I was planning to return to the issue of labels following my talk to St. Patrick’s National School in Glencullen in March but have had to put a few things on the back-burner until my course work is completed. That said, this is just to jot down some thoughts on the debate surrounding the use of the ‘G’ word.
I See What You Mean
Depending on experience and qualifications, everyone from the lay person to heterogenous gifted advocates have different views on what gifted is. The key point in resolving issues about the term lies not in finding a definition that is acceptable to everyone (impossible). Nor does it lie in finding the right flavour of giftedness, whether we call it that or give it some neutralised, business-friendly term. Resolving hotly debated issues surrounding the term ‘gifted’ lies in highlighting the meaning encapsulated by the word.
To the lay person, gifted means that your child is better than mine. In places were we test and tell children they are gifted, calling one child gifted, to some, denies the ability of the other children. This is not intentional (who would think that), but it is a by-product of the processes of finding and providing for the needs of gifted children. No definition of gifted – or any other fiddling about with the name – will convince a lay person (think political decision-makers in education) that gifted provision is acceptable. We have to convey the meaning of the word and show how it is in every child’s interest – gifted and non-gifted alike – to address gifted issues.
We have labels for everything. In fact, any representational form is a label. Without labels, we’d still be grunting at each other for hours before we realised it was that rock over there you wanted! We have labels for ‘ADHD” and ‘SEN‘ and we even have ‘Average‘. I can’t think of any label used to address a specific, differentiated need in education that isn’t regarded as negative. Even ‘normal‘ is used by some negatively.
Gifted is a label and we should just get used to the fact. There is nothing wrong with using that label. I certainly do not apologise for using it. I use it confidently when taking to not-so-sure parents and sceptical teachers alike. If we are uncertain about it, how can we convince others of it. “I’m gifted, you have a problem with that? Too bad”
I’m not saying we should go around bragging about it. Nor do we need ‘Gifted Pride’ weeks or marches to get our point across. But we should be proud of the people we are and we should be proud of our children. We shouldn’t need to speak quietly, as if in some confession box, about the fact that our children are gifted for fear of hurting someone else’s feelings. Someone else should get a bit of perspective!
“I’m sure your children are wonderful and I’d like to hear you tell me about them but not if it is at the expense of denying my own children for who they are” says the gifted parent.
And so, the denouement. “I’m not G. I’m Gifted”. Embrace the label, for to do so is to embrace yourself and your children. I have no interest in reading HoagiesG website or GPhoenix. The National Association for G Children sounds like something out of a sic-fi movie. ‘G Homeschoolers Forum‘ leaves me wondering where the other 25 forums are. Gifted is the word we use. That’s all.
We cannot move forward until we know who we are and where we are. It’s time the gifted community found ways to advocate en masse from the secure standpoint of what gifted means. Let us give our children that.
This post is my contribution to Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop May 2014