The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Reading the discussions online about gifted children lately, I come to realise that the children we define as gifted in my school are not the norm. They're not the top set children, necessarily, or the middle class children. Often they are the ring leader of a gang of tough guys. Often many of their class teachers have no idea of their elaborately hidden abilities. Often, they spend as much time out of school on exclusion days, as in it.
These children are often referred to in descriptions of GT children, but rarely do I find practical material for them. Reading up on the blog analyses of GT kids in (american?) schools, I'm reassured that perhaps it's because there is none.

The topic makes me reconsider who has been classified as gifted in just one of my non-academic classes?

My immediate thought turns to Joel.
Joel is six foot one, at fifteen, but has the maturity of an eleven year old. He's physically very boisterous, but his imposing size, demeanour, and his immature 'naughty kid' habit of ignoring or staring teachers out gets him into scrapes where people get hurt (students and staff) several times a day. I have a soft spot for him, and recently asked for him to be transferred into my pastoral group, but I've also been kicked or slapped hard in the mouth twice since Easter by Joel. That's from a teacher he gets on with. Imagine those he doesn't.
In Science and in English, Joel averages an 'A' grade, at a point in the course when the expected mark is 'D' or 'C'. This isn't matched by attention in classtime, though.
It's hard for Joel to keep up with deadlines, as well, as he's so often excluded from school for violent incidents which he often still hasn't realised the seriousness of. Joel's parents are confused and conflicted by the reports the school sends home - tales of brilliance, interspersed with stories of woe. They are ambitious for their son, but some teachers seem to be picking on him. They choose not to believe the incident reports, and demand substantion; each time they verge closer towards accusing the school of institutional racism.

Kiendra gets lousy grades. All his teachers can see he's bright, and misplaced in the E stream classes he's found himself in. Kiendra is late to school, wears the wrong uniform permanently, wanders about instead of going to class - low grade rebellion. Including never ever doing a scrap of work.
Kiendra has a mild speech impediment. He travels a long way to get to school, from an even rougher area than the estates here - as he matures into a young man, his journey takes him through areas where he risks attack in gang territory. He's a quiet, affable kid, who likes to be liked. He lacks any perceptible ambition, and only a long series of guilt trips from me and his mother have resulted in his majority attendance this year. On IQ tests, Kiendra is at the top of the scale.
Kiendra's dad died last year. We've been gentle with him, made the rollickings for not trying at all less regular (down to a few times weekly now), to acknowledge this. His family think the school is wonderful because they view us as having cherished and nurtured their boy, focussing on his wellbeing and happiness. They are unconcerned about his grades.

I've chosen two nice ones for you. We have much more difficult able, GT students.
These two are bright, misguided boys, and typical of the type of GT kid who, if left unstimulated and off course can cause riots in their final year.

I'm all ears.

Bearing in mind the sort of school in which I teach, what GT strategies would you use to access the potential of these two young men?