Learning While Black and Gifted

Learning While Black and Gifted

This article highlights segments from a personal account given by a parent educator. 

 

On the S-Team conference day, we meet with the principal, psychologist, counselor, and teachers. We sat down, and our son’s teacher enthusiastically spoke with us. Our son’s first-grade school teacher recommended a formal promotion above his fellow students. We had provided independent test results that proved he was performing middle school-wise. The school had already tested him and found he was extremely advanced. An IEP for giftedness was issued, and a plan was put into place.

However, the counselor suggested that our son was just too young and that he could not be provided the advanced placement services for gifted children, because it was ‘too late in the year’.

It was October.

School began in August. We requested the S-Team evaluation for giftedness earlier in the summer.

The only reason we met in the fall vs. summer was that it took 60 days to schedule the official testing date, then another two weeks to sit for the test and wait for results. The S-Team decided to promote him one grade up to second grade, though his tests were on a middle school level, according to the psychologist. (I found out later that this happens to many parents; either they are outright refused their petition to have a gifted test, or they are heavily discouraged or delayed to exhaustion)

Here is a good thing; They did follow federal rules and provided an IEP for giftedness and constructed an experimental advanced program. The experimental program was not as successful as we hoped, as our son came home increasingly miserable and demotivated. We visited the school to shadow his day and discovered the problem; Their answer to an advanced or gifted student was to shift him around from class to class with older peers. He was 6 years old. This was in 2016.

We did not blame the school, as they probably believed they were providing the best they could with their resources. It just was not a good fit for us.

We finished out the fall and transferred to another school in the spring. They believed in teaching two to three grade levels ahead while customizing the curriculum to core groups. That was a great concept! Jackpot, we thought.

One exception; our son likes to interact, and very little talking was allowed. At the end of the year, he was the only one in his class that did not receive a class award for good behavior-though he consistently had the highest test scores in the class. We did not receive any noted demerits for persistent or open defiance, violence, or other delinquent behaviors. Our son protested the strict environment by putting a fictitious name at the top of his papers.

My husband and I reasoned that our son would not be the standard of the smart student the school district considered him to be. Rather than ping-pong back and forth between school scenarios, we decided to make the transition to homeschool to protect his academic ambitions while still honoring the social-emotional needs of his childhood.

As our son begins high school and pre-college academics at age 11, we’re concerned about his potential to face these challenges again.

  • Will he be able to move forward without tarnishing his record with a behavioral issue?
  • Will my child be excluded from scholarly programs because his impressionable nature may cause him to make immature and irreparable decisions?
  • Will my gifted son be the recipient of perpetual bias, or can we break free from these limitations?

Believe it or not, Black students are more likely to be suspended and expelled from school, even though they often excel in academics. Boys in general, of any race, also have a higher probability of leaving high school with a delinquent record.

This disparity is due in part to racial and gender bias in schools and an “epidemic” of zero-tolerance policies. Therefore, it is important for parents to be engaged with their son’s academic development. There is no such thing as ‘too much’ involvement, especially during the early stages.

Here are some helpful guides for parents and teachers to consider when educating gifted students of underrepresented ethnicities.

How to Identify Giftedness in Students of All Ethnicities

Identifying giftedness in black students is not as simple as it may seem. While there are general characteristics that are common to all gifted students, the definition of “gifted” can vary depending on which experts you ask. Additionally, many black students who are considered gifted by one measure may not be identified as such by another. Furthermore, the cultural expectations may not fit societal norms. This may not translate to some assessments that still have cultural biases included in the testing language.

Include Wholistic Key Indicators of Giftedness

For this reason, it is important for educators and parents to have a broad understanding of what constitutes giftedness before attempting to identify it in a student. Some key indicators of potential giftedness in black students include high IQs, superior academic performance, and creativity.

Recognize Cultural Bias in Gifted Testing

Black students also have a cultural bias to overcome in gifted testing, which also makes it difficult to identify. The assessment of giftedness also differs by age. In pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, the focus is on identifying students who will achieve high academic levels as they grow into a more traditional school system. Many parents of black children may not have access to talent identification programs in their pre-K or kindergarten programs. This leaves many at a disparity, even before beginning traditional school programs. However, social-interactive or Montessori style learning is likely to be engaged through black populations, which does not always translate to traditional standardized gifted assessments in the early years.

