In recent days, Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper has been doing a series called The Gifted Child. The paper capped the series off with perspectives from three teachers on what teaching gifted kids is like. I applaud The Globe and Mail for covering this issue. But reading these teachers' comments, there is certainly a negative undercurrent. Consider this from a Toronto high school teacher:
"A challenge that my colleagues and I often lament is the sense of entitlement amongst our gifted students. They have been told on countless occasions that they are intellectually superior and often this notion is reaffirmed at home. This may result in difficulties interacting with their non-gifted peers as well as issues when they realize that not all gifted students are gifted in all areas."
An elementary school teacher notes that gifted kids are often forgotten in classrooms, then mentions that socializing with other children can be a problem:
"It then becomes the teacher’s job to teach gifted children (and the rest of the class) to be considerate, respectful and mindful of the varying abilities that each other possess."
Then there is this from an Ottawa high school teacher:
"Often parents will expect that once their child is diagnosed as “gifted” that their child will excel in all areas of the curriculum; this is not likely and parents’ expectations have to be managed."
So there we have it. Maybe I'm a little sensitive, but I read in these quotes a message that gifted kids and their parents need to be taken down a notch, or "managed," if you will. If you're gifted in one area, maybe you aren't in another. And even if you are globally, then probably you're not very socially adept or respectful.
I'm sure this is true for some kids. But there are kids of all kinds who are insufferable. There are probably quite a few "normal" kids who could stand to learn to interact better with gifted kids -- not teasing them for quirky interests, for example. Difficulties in socializing go across the board. And given the rather low level of expectations in many schools, it is quite possible that a parent's expectation that a child will excel in all areas of the curriculum won't need to be revised downwards.
Broadly, though, there is a leveling streak that runs through educational culture. My personal experience is that many families of highly gifted kids don't have enough of a sense of entitlement. Parents think they should just be grateful, rather than demand an individualized program or acceleration or other accommodations.
Of course, the irony of this is that the easiest way to combat any sense of entitlement is to match a gifted child up with work that is challenging enough that it finally stumps him. A child who skips three grades is probably going to feel less intellectually superior than one stuck in too-easy grade level classes. But too few schools and teachers seem to take this view.