Sunday December 14, 2008
Nurturing the gifted
By TAN EE LOO
SOME people say that gifted children are a joy to teach and that it is always nice to have them in the classroom. However, that is not necessarily true, said Carolyn Kottmeyer.
“The gifted child may already know the answer to a question even before the teacher finishes asking it. While some may sit quietly in class, others who are bored may act up.
“He may challenge the teacher or find ways to entertain himself, for example, by talking or distracting other students.
“This child is definitely not a joy to have in the classroom,” she said.
According to Kottmeyer, a gifted child may interrupt and correct the teacher because he has read all the material on a subject and thus may even know more than the teacher.
Kottmeyer was speaking to participants on the first day of a conference entitled “Understanding Gifted Children: Facts and Myths” held recently at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Selangor.
Close to 100 teachers and parents, some with children in tow, attended the two-day conference.
As the founder and director of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and the Hoagies’ Kids and Teens Page, Kottmeyer said the range of student abilities in the classroom makes teaching a challenging task for most teachers.
On the myth that gifted children can cope well on their own, Kottmeyer said research has shown the importance of allowing gifted children to work through struggles and challenges from a young age.
It is also a myth to say that a gifted child’s social and emotional age is the same as his biological age.
“Sometimes, I act childishly although I usually behave like a grown-up. Gifted children are no different,” said Kottmeyer.
“There are times when a gifted child may seem younger, like when he is throwing a tantrum or fighting with his siblings. At other times, he may seem older, when he enjoys the company of his academic peers and tries to fit in,” she added.
Gifted children also need to know that being “different” is not bad.
“Many gifted children figure out that they are different from other kids, even before they start school. For one thing, other kids may not be as interested in advanced games or creative play. These children need to know that being different is not a bad thing,” said Kottmeyer.
It is also not true that labelling a child “gifted” will make the child over confident.
On the contrary, research suggests that students identified as “gifted” who participated in accelerated educational programmes often had higher self esteem.
On the myth that it’s easy to be a gifted child, Kottmeyer said that such children tend to have very high expectations of themselves.
“It’s up to parents and teachers to make their lives easier by giving them opportunities to learn about struggles and challenges.”
Among those who attended the conference was Josh Lee, who brought his family along.
Lee described his children as “exceptionally bright”. He plans to send them for clinical tests to find out if they are gifted.
“However, whether they are gifted or not is of secondary importance.
“What is more important is how to maximise their talent,” he said.
George* (not his real name) didn’t think that it was necessary to tell his gifted child that he was “different” from other kids as he didn’t want his child to feel pressured to perform.
However, the father of three changed his mind after attending Kottmeyer’s talk.
“Now, my wife and I have to figure out a way to tell him that he is gifted,” he said.