Common Myths About Gifted Kids

Perhaps the most common myth of highly intelligent kids is to assume that they are more capable in every area of academics. In January of 2012, Lisa Van Gemert, owner, author, and operator of GiftedGuru.com, posted an article entitled Top 10 Ways to Annoy a Gifted Child. Assuming that a child who is superior in some areas is superior is all areas is number 5 on the list. To annoy a gifted child, Van Gemert writes:

Say "You're so smart, you should be able to do this." This is the best way to get a gifted kid to shut down like a check-out line at Wal-mart on Christmas Eve. Also useful: "So you think you're so smart..." (For the full article see http://www.giftedguru.com/top-ten-ways-to-annoy-a-gifted-child/)

An 8 year-old child with an IQ of 150 is still a child. In presentations I sometimes ask attenders, "How does a child know the sky is blue?" When posed this question, most people say that the child can look up and see the sky is blue. To this I reply, "Not exactly. A child knows the sky is blue because someone taught them the colors first. Later, the child can look at the sky and recognize it is blue. Even really smart kids need direction. They have tremendous potential, but it is up to parents and teachers to help them actualize and expound upon that potential."

To illustrate the next myth I provide the following example:

I have a friend named Jim who has been an auto-mechanic for over 30 years. One can logically deduct that Jim likes to work on cars. Although Jim enjoys his job and is paid for his work, he does not like auto-repair to the degree that he would work past his regular business hours and well into the night. This should come as no surprise, however. Simply because someone has a special talent does not mean that they enjoy putting that talent to practice through monotonous repetition.

Contrary to popular belief, while gifted youth skilled in math, science, language arts, etc., they do not enjoy upon completing long and tedious homework assignments. Unfortunately, in many public schools, teachers have no other choice but to give their highly intellectual students busy work when they have completed their regular assignments ahead of time. The absence of level appropriate educational materials causes the focus to shift from providing what's best for the student to keeping the student quiet and on task. Still, in all due fairness, some school systems do have such materials yet teachers are not afforded the time to adequately implement a separate curriculum. It is saddening to say that gifted education in the classrooms of the United States has largely been reduced to quantity rather than quality.

Another myth is that all smart kids enjoy helping the teacher, peer tutoring, or being the teacher's pet, as if they all have the same personality. Just as with any other group of children, there are those who are outgoing and those who are reserved. Some are passive yet others are aggressive. Rather than approaching these students with preconceived notions ideas about who they are, teachers and other school staff should allow each individual child to teach them who they are. By listening, observing, watching, remembering, and remaining unbiased, educators will come to know the unique personality and character of these extraordinary kids. Moreover, knowing and understanding the uniqueness of any student helps the teacher to plan more effectively. As for parents, sometimes viewing your child from an observer's standpoint allows you to see past any biases that cloud your vision. In essence, you mentally remove yourself from the situation and view things as an outsider. Doing so will give you a clearer perception of who your child really is, both positive and negative.

To recap, the three most common myths I have encountered as an educator are: smart kids can figure out anything, they love doing schoolwork, and they love helping the teacher. There are many more myths that could be listed; however, these are the three most common misconceptions. Other myths include beliefs such as: all smart kids are nerdy or lack social skills, love video games, don't like sports, are good at Math and Science, love playing board games, or even that all smart kids have allergies. Seriously? C'mon, you got to be kidding me!