Being gifted has long been equated to being intelligent and having a high IQ. However, many scholars believe that students can also be gifted in the sense of having increased emotional or social intelligence. Being gifted can be a double-edged sword: smart students can get bored and frustrated if their classmates and teachers fail to engage with their special abilities.
Portugal: Beautiful minds
João Paulo is 17 and has been expelled from school twice for failing to get on with his teachers. He has now been identified as highly gifted.
João Paulo says he gets angry when he realises that teachers cannot keep up with him: “I test my teachers’ patience. I refuse to do what they say, I talk all the time, just to check what their limits are…”
Marcela Pinho from the Different Saturdays programme is trying to help. She realised that João Paulo was specially gifted when he hacked into the school’s computer system: “He has above average abilities, and he gets frustrated at school, sees it with dissatisfaction, contempt and disdain. So we have to tackle that negative idea and try to improve his image of school and teachers, thinking about how this can work out for the future.”
Gifted: Diverse intelligence
Marc Brackett, a psychology professor at Yale University in the US thinks that gifted children need a well-rounded education. He thinks it is important not to concentrate solely on a child’s gifts.
He said: “It depends what type of giftedness you are thinking about. Is it giftedness in one’s emotional life, in one’s social life or academic life? We really separate giftedness in terms of social, emotional, and academic. So you can imagine someone who is highly intelligent using cognitive intelligence as a framework but doesn’t really know how to get along with people doesn’t really know how to manage his or her relationships well. But the reverse could happen you can have someone who is extremely emotionally intelligent who really knows how to get along with people but may not be the best student. So for that reason we argue we want to simultaneously nurture both the cognitive system and emotional system.”
He continued: “We don’t believe IQ is the only variable to take into account. While there are many people who have great complex problem solving ability, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are gifted or creative. So limiting giftedness to just how one performs in an IQ test is very limited from my perspective.”
He doesn’t think isolating gifted children from their peers is helpful: “Isolating children who are gifted in one domain but not in another domain may cause more problems. So, what I think is important is for schools to find a way to nurture to all the skills. So perhaps if someone is gifted in one area they get the opportunity to do projects and to work in classrooms where they can nurture this skill or ability, but also be involved – having a well-rounded education – so that they are participating in sports and arts and in other classroom areas where they may not be as gifted as in the one area.”
He said: “My advice for parents is always to nurture their children and to look to their strengths and help them develop their strengths but also be mindful of child development and make sure that their child has a full world rounded education. And from my work in emotional education what I think is more critical is that parents support their children, never make them feel like they are different or they are less or more, because we don’t want to develop children who are either insecure or too narsistic about their skill set.”
Russia: Tomorrow’s trailblazers
In Moscow, at School Number 1199 for Gifted Children the day begins with cleaning. The idea is to instill discipline and a strong work ethic into these gifted pupils.
The selection process for this school is rigorous and includes a creativity competition, a written exam in problem solving, and finally a collective mind game. Only one in 5-6 applicants is accepted, and the school never has more than 70 pupils at any one time.
Anatoly Bocharov, a physics teacher at the school, said: “The unique thing about this school is freedom: the atmosphere here is more than informal. There’s freedom for the teacher too: I don’t have to follow a traditional school programme. I can teach lessons as I think best.”
Teaching concentrates on the use of primary sources of information, in humanities as well as in sciences. Elena Derjavina, an arts teacher at the school, said: The school as a whole is a creative organism. The curriculum links all the subjects. So for example I work with the World Art professor, but deal with the issues she raises in my own language… our task is to develop creative thinkers.”
Graduates from this school are now working in areas including space technology and molecular chemistry, journalism, design and fine art.
For more information about gifted children in the UK see: