My Gifted Anti-Bucket List

a boy thinking

In my travels speaking with parents, facilitating with teachers, and working with gifted kids, I hear and see a lot of things. Some are truly great. I can’t believe the dedication I find, the heartwarming stories that are shared, and how much investment there is in our children. It’s awesome.

At the same time, I hear and see things that I would happily never hear or see again. I decided to make a wish list of things I would love to never see (again). I’m calling it my “anti-bucket list.”

So here’s my Gifted anti-bucket list of 9 things I hope I never see (or see again) in my life.

1. Lack of differentiation.

I hope I never again see a teacher who simply refuses to differentiate for gifted learners. It flies in the face of common sense and even just general kindness. I hope I never again receive an email from a parent who doesn’t know what to do because of it. I literally just got one today that said, “Her idea of differentiation is giving our daughter a worksheet and telling her to do it on her own. She actually complained when my daughter had questions about what she had been given.”

With the resources and information available, I just can’t get behind the idea that we can just refuse to differentiate for gifted learners.

2. Misunderstanding of Asynchronous Development

Here are the types of questions/statements I hear that show a complete lack of understanding of the fundamentals of the development of gifted individuals:

  • If this 8-year-old can do 8th grade math, why can’t she behave like an 8th grader?
  • For a smart kid, you don’t have any common sense. [Code for “Why don’t you act like you’re ten years older than you are?”]
  • If he/she can do advanced [insert content area here], he/she should be able to do advanced [insert unrelated content area here].

Asynchronous development is the term that says, “Let’s manage expectations here, people.”

Gifted children should not be expected to be spectacular in every content area and also have a social/emotional maturity that equals their cognitive ability.

Think about the reverse of this expectation: do we expect those with mental disabilities to remain physically younger than they are all of their lives? No. Physical and mental development are not always aligned. They’re often…asynchronous.

3. No money

Gifted children should not be beggars in the education world, coming before school boards and congress with hat in hand and a sign that says “Will learn for food.”

We cannot expect teachers to teach them adequately with inadequate funding. There is no water out of this rock.

Can teaching be effective and amazing without spending a ton of money? Yep. Does money get wasted in education? Ah, yep. [Note: don’t spend all of your gifted money on devices, please. One-to-one is not gifted pedagogy. It just sounds good to people. Well, it sounds good to some people. I’m not one of them.]

Yet this doesn’t change the fundamental truth that gifted ed costs money and it is money it deserves.

4. Refusal to accelerate

Oh, man. I’ve written about this before, and I’ll be writing about it again. We need to accelerate kids who can do work at higher levels. The end.

Use the Iowa Acceleration Scale if you want a solid view of whether the child is a good candidate for acceleration or not.

Educators who don’t want to children to be able to work at the level they are capable of display an inexcusable ignorance of the research.

Parents and educators who are concerned about the child’s social acceptance ought to consider that they don’t fit in any better when they’re in an inappropriate grade for their ability. Acceleration doesn’t solve social issues, but it rarely exacerbates them.

Bonus: I hope I also never see (again) parents who want their students accelerated because they can do some work at a higher level, but either aren’t ready for an entire new grade level or lack necessary executive functioning skills.

5. Lack of training for teachers

Very few states require the training of teachers before they teach gifted kids. Since most teachers need training to be able to understand the nature and needs of gifted children cognitively and affectively, it’s critical that training be available and of sufficient quality.

Teachers should also be expected to translate that training into classroom practice.

6. Lack of service in schools

Some states require students to be identified and teachers trained, but they don’t require the district to actually serve the student. Really? What’s that?

It’s worse than not identifying at all. It’s like some weird taunt to parents and students. “Good news! We’ve found out that you need special services! Bad news! We’re not going to give them to you!”

This sounds very edgy, I know, but I hope that I never see a school, district or state that refuses/declines to serve gifted kids.

7. Not understanding that you can be gifted and have a learning disability

Oh, man. Why am I having to say this? Just because you have high cognitive intelligence, you are not exempt from dyslexia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, dysgraphia or any other learning difference except low cognitive ability.

I call it a “gift with purchase.”

Some gifted kids hide their disabilities well and some don’t, but they all deserve to have both aspects of their learning addressed, served and respected.

8. Misdiagnosis

Gifted can look a little odd. I feel comfortable saying this because I’m gifted, too, so I’m not being rude.

Intensities and overexcitabilities can make us look like we have ADHD.

Boredom can make us look defiant.

Weird interests can make us look, well, odd.

I recommend this book on misdiagnosis, if you’re interested.

Let’s stop pathologizing gifted, shall we? To do that, mental health professionals and pediatricians need to understand it better.

9. Suicide

My heart breaks when I hear about a gifted child who takes his or her own life. There’s no easy answer, and I don’t pretend there is, but I know this: we need these children. Their families need them. The world needs them. They’re hurting. Let’s help in any way we can.

Talking about it doesn’t make it more likely that a child (or adult) will take their own life, so talk.

If you’re a school, learn more about what you can do.

I have three videos on my YouTube channel that I recorded with my best friend (a therapist) that will help teachers understand their role in helping students.

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, please call 800-273-8255.

Please stay. We need you here. We want you here. It’s worth fighting for your life. We’ll fight with you.

Wrapping Up

So this is my current anti-bucket list. There are other things I don’t like, but these are the things I think cause the most pain.

Anything you’d like to add?

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