Educating the Gifted and Talented

“People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of educational experience they want their children to have.” -John Holt-

Monday, September 03, 2007

Are you gifted?

You have a gifted child, so..are you gifted? Read the following to see if it rings true for you.

An excerpt from Giftedness in the Workplace by Dr. Mary-Elaine Jacobsen

In general, the gifted exhibit sensory and emotional sensitivity, difficulty in accepting criticism, extraordinary empathy and compassion, passionate dedication to causes, deep concern and worry, overwhelming feelings of responsibility for the well-being of others and the advancement of humanity, and become easily outraged by injustices and inhumane acts.

Not unexpectedly, gifted adults are prone to periods of existential depression. On the other hand, one of the more glaring traits of giftedness is extraordinary goal orientation that coexists with a relentless curiosity.

Challenge seems to be more of a need than a want, and feelings of being driven or pressured to understand and excel are the companions of achievement. Entelechy (from the Greek entelekheia meaning full realization, a vital force urging one toward self-actualization) is the sum and substance of their remarkable self-motivation and perseverance.

We can see evidence of adult giftedness in a broad knowledge base that is woven together over time and easily linked to new information. They also display a habit of self-monitoring and self-guidance, personal insight and metacognition --- often in the form of harsh self-scrutiny.

Gifted adults generally rely on their pliable thinking and unusual perceptivity. They share an ability to see through the veneer, to quickly ascertain problems (adept problem-finders) and reinterpret things beyond traditional views.

They can cut through complex issues to the heart of the matter and move directly toward creative solutions by combining intellectual strengths (e.g. verbalizing internal images).

The astute observer will detect signs of adult giftedness in their love of puzzles and preference for complexity, their penchant for original responses, and fondness of novelty. These characteristics become all the more obvious when they stay the course and tolerate ambiguity long after others have bowed out of the investigation.

The gifted adult often displays a tendency to be excitable, especially when something new tweaks challenges their imaginations. They may appear to have unusually high levels of energy (not hyperactivity), shifting from one area of interest to another without loss of zeal.

Sometimes excitability is evidenced by overt expressiveness, love of intense discussion and debate, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, multiple interests that reflect their multipotentiality, and by complaints of being easily bored.

Frequently gifted adults in counseling report a history indicative of uneven or asynchronous intellectual, emotional, psychomotor, language, and/or social development (e.g. reasoning ahead of language skills; complex ideas ahead of ability to sufficiently express; emotional maturity lagging reasoning).

They may be proud of their exceptional intelligence and high academic achievement or self-conscious and baffled about experiences of underachievement despite their recognized exceptional ability.

When gifted adults feel free to reveal information about their inner lives they often admit to being perfectionists and complain that they have find mundane tasks intolerable.

Many report feeling driven by, and often suffering from, exceedingly high standards for themselves and others; pulled toward high achievement by their profound idealism while simultaneously engaging in devitalizing self-criticism.

Particularly for the gifted female, it is not uncommon to find a self-perception distorted by accompanying feelings of being a failure, a fraud or impostor, or a belief that it is others who are truly gifted.

Contrary to popular opinion and faulty expectations of nerdism, the gifted adult commonly shows unusual psychosocial maturity, popularity, charisma, trustworthiness, social adjustment and relationship competence.

For many of them, leadership is a natural role that is upheld by self-assuredness and an excellent sense of humor.

Despite their abilities, the gifted experience recurring feelings of isolation and being largely misunderstood. Most have been aware since early childhood that they are inherently different, though they may not know in what ways, and typically believe their differences are disreputable.

Likewise they may eventually admit to chronic experiences of deep loneliness in spite of a preference for working alone. In addition, many have been berated for being picky, perfectionistic, or overly-committed to orderliness because neither therapist nor client realize it is normal for the gifted to seek security by systematizing.

Gifted adults may fail to respect their own need for solitude, reflection, and time to daydream or play with concepts and ideas. They may shame themselves when their strong bids for autonomy result in a pattern of butting heads with authority figures when most have never been told that they challenge tradition because of their deep personal values and a reverence for truth and authenticity.

Overall, the gifted adult is almost entirely unaware that the so-called excesses of their nature are the very same traits that underpin excellence. With help, as gifted adults discover their true identities, they can rewrite their histories in terms of assets rather than liabilities.

They may come to understand a gifted child’s tears and rage over playground unfairness or pointing out politically incorrect truths were early signs of moral leadership.

They may finally realize that badgering teachers and parents with questions and getting into all kinds of investigative mischief often foreshadows entrepreneurism and innovation.

They may also discover that when the gifted child’s touchiness seems excessive, it may be a harbinger of profound empathy, the kind revered in social reformers and servants of the poor and needy.

Thus, a corrected personal history is fundamental for self-support, a prerequisite for confidently embarking on new ventures in a world that is still stuck on stereotyped notions about the gifted.


  • At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    holy shit. i can relate to these paragraphs too much. my sister asked me if i thought i suffered from "multipotentiality syndrome" and I thought she was joking. I thought "uh huh, another catch phrase to explain our laziness."

    nevertheless, i certainly feel like these paragraphs explain me perfectly

  • At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, I sure am gifted. Right now I'm still catching my breath after reading this excerpt. Thank you Conny for posting this. It describes me to the tee. 5 years ago I was told by a Professional that I was gifted. I'm 56 now and admit it took 3 yrs. to fully accept. Please read these quotes from Tim Field in the UK. I'll think you might enjoy his comments on the education system. Scroll down to May and July 2000. Go to Enjoy! Shawnee in Jensen Beach, FL.

  • At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Patty said…

    I grew up in the GATE program (since the 4th grade) and throughout high school was placed in AP and IB classes, yet felt isolated and lonely in my social interactions. It was not until two weeks ago that I found out what the GATE program really was, thanks to technology and the internet. When I was young I thought GATE was just advanced placement classes and a government program to encourage kids to go to school by taking them on road trips to universities. I grew up not knowing, until now. What I can say is that I keep reading research and websites which argue about methods and structures to create Gifted and Talented education. My first thought was "why aren't Gifted and Talented adults teaching GATE kids"? I have personally been working in Simulation Based Learning using virtual immersion and visualization of complex processes, and I am sure that this tool could be used for educating GATE kids. This can also serve as a tool for accelerated learning. Many Gifted and Talented individuals have photographic memories, so the way to educate them is to use simulations (as in virtual world and computational astrophysics) and have them reverse engineer a process and create a visualization of their work. This, in turn, could be used as a dynamic platform to build education modules for incoming GATE classes who can build upon what's already created. I would love to teach GATE kids.


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