Friday, November 17, 2017

Teach 180: Rethinking Giftedness (Day 53)

A general perspective: I just finished watching Jo Boaler's film Rethinking Giftedness and although there are some valid things that the students say, I feel that the film is very one sided.  All of the students have a similar opinion - that being labeled as gifted was bad for them.  At no point did they mention a benefit to being labeled gifted.  Does this mean that we shouldn't label students as gifted?  What about labeling students as learning disabled?  The students labeled gifted saw it as a reason for why they couldn't learn something - "the gift running out".  Would those that are labeled learning disabled use it as an excuse for why they can't do well?  I would contend that we should label students (gifted, learning disabled, etc.) not to harm them or make them feel badly about themselves, but to make sure they get the help they need to maximize their potential.

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My personal perspective: As a child I was labeled as gifted and I do recall the special test that was given to me at age 7 that the students in the film reference.  My parents didn't praise me for this label or expect more of me, because of it.  In fact to this day, I don't actually know the specific test scores or results. They did what all good parents do - encouraged me to learn a musical instrument, read for enjoyment, ride my bike and play with friends.  Because they saw my giftedness as just a part of who I was, I saw it as a part of me and it wasn't something that made me special or different.  It just made me, well, me.

After I was labeled gifted, I was put into a pull-out class with some of my other classmates.  If it wasn't for this class, I would have not learned the BASIC programming language (on a Radio Shack computer).  I would not have written and published a short story (after numerous rejection letters).  I would not have been exposed to logic puzzles and "thinking outside the box".  And I would not have experienced frustration that can sometimes happen in learning with supportive teachers to guide me through that frustration.  Perhaps if the students in the video had experienced their label in a similar way to the way I had experienced it, they would have seen their "giftedness" label differently.

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