And why this one in particular?
It sounds so snobby, so elitist. Isn't every child "gifted"? What makes this one so special?
Does any of this ring true? You may have heard these comments, and you may have thought them yourself. Of all the labels that we have in our society, in my experience, this is a particularly difficult one for folks to accept.
I have parents on campus come to me all the time, wanting me to affirm that their child really is gifted. I have many parents who choose never to tell their children that they are "gifted". I have had many parents ask me not to mention it in the classroom, or share that with their child.
But I refuse this last request.
Unfortunately, in our society, this is the accepted term for children with high intelligence. While we no longer use the term "retarded" for those on the other side of the spectrum, no new term has been coined for our equally special population. Until we can come up with something new in order to identify this population group, I will stick with what we have. While many people dispute who it truly applies to, the majority recognize at least a vague understanding of the meaning behind it.
Why do we need a label?
Identification is the key to change. In our current achievement and assessment heavy educational climate, those who have been identified are those who receive services. Those test scores mean something. They mean your child is entitled to an education that meets their educational needs in the same way that children identified in other ways are entitled to an education that meets their needs. Those scores, and that label, are your evidence in the battle you fight every day to make sure your child gets what they need!
That label also enables you, and your child, to be an advocate. In my classroom, we talk about being gifted. We don't sit around patting ourselves on the back (hello, they're six), but we talk about knowing and accepting both our strengths and our weaknesses. The kids in my class learn to recognize how they best learn. They learn to accept the different ways in which others learn. They celebrate their successes in their stronger areas, and they receive as well as provide encouragement in more challenging areas. They talk about some of the quirks of being gifted, and we practice how to combat those in daily life. They leave my classroom knowing how to tell next year's teacher that they are spatial so their desk might be messy, that they need to have structure in their personal routines, that they would like to put concepts to a song, that they need a quiet space to process, that sometimes they get frustrated but they know what to do when it happens. . . Who else is better equipped to tell those around them about their special and specific needs?
I am going to be brutally honest here. Very few people are going to advocate for your child. If you are not advocating for your child, and if you are not teaching your child to speak up for themselves and their needs, no one else will. And sadly, their needs will not be met.
It is not worth it to me to try and appear humble, or to avoid stares. When people ask me what I do, I don't say "Oh, I'm a teacher," or "I teach 1st grade." I proudly tell people that I teach a self-contained classroom of the profoundly gifted. When they stare or their mouths drop open and they begin to ask questions, I just as proudly answer them. I challenge their preconceived ideas about giftedness, I brag about my students (the future of our world) and I push the envelope in order to be a voice for a population that is often battered, bruised and ignored.
You work just as hard parenting the gifted, and you deserve a medal or a badge of honor. Do not be ashamed! Your child did not ask to be created this way anymore than a child asked to be dyslexic or physically handicapped. And you work just as hard at raising you high needs child.
Be proud of the hard work you do every day- and use that pride to speak up for all the rest of the gifted. . .