Educators: What To Do About The G Word (#Gifted)

logo courtesy of The G Word film

You don’t have to use the G Word.

Even though, let’s face it, you use it for athletes, artists and your quirky Aunt Millie.

But you do have to recognize that gifted children exist in your school.

Because they do.

I’m talking about the kids you know who, from a very early age, are faster learners, deeper thinkers and more sensitive feelers. Who ask questions you can’t answer. Who correct your spelling. Who know more than you do about black holes. Who cry when other children are hurt on the playground. Who are overwhelmed at birthday parties. Who annoyingly hang out at your desk because they’d rather talk to you about Darwin than talk to the other six-year-olds about the letter A.

You know who I’m talking about.

This is not about loving these kids more or singling them out as superstars. They don’t want that. That doesn’t help them.

If they’re told things like: You’re so smart. You can do anything. You’re so lucky. Or Why did you get that B? Learning should always be easy for you. Or Stop asking so many questions. Nobody likes a know-it-all. Or No, you can’t read ahead. They’ll get anxious.

They’ll feel like they can’t ask for help. Like they can’t make mistakes. Like they have to know everything before they learn it. Like they’ll disappoint you if they don’t live up to your expectations. Like they have to hide their abilities and their enthusiasm.

But, still.

You don’t have to use the G Word.

But you do have to find ways to meet their academic needs and to understand their extra-sensitivities. Some of those ways are described in this post and this one. It’s not as hard as it seems. In fact, these kids will love you if you make the time to listen to them. Start an after school club for philosophers or mathematicians. Nourish their interests and let them read ahead! Don’t assume that they aren’t doing the homework because they’re lazy or defiant. Get creative with your curriculum. Use Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets to reduce the pressure on your (gifted) students. Explore Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences model if you want to help all of your students understand learning differences and abilities.

And one more thing.

I’m not saying that you can’t use the G Word.

In fact, it could help.

One of my students, years ago, was relieved to hear that he was gifted. His response, Oh, that’s what’s wrong with me. He had his own label. Several of them: weirdo, alien, nerd, crybaby, loner, freak, crazy.

But. You don’t have to use the G Word.


(Note: Whether you label or not, gifted kids will need help understanding their complexities. Their perfectionism, sensitivities/ empathy, loneliness, existential depression and anxieties. Their rainforest minds. Send them or their parents to this blog, for a place to start. And thank you, dear teachers, for your caring hearts.)

Thank you to my niece, Alicia, for inspiring this post and for being an extraordinary teacher and human.

Speaking of The G Word, a powerful documentary on that topic will be released in 2019. Here’s some information about it.

To my bloggEEs: My niece sent me this video from Stanford professor, Jo Boaler. It inspired this post. Let us know what you think. Thank you, as always, for being here.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

12 responses to “Educators: What To Do About The G Word (#Gifted)”

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  1. Sarah Avatar

    I love this post Paula. It’s spot on. I have two G kids, not 2E, just G. They’re were in a G program in public school (the younger one still is, the older is now in private) and they just suffer(ed) with all the prep for state mandated testing. This year I’m volunteering to run the math competition group, because they couldn’t find a teacher to do it. Both of my kids have participated in the past and loved it, but I didn’t get too involved, just let it be for them.

    It is so much FUN to be with all of these mathy kids and give them a chance to think outside the box, to do math in their heads, to do it their OWN way, without (gasp!) showing their work. They just soak it up! And they smile and laugh and have fun with each other. And I noticed that if you give them the freedom of not having grades, they loosen up and enjoy themselves, and dare I say it? I think they learn more. I know we can’t just get rid of grades or state mandated testing (although we can try on that second point), but enrichment programs (in any subject) are so necessary, especially in these days of equal outcomes in school.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I remember teaching gifted kids and how wonderful it was to see them excited and learning with each other. Parents volunteering can be so important during these times. Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

  2. Laura Walsh Avatar
    Laura Walsh

    The problem is, gifted kids really ARE harder to differentiate for. And teachers are really pressed for time and resources. I apologize for tooting my own horn, but this is what I said about the topic a few years back:

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Laura. It’s helpful to hear various opinions.

    2. Gabi Avatar

      All the things you said. I was an English teacher for 11 years and in the last two we even had to fill out forms how we were differentiating for the gifted students. All I had time to do is tell those gifted kids they were welcome to expand their assignments as they felt appropriate with my guidance. I would have loved to create new and interesting things for those students BUT barely managed to keep my head above water with the load of work. Also it wasn’t that the work was hard, the work was simply unceasing.

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        Oh, I so wish that schools were structured differently so that teachers had more time and energy to meet all kids’ needs!

  3. Devon Avatar

    Thanks Paula, I love reading your words. I relate well to this as I felt immense relief when I was told I was gifted about 6 months ago… I’m 39. It was like a big weight was lifted. I was in a daze for days thinking ‘so that’s what wrong with me’ which then turned to ‘so thats whats right with me’.. I am now thinking, my gosh, I’m going to make a real difference with this somehow. Finally I am an path. Again, love your words, please keep writing xo

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I think people assume that recognizing giftedness will bring on arrogance or conceit. But I haven’t found that to be true. I’m glad to hear that you’re understanding that you have a rainforest mind, Devon! Yay!

  4. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Paula, Excellent article. So important that we recognize and help gifted people understand their giftedness. Thanks.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gail. Do you have any blog posts that address this topic? You can leave a link here, if you’d like.

  5. Sarah Avatar

    Love you for responding to this dynamic! (And we just talked about Dweck, Gardner, and Montessori’s groups of social (turtle-like) or cognitive (eager and rabbit-like sensitives) in my class today.) You continue to reinforce my faith in the goofy, gorgeous, (gifted) children.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Sarah. It is a tricky topic for sure but I had to respond when I heard from my niece!