Characteristics of Successful Gifted Education Teachers

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Educating children who have been identified as gifted takes a special talent! In this lesson, you will learn about the characteristics of successful gifted education teachers.

Welcome to Gifted Education

Every school and district handles gifted education a little differently, but most educators agree that teaching students who are advanced learners, or learn more quickly, at a higher level, or in a more abstract and creative way than their peers, can be as challenging as it is exciting.

Students who are gifted, or especially talented and quick thinking in one or more areas, require a teacher who knows how to meet them where they are and recognize their particular strengths and capacities.

Mrs. Anderson is such a teacher. She astutely identifies the gifted students among her third graders, and she knows that their path through school is not always a simple one. Over the years, Mrs. Anderson has developed characteristics that she finds especially helpful in working with gifted students.

Flexibility

First and foremost, Mrs. Anderson believes in the importance of flexibility, or a willingness to think and work in new and different ways, when working with gifted children. For example, when Mrs. Anderson has a student who has already conceptually mastered all of the requirements of her third grade math curriculum, she is not rigid about requiring that student to do more of the work he already finds easy. Instead, she allows this child to work on higher-level math or even spend math periods designing his own independent projects and inquiries.

Similarly, Mrs. Anderson knows that her gifted readers and writers might not be able to adhere to rigid time requirements, since they are reading more complicated texts than other students and are writing more complex and nuanced work. She is flexible with their deadlines and assignments, recognizing that they will challenge themselves more appropriately if she gives them a little more space.

Insight

Mrs. Anderson also knows that it is important to have insight when working with gifted children. In this case, insight refers to deep knowledge or understanding of someone. Each gifted child is different, so Mrs. Anderson makes sure to take the time to get to know gifted students as whole people. She considers their particular strengths and learning styles, and she makes note of aspects of school or life that might be especially challenging.

Mrs. Anderson believes that insight is important for all teachers to have with any students, but with gifted children she has seen too many teachers consider them as independent and not in need of a thoughtful teacher. Because of this, she is especially careful to get to know her gifted students and meet them where they are.

Communication Skills

Mrs. Anderson has also learned over the years that parents of gifted children require teachers with excellent skills in communication. These parents can be understandably anxious that their children will be bored or misunderstood in school. They may not trust that the teacher will take time to get to know their children or be able to understand and work with their particular strengths.

Mrs. Anderson practices active listening when communicating with parents of gifted children. In other words, she makes careful eye contact, reflects back what the parents have said, and provides a record of their conversation. She helps parents understand that they can be partners with her in their child's education, and she works to maintain steady communication about what she is doing to meet the child's educational needs.

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