I do not like the words “Gifted” or “Talented.” They bring up an elite attitude with me and really just because you are gifted or talented, you may not use your talents. I like the term “amazing,” because ANY student can be amazing, not just the gifted and talented student. It also includes those who work hard, practice, and have a drive to succeed.
I have taught a lot of amazing students. They range from low to high intelligent. The basic theme is that they are ALWAYS THINKING. They have an inner drive to be excellent and creative. They aren’t the most talented, but they are the most ambitious. They desire new possibilities and crave a creative outlet. I don’t teach these students, I just get out of their way and create possibilities. I say that I give them TIME and SOFTWARE. I usually have one to three students within the class that fall into this category. Upon starting a new project, they are the ones that come to me asking if they could spin the project a different way, usually a way I have never thought of before. They are those students, that find every possible time during the day to be in my room, whether it is during lunch/recess, silent reading or upon completion of a project in another class.
As these students move within the projects, sometime their project takes more time and effort than the others. Other times they finish within a day and are ready to move on to something else.They are NOT on the same page as the rest of the class, and I do not have them do the same projects. They are different and I say that directly to their face. “Whatever I say to the rest of the class is not intended for you.” I have them work separately and at times individually allowing them to soar. When an amazing student is allowed to soar and create, you will see their attitude within the classroom improve and help others. Because they are constantly within this “creative individual” mode there will be ups and downs. The creative mind cannot constantly be in up mode. It needs a “processing” mode as well. So, if the student has come to a road-block and cannot think of what to do next, or how to proceed, it is important you have as least two or three other projects the student is working on. This way they can “process” on one project and work on another. Contests and web 2.0 excites them. They delight in show their work to the outside world.
People ask me how do I get so much out of students with such a limited amount of time. Students are working on MY stuff outside the classroom, by thinking and processing. So, by the time they arrive in the classroom, they are already at full steam on the creative meter.
The delicate balance of the general population student and the “amazing” student is always on my mind. So, that is why I see myself more as a facilitator than teacher. I want to inspire and “allow” these students to be the best they can be.
You can hear my discussion about this with Brenda Muench and Jen Brinkley about teaching “amazing students” on Musically and Technically Speaking podcast.