Monthly Archives: May 2014

Disrespectful or Misunderstood? Gifted Students in the Classroom

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Gifted Students in the ClassroomI can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say, “My child is gifted but he’s not one of those disrespectful know-it-all kids.” These parents are referring to the gifted gold standard: a child who knows the answers but politely participates in all of the class discussions with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. Everyone wants this poster child, but they are hard to find, mostly because the traits that make them gifted also make it difficult for them to behave like model students. Parents might try to mold their gifted kids into this ideal, but it comes at a cost.

I learned the price of my son’s struggle to become a model student during our recent college road trip. We were sitting in a lecture hall filled with eager parents and high school students waiting to hear the admissions officer’s pearls of wisdom. Around 2:15, she started to talk. Around 2:25, I realized she hadn’t said anything. I had listened intently for 10 minutes and, as far as I could tell, she only made one point. Her speech was peppered with “…to put it another way” and “I don’t mean to repeat myself but…” I started to get annoyed. I was stuck in a room with 100 other awestruck parents and teenagers waiting for some information on the school’s culture, classes or admissions policies. Instead, I got a lot of words. So, I did what any mature 51 year old woman would do: I passed a note to my son. 10,000 words and still she hasn’t said anything, I wrote on a small notepad. My son’s eyes widened, he took the pen and wrote, I’m chewing gum to stay awake.

The information session went on for an hour and fifteen minutes. She made 3 points. By the time we left the school, I was mad.

Read the rest of Lisa’s story!

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Gifted and Nongifted Siblings: How Conventional Wisdom is Wrong

By Mark Erlandson

Mark Erlandson, the parent of a gifted student who presently attends a boarding school out East, is a former lawyer and public high school English teacher from Wisconsin starting a new business as a legal writing consultant.

Gifted and nongifted siblingsOne of the problems with “conventional wisdom” is that it is often wrong. Remember the one about how the earth is flat? No? How about how you shouldn’t swim for an hour after eating because you would get cramps? Which brings us to the topic of today’s blog: the conventional wisdom that the nongifted sibling(s) of a gifted brother or sister suffers because of the relationship: the gifted child gets more attention from parents, teachers and relatives or gets more resources, or just the inevitable rivalry and competition that occurs between siblings in a situation where the nongifted sibling(s) will feel inferior and thus less happy.

The problem with this conventional wisdom about gifted and nongifted siblings is the research says it is just not true. Perhaps the largest study was conducted back in the 1990’s by Diana L. Chamrad and Nancy M. Robinson, PhD, and reported in the Gifted Child Quarterly. They studied 378 sibling pairs, ages eight to 13, where one sibling was gifted and the other was not. The authors expected to find that “the nongifted siblings were more anxious and depressed, that they were poorer students (relative to their ability), and that they thought less well of themselves and were negatively disposed toward their brother or sister.” Instead, the study concluded that “it is actually, if anything, an advantage to be the brother or sister of a gifted child!” [Emphasis in original.] Some of these benefits were decreased anxiety in younger children with an older gifted sibling, gifted children viewing their siblings in a more positive light than nongifted children do, and more positive sibling relationships for both when one was gifted and one was not than if neither sibling were. A study conducted in Israel and reported in the December 2009 issue of Gifted and Talented International found a similar lack of negative consequences.

Read more about gifted and nongifted siblings.

A Supportive Mother for a Gifted Kid

By Jennifer Kennedy

Before joining IEA, Jennifer was a kid who understood little of her own giftedness. Now she works as IEA’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator to help other highly able kids and their families understand what it means to be gifted while providing the information they need to find the programs and people to support them.

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

My mom has been there for me from the moment I came into this world, and I have always appreciated everything she has done for me. Lately, though, I’ve begun to see how different my life might have been had my upbringing lacked certain values my mom implemented – things that made her a good mother to a gifted child.

My mom nurtured my gifts and my passions. She knew I was smart, so she challenged me intellectually. She knew I was driven, so she supported me without heaping more pressure on top of the pressure I placed on myself. Before either of us had encountered the term “whole child,” my mom encouraged me to grow in all aspects of self.

