As a teacher of honors courses, almost all of my students carry an official label of gifted and talented. When I realized that I actually teach about 40% of the students in each of the two grade levels, I began to question whether or not these students’ labels were accurate. How can such a large percentage of each grade be considered G/T? Are they all really gifted and talented?
Yes, they are gifted: some are gifted intellectually, some are gifted to have parents that know the system, and some are gifted in areas I don’t get to see. They are gifted in and outside of the classroom.
Talented? You better believe it! Some are musical, theatrical, athletic, creative, or artistic. Others have the talent of persevering under the pressure put on them.
This year, I have only one period a day that does not have students with a gifted and talented label. Not to play the everyone is special card, but these students are equally gifted and talented. Some of them haven’t been recognized by the system for their intellectual abilities (generally because they don’t do homework). Others, are lacking in the academic gifts, but they have the gift of joy despite daily tasks that make them feel they are not enough. I have students that are witty, personable, sweet, compassionate, street smart, etc. Each student has a gift and a talent.
I am teaching mechanics, administrative assistants, soldiers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, electricians, police officers, nurses, rocket scientists, and custodians. The point is each of these jobs requires our students be gifted or talented in particular areas. They don’t, however, each require a student to achieve an understanding of a square root or even the ability to identify a gerund phrase.
The students that are non standard according to the academic world are trapped behind desks where they are pushed to operate in their weaknesses rather than their strengths. They are told they need to work harder and achieve more and that they are not enough in themselves. (Does this sound familiar to any of you that are trying to live up to the false standards our culture promotes?)
As a teacher, I am doing my best to allow students opportunities to shine in my classroom. My job is not just to bring students up to a standard; my job is to help students see that they are more than what the standards say about them.
Wouldn’t it be great if we all approached the world with this goal? Imagine what it would be like if we were to seek to value each person for her strengths instead of trying to cram one another inside false standards of who the media says we should be. I encourage you to focus on your gifts and talents and to do the same for others.