Tag Archives: teaching

Teaching the Gifted

By Louise Hindle

Louise is IEA’s Academy Coordinator. A British import, Louise graduated from the University of Manchester with a B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature and Language, completed her post-graduate teacher training at The University of Cambridge, and recently completed her dissertation in Educational Leadership and Innovation with the University of Warwick. Louise has 20 years of experience in education as a high school literature teacher, lead teacher, administrator, adviser, and consultant. She is also the parent of three fun and active school-aged children.

teaching-gifted-students

Louise teaches a group of gifted students at an IEA Academy Genius Day

Somewhere in the middle of England, somewhere in the mid-nineties, my former self – three years into my teaching profession as an English Literature teacher, new in my role as second-in-faculty – landed the golden opportunity to teach the brightest 10th graders in the school, the ‘top-set’. This 10th grade top set, as we called it, comprised of thirty-two specially selected boys and girls all destined, according to their assessment data, to achieve the highest grades possible in English Literature state examinations. My former self assumed this would be the ‘dream ticket’, that I would be confronted with eager minds, self-motivated, confident young people with similar abilities. After all, if they’d been identified as the ‘top set’, teaching would be straightforward, without barriers, without learning challenges. These kids were high potential, they were gifted, therefore teaching them would be easy – right? How wrong I was, and how quickly I learned to address these misconceptions.

Read the lessons Louise learned about teaching gifted children!

Becoming Anything You Want to Be: Career Exploration for Gifted Students

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.

Career exploration for gifted students

An IEA Apprentice does lab work during her experience learning about a career in cancer research.

“You can be anything you want to be” is a cliche we all will probably tell, or have already told, our children at some time in their lives. For the gifted child, this statement may be closer to the truth. But having too many skills and abilities and multiple interests can be overwhelming, and what exactly does “anything” mean? How do we help the gifted student to understand what the “anything” is and to find the right career match?

To begin, two caveats: technological innovation and economic globalization have brought about swift change to the practice and outlook of many occupations and will continue to do so. Therefore, the goal of much early career planning should be to explore and understand the nature and variety of work available, not to choose a specific career. At most, paint in broad strokes and identify career areas that a child may want to enter.

Second, children’s interests often change as they mature. What once lit that flame of enthusiasm in 8th grade may have diminished by junior year of high school. That is natural. Expect your child’s passions to ebb and flow as he or she ages, becoming exposed to and participating in life’s experiences and learning more about themselves.

Read Mark’s advice for helping gifted students explore career options!

The Impact of the Common Core State Standards on Gifted Education

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.

commoncorelogoFor a variety of reasons, considerable angst has been created among educators, academicians, politicians, and parents by the adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by 46 states. (Some states are even in the formal process of revisiting that decision.) For now, the standards only apply to English/Language Arts and Mathematics. The impact the adoption of the CCSS will have on the education of gifted students is open to debate.

The CCSS were developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers to provide a clear standard of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade. The standards are aligned with college and career expectations and attempt to establish uniform goals across the US based on best practices.

Learn about the Common Core State Standards’ impact on gifted education!

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!

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!

Keeping Young

By Jim Delisle

When I first began working with gifted kids in 1978, I had no idea that I’d still be doing so 36 years later. Those first gifted 4th-5th graders I taught in Stafford Springs, Connecticut are now closer to their retirements than their college graduations. That should make me feel old (OK…I am old!), but thanks to a decision I made more than 20 years ago, my vitality remains. That decision?: to never be more than a week away from teaching gifted kids.

My career trajectory led me from the elementary classroom to the college lecture hall, a much easier place to teach. There are no parent phone calls to return while teaching college, and discipline problems are minimal. Still, I found something lacking in teaching my graduate students. It wasn’t that they weren’t sincere in wishing to earn their degrees, it’s just that they were all so…predictable. And if there’s one thing I learned while teaching gifted kids, it was that predictability was not a quality that many of them possessed. “Quirky” (yes, that would fit), “spontaneous” (…maybe that’s why I could never get through my intended lesson without several student-led detours) and “intense” (couldn’t any of them, just once, practice the fine art of intellectual moderation?). The longer I worked with gifted kids and teens, the more I came to appreciate that the vigor they displayed while engaged in learning something new and relevant had an unexpected impact on me–their excitement became a non-prescription elixir that served as my personal fountain of youth. Thanks to gifted kids, I may look my age, yet I neither think nor act it. Thanks to gifted kids, I feel like Peter Pan.

If they’re lucky, parents of gifted kids retain this same degree of youth when they interact with their children. I mean how can you not giggle out loud when your 4-year-old daughter asks, “If butter melts yellow, and chocolate melts brown, why doesn’t snow melt white?” It’s a perfectly fine question, based on observational data your gifted kid picked up simply by being alert to the world. The answer to this question may evade you, but just the thought that someone so young has so much intellectual power and curiosity helps keep you mentally robust and alert. And how about when your 15-year-old son wants to engage you in an “oxymoron contest”, with some of his entries being “cafeteria food”, “authentic replicas”, “bigger half” and “Congressional wisdom”. Even if you can’t top these “instant classics” (another oxymoron), the banter between the two of you is bound to make you feel younger than your years.

Three and a half decades of gifted kids have introduced me to countless characters who have changed–indeed, enhanced–my life. I continue to cling to my youth today by doing part-time teaching of highly gifted 9th graders who are enrolled in college and by serving as a “Fellow” at IEA’s camp Yunasa every July, working with gifted 10-14 year olds at a YMCA camp in Michigan. Yeah, my soon-to-be-ancient bones ache when the alarm rings at 5:15 a.m. so I can get to school on time, and sleeping on a plastic-covered camp bed does little to enhance my burgeoning arthritis, yet underneath these physical discomforts remains one of the best feelings in the world: a continuing connection to gifted kids who keep my spirit alive and well.

Seek your own eternal youth: surround yourself with as many gifted kids as you can find.

Delisle_Jim_RGBAbout Jim Delisle:

Jim Delisle serves on the Board of Directors of IEA and interacts with gifted kids frequently. His upcoming book, Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Most Capable Youth, will be published in August, 2014.

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Chapter 1: The One Thing Needful – What Is It?

By Louise Hindle

Louise Hindle is IEA’s Academy Coordinator. A British import, Louise graduated from the University of Manchester with a B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature and Language, completed her post-graduate teacher training at The University of Cambridge, and has recently completed her dissertation in Educational Leadership and Innovation with the University of Warwick. Louise has 20 years of experience in education as a high school literature teacher, lead teacher, administrator, adviser, and consultant. IEA’s Academy program, described here, provides elementary and middle school students with challenging enrichment classes that focus on exploration and application of knowledge.

Mr. Gradgrind

Mr. Gradgrind

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts….Plant nothing else, and root out everything else… nothing else will ever be of any service,” declares Mr. Gradgrind in Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times. Gradgrind is, of course, a grotesque parody of all that education shouldn’t be. Ingrained in his face, Gradgrind, like the educational system he advocates, is “inflexible, dry and dictatorial,” demanding only closed-answer responses with absolutely no space to think, let alone enquire. Inexorable in his approach, Gradgrind looks at his room of students and sees “empty vessels,” vessels he must fill to the brim with the facts he determines most useful. The one thing needful in this context is a 19th century industrialized utilitarian view of education: keep it if it’s “useful,” lose it if it’s not, and let’s not think about who decides what’s useful. Furthermore, it’s an educational system where the distance between the teacher and the students is a steadfastly vast unexplored wasteland, devoid of personal interaction, engagement or – dare we say it – enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
Read Louise’s reflections on “the one thing needful” for our bright young minds!