She challenged me intellectually. Knowing I loved reading and was a strong reader, she encouraged me to read above-grade-level books. When I was learning about something in school, she would take me to museums to see the subject first-hand, demonstrating that there is knowledge to be gained beyond the textbook. When it came time to choose my own classes in school, she encouraged me to take the advanced classes, and she accepted my less-than-perfect grades when I challenged myself and faced the demands of a difficult course. She taught me that, no matter how smart I was or how well I did in school, there was always so much more to learn.

She challenged me physically, encouraging me to try a variety of sports and physical activities outside of school until I found my niche. And, when I found what I really liked—dance—she encouraged me to work hard and challenge myself, both physically and creatively.

She supported me socially and emotionally, as well. I always knew I was different, and although I participated in a GATE pull-out program once a week, no one in my life understood that the intrinsic intelligence of a gifted child is usually coupled with other characteristics such as overexcitabilities. It took a lot of patience, understanding, love, and acceptance to deal with my emotional outbursts over ostensibly benign incidents. It also took an insightful mother to realize that dance had become vital to my social life as it allowed me to build relationships with older kids who understood me intellectually and younger kids whom I could take under my wing.

After years of guidance, when the time came for me to lead, my mother followed. She embraced my decision to dance—despite not liking dance herself—even when it meant giving up other things she thought were important. She let me lead my college search, which took me much farther from home than she would have liked. She watched me trek through Europe for a semester without her. She supported my decision to choose a more creative field—communications—over a more practical one (both my parents are accountants).

Without all of this support from my mother, I don’t know what would have happened. Every day, I hear stories of gifted kids who fall through the cracks because they are bored, unchallenged, and misunderstood, and it breaks my heart. If my mother hadn’t instinctually understood that my “whole self” needed support, I might have become one of those unfortunate children.

Thank you to all of the moms who do everything they can to support their gifted children while protecting them from slipping through the cracks. You make a huge difference in your child’s life each and every day. Happy Mother’s Day.

Teacher Appreciation

An Academy teacher helps learning come to life through an experiment

An Academy teacher helps learning come to life through an experiment

Here’s to the teachers who encourage their students to think outside the box. To the teachers who make learning fun. To the teachers who care about more than a test score. To the teachers who apply classroom concepts to the outside world. To the teachers who allow students to pursue their passions, even if they lie outside the curriculum. To the teachers who challenge every student in their class every day. To the teachers who engage. To the teachers who see beyond the disruption to root out the true cause. To the teachers who recognize a student’s gifts. To the teachers who recognize that giving a student more work is not the solution. To the teachers who understand that there are some students who just learn differently. To the teachers who recognize that there is more to the gifted student than intellect. To the teachers who inspire.


Many different voices have contributed to this blog over the last two years. And, in looking back on what has been written, it is evident that teachers play an enormous role in the life of a gifted child. This Teacher Appreciation Day, we encourage you to look at these past posts by several different writers that talk about teaching gifted youth and about the difference that teachers can make in a gifted child’s life.

“Motivating without Grades” by Lisa Hartwig
Lisa’s son went from a daydreaming fifth grader to the top of his high school class, and the more she explored the cause, the more she realized it had to do with his educational environment and the teachers who created it.

“Keeping Young” by Jim Delisle
Dr. Delisle has been teaching and working with gifted kids for 36 years. Learn why he keeps coming back for more.

“Chapter 1: The One Thing Needful – What Is It?” by Louise Hindle
Louise Hindle has more than 20 years of experience in education and now serves as IEA’s Academy Program Coordinator, shaping the supplemental educational experiences IEA provides gifted Kindergarten-8th graders. Here she reflects on what our gifted children need academically.

“My Passion for Learning” by Min-Ling Li
IEA Program Coordinator Min-Ling Li was so greatly influenced by teachers who encouraged her love for learning that she became a teacher herself to encourage and spark the same love for learning in others.

Thank you to all of the teachers who make a difference each and every day.

Has a teacher made a difference in your child’s life? Please share in the comment section below!