Reconsider a Learning Disability as “Unidentified Giftedness”

Another problem is that Black American children are more likely to be identified by teachers as having learning disabilities. Rather than viewing academic challenges as unidentified giftedness, some research has suggested that black students may be more often placed in special education classes than their white counterparts.

This happened to our son. Though we are educators, we did not start a formal program for reading, writing, and math until kindergarten. He was considered ‘behind’ because he did not recognize letters and numbers, so the teachers placed him with the ‘special needs’ children (those on the spectrum). However, our son rose to become the first student to master all sight words among other core competencies. He finished all of his Kindergarten benchmarks and was more than halfway done with 1st-grade benchmarks by February of his kindergarten year.

At the end of the school year, his progress impressed the librarian so much that she hunted me down in the carpool lane and told me he was one of the top 10 best readers in the entire 600+ student school (to include the 4th graders).

Unique Challenges Faced by Gifted Black Students

There are unique challenges faced by gifted black students, and educators must be aware of these in order to provide the best possible education for these students.

Some of the challenges include:

  • a lack of role models and mentors,
  • implicit bias against black students,
  • limited resources, and
  • the need for enrichment opportunities.

Educators can help combat these challenges by;

  1. creating a supportive environment,
  2. providing opportunities for enrichment, and
  3. encouraging black students to pursue interests outside of school.

How Educators Can Meet the Needs of Gifted Black Students

Schools can better meet the needs of gifted black students by identifying and providing enrichment opportunities for students in early grades when their potential for academic excellence is greatest. Studies from several research organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education showed that there are many factors that contribute to success for gifted black students, including access to quality enrichment programs in early grades. By providing these opportunities from an early stage, schools can help ensure that all gifted black students have the best chance for success.

Gifted black students have a lot to offer the world, and it is up to educators to help them reach their potential.

 

Authored by: Chris C, Contributor, Educational Advocate and Homeschool Parent based in TN.  The name is abbreviated for privacy. 

7 Harmful Myths About Gifted Students

7 Harmful Myths About Gifted Students

Every adult has their own set of myths about gifted students. Some popular myths are that gifted students are troublemakers, that they don’t need help, or that they are too smart for their own good. But the truth is that gifted students face many challenges. They just have different needs than other students in how to deal with them.

Gifted students are often misunderstood. This article will dispel some of the myths about these students.

Myth #1 Gifted students are lazy.

Truth About Perceived “Laziness”:

Gifted students often have a lot of energy and are very motivated to learn. Depending on the personality, some gifted students may become aloof because they are not challenged in class. Therefore, the “lack of interest” comes off as laziness.

Solution to a Gifted Child’s Lackadaisical Attitude:

When you see a gifted child become aloof or lackadaisical, encourage the child. Try to be understanding and patient when the child does not want to do things that are not related to their gifted interest. The child may need a break from learning unrelated material so that they can focus on what interests them.

 

Myth #2: Gifted students are smart at everything.

Truth about Giftedness:

While they are often intelligent, gifted students vary in their abilities. Some are good at math, while others excel in creative writing. For example, a student who is a great writer may not be as good at math as another student. Therefore, you may have to “teach” the gifted child how to learn and get excited about it.

Solution to Avoid Mismatched Expectations:

Allow asynchronous learning in each subject. Get rid of the “age-banded” benchmarks approach, especially for younger children. Encourage the child to be independent and to work at his or her own pace. Spend time together as a family, doing something that interests you all. Help your child learn how to function well in an environment where everyone is working at different levels of ability.

 

Myth #3: Gifted students are robots.

Truth about Gifted Students’ Behavioral Differences:

They can be different from other children and may have unique interests and personality traits. However, many gifted children are well socialized. They are just trying to learn how to balance being a child and their advanced knowledge.

Solution to Remain Open to Gifted Children:

Provide safe exposure to a variety of social scenarios with peers and adults. Younger gifted children crave comrades with their peers, but they also enjoy a stimulating conversation with an adult who works in one of their fields of interest. Allow them to build unique experiences within a safe framework in which a parent is involved. At other times, it is best to let them work in order to give them a confident comfort zone.

 

Myth #4: Gifted students are spoiled: This is not always the case.

