A boy with a book hidden on his lap reads quietly while his teacher drones on about the parts of a flower. A little girl secretly passes a note hidden in the top of a pen cap to a friend. These are examples of actual children who were missed in the early screenings for gifted students.
When the teacher was asked about the boy she said, “Oh, him? I don’t think he’s gifted. He never participates in class discussions and all he does is read.” And the girl? “Definitely not her, she is a silly child who stirs things up with the other girls in the class.”
A few years later, due to very high standardized test scores these students were tested for the gifted program. This was done without a teacher recommendation. As you have probably already guessed, they were both identified as highly intelligent and in need of services. Students like these exemplify why classroom teachers need structured methods to help with identifying the gifted child.
Teacher Checklists are valuable tools used by many school districts to screen for the gifted child. Unfortunately, checklists are not always reliable and many gifted students slip through unnoticed. However, the way to improve the reliability of checklists is to educate the teacher on how to use them effectively. Equally important is encouraging teachers to look beyond classroom behavior so to identify the gifted child whose qualifications may be obscured by either undemonstrative or overly demonstrative behaviors.
The committed teacher is always in a learning mode and is generally open to in-services in the area of gifted education. Having a gifted specialist spend an afternoon helping teachers recognize the characteristics of the gifted child can be invaluable. Taking time for a question and answer session between the classroom teachers and the gifted specialist can help fill in any gaps in understanding gifted identification.
Classroom teachers who take the time to evaluate their students and identify the best learning methods for each child can be more assured a child in need of special services will not fall through the cracks while on their watch.