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Teachers talk: What working with gifted kids is like

What is the biggest challenge with gifted kids in your class or school?

As Globe and Mail Life wraps up its week-long series, The Gifted Child, we asked a panel of three anonymous public and private school teachers from Toronto and Ottawa for insights on the classroom dynamic.

Here's what they had to say:

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Difficulty multi-tasking

Toronto high school teacher who has been teaching for five years and is currently teaching a gifted class:

The challenges when teaching the exceptional student are varied. Often the gifted learner has organizational difficulties. They may find it difficult to multi-task. I have found that many of my gifted students are perfectionists. This can be both a blessing and a curse. If they feel that they can not complete a task "perfectly" they may not complete it or may put it off until a later date.

A challenge that my colleagues and I often lament is the sense of entitlement amongst our gifted students. They have been told on countless occasions that they are intellectually superior and often this notion is reaffirmed at home. This may result in difficulties interacting with their non-gifted peers as well as issues when they realize that not all gifted students are gifted in all areas.

Creating a challenging enough program

Markham elementary school teacher who has been teaching for four years:

The biggest challenge with gifted children is providing an academic program that is challenging enough for [them]. Their academic abilities are often beyond the academic levels of the average student. Teachers often have to teach to the majority of students and as an educator, quite honestly, gifted students in a regular homeroom can be "forgotten" and may find the classroom material "irrelevant" to their needs.

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In addition, gifted children may find it difficult to socialize with their peers as they are not on the same academic playing field. It then becomes the teacher's job to teach gifted children (and the rest of the class) to be considerate, respectful and mindful of the varying abilities that each other possess.

Managing expectations

Ottawa high school teacher who has been teaching for 20 years:

Teaching gifted students is challenging. Gifted students often need differentiated or modified modes of teaching and assessment. The truth, however, is that a teacher in any classroom that is not streamed often has to adapt lesson plans for any number of differentiated learners in their classroom. Moreover, gifted students are often gifted in some respects and weak in others. Sometimes this will manifest more so in the social and emotional domains.

Often parents will expect that once their child is diagnosed as "gifted" that their child will excel in all areas of the curriculum; this is not likely and parents' expectations have to be managed. Parents must also be warned about too much pressure being put on their child as a result of the gifted label.

As told to Tralee Pearce

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