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Breaking the Myths and Stereotypes of Gifted Children

January 13, 2010

In dealing with the social needs of my own children, some of whom are gifted in different areas, I had to conclude that even in my own district there are still gifted myths and stereotypes that are still prevalent and need to be broken.  So I sat down and reflected on these myths.  Here are some of my thoughts, after reading a chapter of Handbook of Giftedness by Steven Pfeiffer.

Myth 1: Gifted students are nerds. This may have been a myth brought on by the 1980’s movie Revenge of the Nerds, where people called nerds looked a certain way and seen as outcasts. Sometimes gifted students can feel like outcasts because they are so smart, and sometimes gifted students don’t always make friends easily so they may feel like an outcast themselves and to those around them.  Sometimes students in a classroom feel intimidated by smart students so they begin to call them names and begin to disassociate themselves with gifted children.

I sat at my desk and began to wonder, “What are we teachers doing to stamp out this myth?”  Teachers need to be more aware of name calling and profiling that is going on in the classroom. We need to be proactive and have safe classrooms where students can be themselves and feel good about being who they are. We also need to show that being gifted or smart is a great asset to have.

Myth 2: Being gifted means you can do and be anything you want. Sometimes gifted students feel like they can’t fail. They have this pressure on their shoulders that they have to be perfect at everything. They don’t want to hear, “You’re gifted, why can’t you do this?” from their peers, teachers, or family.

Sometimes gifted students hear that they can do anything they want, which in a sense, means they have to choose something and know about that topic all the time.  Sometimes all these students need is a little direction and discussion about what they have passions for.

This myth can really devastate a gifted child. We teachers need to be open for students to struggle and to let them fail at times. It’s through failure that some of the world’s greatest minds have created some of the most powerful and useful inventions for mankind. For example, Thomas Edison tried several hundred times to create a successful light bulb. In failure after failure he learned what he would need to do make the right combination of gas and filament to make the light bulb work. It is the same way in our classroom.  We need to let gifted students know that it is alright to fail and that failure isn’t a bad thing if you learn from your mistakes and keep going.

As teachers, we also help to illuminate the passions of our students. We need to be the compass in our students’ lives and show them where their strength and weaknesses will take them, and point them in the right direction. We need to let gifted students know the world is open for them, but they don’t have to tackle every issue the world has to offer. They need to see where their passions lie, and begin to work toward getting better in that area. It is alright to have knowledge about school work, but we need to show these students that the knowledge they possess will help them reach their goal.

Overall, we need to look at the social needs of gifted children in our classrooms. We need to know they are appreciated for the diversity they bring, the challenges they overcome, and for the ability to bring out a different view in a debate, or discussion. We need to be able to harness their giftedness and talents into a positive experience, and break the myths of giftedness.

Note: For more information gifted myths go to prominent myths relating to Gifted Education.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Deanna Schrayer permalink
    January 13, 2010 6:04 pm

    This all holds true for my 10-year-old son. From Kindergarten – 4th grade he had fantastic teachers that nourished his gifted abilities, but when he reached 5th grade, (this year), he got a teacher who doesn’t appreciate his skills as she should. Therefore, he’s had to deal with not only kids making fun of him, but the teacher basically supporting those children. It’s disheartening to say the least. Fortunately my son is a strong person who has good friends. We just keep encouraging him and assuring him that it will get easier.
    Thanks for a great post!

  2. January 15, 2010 7:20 pm

    This is a great post! These myths are painful and so untrue. Thanks for sharing.

  3. October 27, 2010 1:25 am

    This is all so true! And also people think that gifted only refers to IQ. Of course many ways it does, I know mine’s in the gifted range, however people fail to notice that IQ tests only test a certain kind of mental ability. I have taken many tests, and never once did they ask me to tell a story, write a song, or anything creative. The gifted are so misunderstood, really. And I think it’s very unfair that schools and society nurture those with very low ability in areas much more than they do the other side of the spectrum. There needs to be a balance.

  4. Lucinda permalink
    November 3, 2013 3:40 am

    I am actually in 6th grade myself. I am now at a new school that doesn’t have a gifted program, but my old school did and I was diagnosed as gifted. At my old school a lot of people were gifted or bright, and the people who were slightly less smart were ostracized. Here it is the complete opposite. The magority of the class are average or below average students, and they ostracize the more smart people. Right now, being new, a lot of people haven’t passes judgement on me, or at least I thought so until last Friday. I was talking to one of my sort of friends (people who hang out with me just to cheat of off me) and I told her that I was staying in for lunch to help one of my other sort of friends with her exponenents because she didn’t understand them when another girl that I’d never talked to in my life came up to me and said, “You’re confused with exponents?” I explained what I had really said and she said “Yeah, becasuse aren’t you some sort of genius or something? I don’t think that you would get confused.” First of all, I am no genius. I may be smart, but not that smart! Also, I get confused a lot.
    Anyway, I don’t really get teased much, just used. However, the leader of the sort of friends is just getting worse and worse. Yesterday she was giving me the silent treatment (I don’t know why) until she realized that she needed help on her homework and came over to me for the answer. The problem is that it is really hard to keep myself from giving out answers because they will just keep begging me for them. Anyway, I gave her the answer, and then she went back to not helping me again. She calls me a nerd and a genius (which is a derogatory term to her) almost daily. I am panicking about going back to school because we have to present our book reports, and mine is 8 pages long. I have a feeling that the situation is not going to get any better.

    • Kimberly000001 permalink
      November 5, 2013 5:54 am

      Hi Lucinda. I hope you get this under control soon – girls can be cruel. From what I understand about bullies, they prey on the weak (kids might perceive you to be weak just because you’re the new kid). So try to stand strong and proud. I would suggest you tell the girl that you are happy to help her and others when they don’t understand something … but they have to agree to drop the “genius” comments or anything else that bothers you. At the same time be proud about your gift (but not cocky).

      My girls are gifted like you and I’ve told them the importance of “balance” in friendships. If it’s a one way friendship (one person giving and the other taking) then you don’t need it!! You deserve much better! Can you locate one girl who is a bit more like you to talk to?

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