I think in my school board. I myself am a gifted child, and it is refreshing to see that an adult understands what we go through- the same debate I have daily with some of my close peers. The same debate I never win, and they never understand. At the moment I am begging to be placed in a gifted classroom, as the 7/8 split I was put in to sustain my need for challenge has done nothing but isolate and bore me more than ever. However, my teachers think that I am doing best in this classroom and that the pull out program will be all I want. Really? That program tortures me. It shows me how many others like me there are, and how I can finally fit in and not be ostracised... I thirst for that, and no one wishes to let me have it after all these years of peer resentment and hate- verbal or physical, passive or aggressive.

    To my point, however- sorry for getting winded there. I would maybe like your professional and perhaps personal opinion on how I should handle this? Should I keep pushing? I really hate it here, but could the teachers be right about this?

    Thank you in advance for your reply- or none at all if you don't wish. I do admire your blog very much and will continue browsing it :)

    Haley
    haley-1001@hotmail.com

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I love to hear your feedback! This website is intended to be a welcoming and safe space for parents and advocates of the gifted. All wholesome and encouraging questions are invited, as well as questions or concerns relating to gifted topics.