The Gifted Student: Reflections of a Teacher


Bryan Morrison @morrisonsclass


Co-Author: Tiffani Morrison

Calvin Coolidge is often quoted saying, “The most common commodity in this country is unrealized potential.” So how does this pertain to your classroom? Does this mean every student has to go to college? No. Does this mean that ALL students have the potential to do great things beyond the walls of your class? Yes. Dr. Judy Willis states in her Psychology Today article that, if gifted identification and interventions are missed during elementary years, the challenge becomes even greater to unwrap the students’ gifts in middle school because of hormonal changes.

When thinking about a student being labeled “gifted” or “advanced,” what type of student appears in your mind? Can you see their face? Are they female or male? Are they of Asian descent or white? Are they well behaved? This month I implore you to diligently look at your classroom with an open mind. Do you have a little “Bryan” in the back of your classroom that learned French and Spanish, just so he could write notes about his disapproval of his teachers? Have you had a “Tramon” that loved to draw comics while you taught writing, but these cartoons told a story like none you have ever read? Bryan and Tramon are the students this post is about because they may have never been identified as gifted if a teacher didn’t look past their “misbehavior”.

According to the Kentucky Gifted and Talented Handbook, there are 6 identified types of gifted and talented. However, Kentucky does not recognize psychomotor ability as a qualifying ability in the gifted and talented program. The types of giftedness are as follows:

· General Intellectual Ability- These students are usually two standard deviations above the mean on general cognitive ability tests when compared to peers. These students are usually gifted in multiple areas.

· Specific Academic Aptitude- These students usually score in the 97th percentile in one content area (usually Math or Language Arts).

· Creative or Productive Thinking- Kentucky defines these students as having the “ability to produce new ideas by bringing together elements usually thought of as independent or dissimilar and the aptitude for developing new meanings that have social value.” These students think outside the box and solve problems in different ways.

· Leadership Ability- These are the students who have the ability to use group skills and negotiate in difficult situations.

· Visual or Performing Arts- These students demonstrate special abilities in visual arts, music, dance, or drama. Think about the student “Tramon,” he could have been gifted in the visual arts.

· Psychomotor Ability- These students exhibit giftedness in physical or spatial skills. This giftedness is usually not used to admit students into gifted programs.

The most commonly identified, of course, are students with a general intellectual ability. In Jefferson County, all third grade students are tested using the CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test). This makes it extremely easy to identify students as intellectually gifted. These are students often labeled with titles like above average, genius, or extremely smart. Visual and performing arts students are sometimes labeled as prodigies. Then there are students exhibiting leadership skills in our classrooms. Sometimes educators use negative labels with these gifted students, such as “bossy.”So be careful when “labeling” students.

So why am I so passionate about getting more students identified gifted in areas other than just General Intellectual Ability? In a 2006 study, Kentucky Asian students were THREE times more likely to be identified gifted when compared to black students and two times more likely than their white peers. Grissom and Redding (2016) state there is a need for teacher preparation programs and professional development for reducing racial disparities at the teacher referral stage. In JCPS, we have Project RAP (Reaching Academic Potential) that is training teachers in elementary schools to identify more gifted and talented students, especially students from underrepresented groups.

I challenge you to think about your upcoming class. Is there a student that doesn’t fit the “typical” gifted or advanced student description? How do you plan to be their advocate when others may doubt their ability? These students need you to be their advocate, just as much as a student that struggles in school because of a learning disability. All students have special needs that we need to meet, including our higher level students. For additional information about gifted education feel free to contact Tiffani at Tiffani.Morrison@jefferson.kyschools.us.