My experience with gifted children started 17 years ago with my third year of teaching. I had three years of teaching under my belt. I was teaching 2nd grade. I felt that I was becoming more confident with my classroom management as well as the curriculum.
My school was nestled in an affluent Sandy Springs neighborhood. Many of our neighborhood families were leaving our school due to the shift of population and decrease of testing scores. The families that stayed at our school pushed for their children to become accepted in the gifted program called TAG (Talented and Gifted Program.)
I was so excited to have the TAG students in my 2nd grade classroom. This was the first year that I was teaching the high kids, as we would say. I made sure that I had challenging lessons and games to engage my students.
I defined my students as unique, fast paced learners beyond the learning ability of a typical child. These kids were creative and fast. I had to keep up with extension activities. Back then, I lumped the characteristics of my students into one group. Today, I define gifted students as unique, high achieving, creative students that exceed typical student learning styles. Joe Renzulli’s book (1997) The Three–Ringed Conception of Giftedness, defines three factors, above average ability, task commitment and creativity for the development of gifted behavior.
It was my experiences with gifted students, that led me to meeting a boy that we’ll call Erik. Erik was in my 2nd grade class. Erik was a Caucasian male student who was one of our neighborhood families. He was considered a TAG (Talented and Gifted) student. He asked many questions, was highly curious and mentally involved like many of my gifted students in my class. Something was a little different with Erik. Erik preferred conversing with adults rather than his peers gifted or average student. Erik had temper tantrums 1-2 times a week from social frustration or lack of perfection tasks. I was confused about his behavior. Why was this highly intelligent student that seemed to enjoy learning displaying such inappropriate behaviors?
According to Janice Szabos (1989) Challenge Magazine, gifted behavior includes, preferring adults for social interaction and being a self-critical student. These were some of the behaviors that described Aaron. Janie Szabos (1989) A Bright Child/A Gifted Learner allowed me to differentiate between bright a student versus the truly gifted child.
In Erik’s case with the help of our TAG Teacher and myself we observed and molded our toughest gifted student. Years later as Erik became a middle school student, he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I have no doubt that Erik’s gifted abilities are advancing and rising him toward success. After that year with Erik, I looked forward to teaching students with diverse learning goals and styles. I continue to learn from students that true learning comes from the power to create from within and unlocking your true greatness.