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New Teacher Doesn't Understand Giftedness

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Rita Culross, Ph.D.

Q: My son is 11 and has been in the gifted/talented program since he was five years old. This year he has a home room teacher who just graduated from college and is challenged to keep him from being distracted and disorganized. What resources can I offer her?

She has assigned his peers to monitor him to assist with his behavior. I've told the principal my belief that this is peer pressure and therefore not a good solution. This seems to be a situation that is set up for failure.

A: Beginning teachers do face major challenges in individualizing instruction, in mastering classroom management problems, in evaluating students' performance, and in integrating technology in the classroom. Most beginning teachers have had little direct experience with, or education about, the gifted and talented.

Since your son has been identified by the school as gifted/talented, I would assume there is someone within the district who handles programming for the gifted. As a start, I would contact the gifted program coordinator or resource teachers with specialized training in gifted education and explain the problem.

It is not unusual for beginning teachers to have an established teacher-mentor. Another teacher with a background in gifted education may be able to work with your son's teacher to help her adapt the curriculum and instruction for your son.

An excellent reference for regular classroom teachers is Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented by Susan Winebrenner. This book provides specific instructional ideas and a list of teacher-friendly references with more information on the gifted.

Finally, you might consider volunteering in your child's class. Ask the teacher how you might help her. Adults can provide enrichment activities for children and help with administrative tasks to permit the teacher more time to devote to education.

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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.

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