There is a very common misconception that gifted students don’t need to have a lot of check ins when they are in class. They “have it together”. Gifted students are playing by the rules and getting their work done, they don’t need help with the work, their grades are fine… Yes, while all of this may be true, we forget they have social-emotional needs too since their work often is not a issue. So, when their grades start to plummet we become frustrated that they can’t get it together.
We have to keep in mind as parents and teachers, our gifted students need to have check-ins too. They may be able to demonstrate content knowledge and not show difficulty with the work, but they do very often struggle with social emotional issues that are bigger than they can handle. Young gifted students can be doing really well in school one day and then be crying in the hallway for an hour trying to understand why people don’t have enough food to eat. Older students might be doing great in their three advanced placement classes, but be having an internal struggle with making the decision to not go to college against their parents wishes. At any given point, a gifted student could be wrestling with the fight they had with their parents or even their friends which can derail them just as fast as a fire drill.
The trick is to check in with our gifted students before it gets to a point where we can’t get them back on track. We want to make sure we have a pulse on all of our students and their well-being, but that is difficult when you have a room of 30 students for 7 class periods a day. However, if we think of it in the sense of athletes and how often coaches check in on their star players we would notice the star athletes are checked in on often and coached on how to improve or challenge their skills. Coaches don’t let the star just go about their practice or their game because they have it all together. Coaches encourage them to push through the tough practices and praise them when they accomplish a goal.
Gifted students are complicated. They need to be challenged in their work, and they need help being in tune with their own social-emotional needs. So while in the gradebook they appear to be functioning well in their classes, they may have something bigger going on outside of academics they need help processing. Gifted students are unique in that they often are able to communicate and function intellectually, but they very often struggle with the emotional side of their brain because there isn’t a rhyme or reason behind those emotions. They need help to process those emotions in a logical way.
The flip side of this is when gifted students start to struggle academically. This is where we need to stop and ask the questions:
- Are they bored? Do they need more challenging work?
- Have they learned and mastered the material already?
- Are they dealing with a major social emotional issues and need to talk to someone?
As you discover the answers to these questions you should be able to help your gifted student work through their needs and help find what they need right now.
Some suggestions would be the following:
- Asking higher level thinking questions in class or one on one
- Create challenging options for them to complete
- Offer a menu of choices for completing projects
- Give them the opportunity to express their needs (academically and mentally)
- Check in on them
- You know when things aren’t working- take the time to notice that and check on them
- Encourage them to push through the tough assignments or content
- Coach them using Growth Mindset techniques.
Our gifted students need to know we care about them as a whole person- not just their performance in class or on their report card. Make sure you check in on their needs outside of academics and let them know you care about their social- emotional needs can have a greater impact than any grade they receive on a report card.