Truth about the Gifted Stigma of Being Spoiled:

Sometimes, gifted students have to work hard to keep up with their peers. For example, let’s say your child knows an advanced way to solve a pre-algebra problem. However, the instructor counts off for not following the method she used in class, even though they may get the answer correct. Gifted students may have to shift their mindset to accept alternate methods which they find elementary and tedious just to keep in line with their peers and avoid backlash from professors. In some cases, gifted students work hard at fitting in, so they will turn off their genius and sacrifice their intellectual abilities to survive socially.

Solution to Address the Appearance of Special Treatment for the Gifted:

Remember to encourage and reward gifted children. Though they may participate more because of their energy, remember they have feelings, too. Ignoring or diminishing their efforts just because they excel is not going to result in a positive outcome; it often triggers some behaviors associated with being “spoiled”.

 

Myth #5: Gifted students don’t need help.

Truth Regarding the Help Needed by Gifted Students:

This is one of the biggest and most harmful myths. Gifted students are technically “special needs” and see the world much differently than their peers. When a child makes this discovery of their differences, it can be traumatic, confusing, or disruptive in a variety of ways.

For example, take Theodore. Theo was a gifted student who had always done exceptionally well in school because he was matched with intellectual peers and could move onto new subjects when ready. When his parents moved, he was placed in a regular classroom for the first time in his life, and it was a disaster. The class was full of students who were struggling to keep up in school. Theodore’s new classmates teased him and made fun of his math abilities. Their jealousies resulted in namecalling, exclusion from social activities, and other passive-aggressive bullying tactics. He felt like an outcast, and he hated school.

Solution to Support Gifted Scholars:

Gifted students often benefit from additional instruction and support in an intellectual-banded versus an age-banded setting. Group students by ability level for each subject for a period of time each day. This creates a safe space to learn and be challenged without having to worry about social dynamics in the classroom.

 

Myth#6: Gifted students will succeed no matter what.

Truth about Gifted Success Rates:

Due to the harmful belief in Myth #6 (gifted students don’t need help), this is definitely not true. In fact, less than 20% of identified gifted students receive specialized services from their school or local school board. The ones who don’t receive services have a higher likelihood of not reaching the same potential as their peers.

Think of a tree, for example. As with a tree, bearing fruit is not about potential. An apple tree left unattended, unfertilized, and unprotected from the elements will result in slow or no growth. The same is with gifted children. Academic and life success is about cultivating a safe and nourishing environment for which the child can become productive.

Solution to Successful Outcomes with Talented Students:

Develop programs or collaborate with professionals to mentor gifted children. Provide guidance, supervision, and other services to gifted children. Improve schools’ support for students who are gifted with breakout rooms, customized programming, and immersion groups.

 

Myth #7: Gifted Students Already have Access to Multiple Resources and Help

Truth About Resources for Gifted Children:

Parents of gifted children often worry about their child’s ability to keep up in school. They may feel that their child has already been given a lot of advantages and does not need any more help. This is a myth. Gifted students do not have unlimited resources or help available to them. In fact, they may be at a disadvantage if they are not given the opportunity to learn in an environment that challenges them.

Solution to Providing Resources for Gifted Children:

In many cases, gifted children are not given the resources they need to succeed in school. This is why many parents decide to homeschool their gifted children.

Poor resources can be due to a lack of understanding of what giftedness is, a lack of funds, or a reluctance to provide more services for students who are already doing well in school. However, there are solutions to this problem. Gifted education programs can be funded through private donations or public grants. Teachers can be trained in how to work with gifted students, and schools can create enrichment opportunities for these students. With the right resources, gifted children can thrive and reach their full potential.

Here are Seven tips for dealing with giftedness that have worked for our team and partners:

1. Find out as much as you can about your child’s gifts and talents.

If your child isn’t studying math, music, or science, it’s time to find a teacher who can help him or her. Talk with other parents, teachers and guidance counselors.

2. Understand how giftedness is measured and performance standards are set.

For example, in areas like math and science, schools use standardized tests to measure what students know and can do.

3. Embrace your child’s gifts and talents.

Find a way to make it work for him or her. Gifted students can be as creative, original and unique in their approach to life as anyone else.

