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Gifted Children Shouldn’t Be Left To Own Devices

Gifted Children Shouldn’t Be Left To Own Devices, Says Expert

Principals are being urged to make sure that gifted students in their schools aren’t “banging their heads on the classroom ceiling” as they try to reach their full potential.

The call comes from Massey University senior lecturer Tracy Riley, who is delivering a workshop at the New Zealand Principals’ Federation Conference being held in Wellington. The conference, which begins today, has attracted the most delegates ever with about 1000 delegates expected to attend.

Tracy Riley says there is a tendency to set “false ceilings” at the level students are expected to be achieving at. However there is often little allowance for those students who are beyond that level.

“Part of what worries me is that some of these gifted kids are banging their heads on this ceiling as the system does not allow them to achieve at the level that they are capable of.”

Tracy Riley says one common misconception is that gifted children will be successful regardless of the help they are given.

“Some of these kids will make it despite the system, but some won’t. There is a danger that if they are left to their own devices the end result could be a long way from the desired outcome. They could end up underachieving or they can also end up having a behavioural problem in the classroom because they are bored.”

She says New Zealand gives every child the right to an education, which should also include the right to learn.

“If you are going to school and you are either left to your own devices or asked to teach other children when you are given the opportunity to learn? Ideally what we want to do is individualise education for all kids, including those who are gifted or talented.”

Tracy Riley says there can be resistance to the concept of accelerated learning, however this is often sparked by misconceptions.

“There are a number of approaches to teaching gifted children, both within the classroom and in specialist lessons. And acceleration can mean different things, for example it doesn’t mean a student has to be accelerated across the board for every subject. It may be in one subject or it may mean the pace of delivering material is faster.”

She says grouping students by ability is also another way to get the full potential of students.

“It can be socially damaging for a child to be in a classroom with other children when the only common factor is age. If you have a child who is six years old but functioning at the same level of a nine-year-old they feel out of sorts with the other six-year-olds. They’re not thinking like them, they’ re not talking like them, they’re not reading the same things, and they don’ t have the same interests.”

She says there has already been a lot of progress in this area with the Ministry of Education setting up advisory groups and releasing publications. The conference provides another platform to heighten awareness.

“I want to encourage principals to examine what is currently happening in their schools for these children and from there to look at ways to further improve the education of gifted children. They are the leaders of tomorrow, so if you have a child with artistic, intellectual or leadership potential it makes sense that we develop it so we can enable them to develop and lead successful lives,” she says.


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