4. Don’t expect your child to become extraordinarily gifted in every subject overnight.

Some talents need cultivation from others while other gifts may come natural without any outside influence.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask your child questions and to listen to his or her answers.

Gifted children are very eager to share their knowledge and experiences, so they may be more open than you might expect.

6. Be patient!

Some days, their child brain is going through an “update”, and they may need more space and time than usual. On other days, they are engrossed in a project, book, or course of study. Allow them options to absorb information as it makes sense while guiding their parameters.

7. Stay educated.

The more you know about giftedness, the more informed parenting decisions you will make! That said, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to gifted children. All parents have their own personal preferences and beliefs regarding what is best for their children in different situations.

In conclusion, gifted children are often misunderstood and misrepresented. The myths about them are harmful because they can lead to misconceptions and inaccurate assumptions. It is important to remember that gifted children are individuals with their own unique needs and talents. They should be nurtured and supported in order to reach their full potential.

What Will You Do When Your Gifted Child Says They’re Bored?

What Will You Do When Your Gifted Child Says They’re Bored?

Effective Ways to Deal with Boredom for Your Gifted Child

You might not believe that a gifted child could get bored.  Compared to any pre-Millenial upbringing,  the access to endless activities, books, and/or electronic devices should make boredom extinct. On the other hand, it may be that abundance itself that is causing their discontent.

That is because many Gen Z and Gen Alpha gifted children are used to being passively entertained and actively micro-managed. With so much screen time, French lessons, and math camps, they have little experience with figuring out how to engage themselves when they do have a little free time.

As a parent, you might be tempted to fix things for them.  That can backfire because they will not learn how to manage their time and tasks themselves.

Instead, try these tips when your gifted child says they’re bored.

Give Your Gifted Child More Attention

Sometimes complaints about boredom are actually a sign that your gifted child needs more “intentional” attention. If they lack a mentor AND your engagement, use this as your time to reconnect.

Try these strategies to give your gifted child more attention, even when you’re busy:

  1. Demonstrate affection. Physical touch has powerful effects and can even cause positive changes in the brain. Hug your gifted child regularly.
  2. Listen closely. Let your gifted child know you’re interested in what they have to say. Take a walk together and give them your full attention. Ask relevant questions and share your own experiences.
  3. Create family rituals. Schedule family dinners at least once a week where you can focus on conversation and healthy eating. For smaller gifted children, make bedtime fun by reading stories and singing songs.
  4. Talk with the teacher. Find out if their boredom extends to other classes. Discuss the situation with your gifted child to find out what’s going on. They could be ahead of their class or struggling to keep their frustrated emotions in check.

 

Help Your Gifted Child Entertain Themselves

Most of the time, independent learning and self-reliance eliminate boredom. When children are empowered to entertain themselves, they often chose challenging and calming activities.  This is a healthy part of their development.  While their overall achievements will depend on their own efforts, you can provide loving guidance and support.

Try these ideas:

  1. Pause first. Give your gifted child a chance to come up with their own solutions to boredom. After about 3-5 minutes, listen to their solutions and take initiative to support or revise their ideas.
  2. Brainstorm together. Come up with a list of ideas and activities that match your gifted child’s interests. Include some things that they will enjoy doing alone.
  3. Assist with logistics. While your gifted child takes the lead with figuring out how to become more engaged, there is still plenty for you to do. Explain how to find helpful resources, teach them how to organize their thoughts, and be their chauffeur if they need a ride.
  4. Ask for help. One of the most effective ways to gain your gifted child’s cooperation is to let them know you need their help. Invite them to join you in preparing dinner or tending the garden.
  5. Encourage reading. When a gifted child engages in reading, boredom goes out the window. Visit your local library and keep lots of reading materials around your house. Start a neighborhood book club with other gifted children and parents.
  6. Rest and relax. It’s easy to feel pressured to always be doing something. Show your gifted child the value of taking time to refresh and restore.
  7. Practice meditation together. Listen to music without doing anything else at the same time. You’ll be training your gifted child to become more mindful and less vulnerable to boredom.

 

Unstructured time is your gifted child’s opportunity to engage their creativity and learn important time management and organizational skills. If you can empathize with their boredom and point them in a positive direction, you’ll be helping them to grow up to be a happy and productive adult.