I’m not sure how to say this but….

At #gtie Chat on Giftedness on Sunday 25th November, we discussed what we might like to say if we were writing to our child’s teacher to explain that they were gifted. It’s not as easy as it may seem. Reactions are varied to say the least. But what if you had the time and space to explain? What would you most like teachers to know about your child? As usual, we had contributors from around the globe.

Below, you can read how the discussion went and what conclusions were reached:


Our topic tonight is what parents would like to be able to say to the teachers of their gifted child if only they could. I’ve been hearing lot of stories this week about teachers rejecting parents’ information about their kids, even though they’re in CTYI. So tonight, I thought it would be useful to get it in writing…

“Dear Teacher, I’m not sure how to say this but my child is gifted and I wanted you to know….

@peter_lydon: “Gifted is not the same as having a gift, like all children. All kids probably have something that Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences recognise, but giftedness is about the extent to which a kid has a gift.”

@cathydalton: To help the child to push out the boundaries of what they think is possible; give them confidence in their abilities.

@peter_lydon: We will be getting to that one a little later. That’s where we really are asking for something! Imagine that!

@Frazzlld: Yes. One mother was told by a school Principal “I don’t believe in gifted. Sure there are lots of kids like yours in the school”

@tbbrwn: Oy…what a shame.

@peter_lydon: When in fact it’s only about 5% (on average).

@peter_lydon: The best one had to be ‘don’t let Johnny bring in his own books. It upsets the other kids’!

@Frazzlld:  “Gifted” is not an airy fairy term. It’s an educational definition for kids in the top approx 5% of ability. Like it or not!

@peter_lydon: In Ireland we can use the term ‘Exceptionally Able’ – recognised in the Education Act 1998, so it’s the law.

@peter_lydon: I think teachers miss the point of Gardner – but then I don’t know many that have actually read him, which is a problem.

@celinabrennan: Another case of buzz words being used, but no depth of authentic understanding.

@Frazzlld: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences are widely misunderstood/misapplied. Even Gardner himself says so. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences:
As Psychology, As Education, As Social Science

@tbbrwn: Agreed…it shows why it’s important for school leaders to formulate an overall plan for G&T (Gifted & Talented) students, teachers & parents to succeed!

@peter_lydon: I would be happy with some basic recognition, but yes, provision is desperately needed.

@tbbrwn: We often fall back on: we need to do better in preservice Teacher Education re gifted students (exposure!)

@celinabrennan: How about “his anxiety is stifling his ability to think, let alone learn”

@peter_lydon: Having a gifted child in a classroom, if unidentified, can create harder classroom management issues for teachers.

Q1 How can identifying gifted children in the classroom HELP a teacher?

@tbbrwn: If a teacher knows a student is G&T, they can offer them ability to do other work, etc.

@Frazzlld: It is a step towards understanding a kid’s behaviour and thereby having a chance to manage it appropriately if it is a problem.

@tbbrwn: True! Yea!

@celinabrennan: When we know the strengths of students, opportunities can be presented to foster growth. We can help them understand who they are.

@Frazzlld: Identifying means you can understand, offer challenge and engage. It is rewarding for both parties.

@peter_lydon: So, recognizing gifted children can help a teacher look better in front of an inspector. #Differentiation. Here’s another reason.

@peter_lydon: This is a good point to mention how differentiation can help gifted children: Cybrary Man’s differentiation page.

@sboswellhyde: Yes! When we know students’ strengths, we can deliver courses to meet their needs.  We can help them self-actualise.

@peter_lydon: You get tonight’s prize for tweeting my favourite buzz word – “self actualising”.

@sboswellhyde: Is it trending?! Personally, I am beginning to get uncomfortable around “personalised”, which omits student agency 🙁

@peterlydon: ‘Personalised learning’ is often taken to mean ‘personalised teaching’. #notthesamething

Q2. How do we explain ‘intensities’ to teachers not familiar with giftedness? Teachers would see ‘intensities’ but not necessarily equate it with giftedness (not talking about the ‘two lads have an argy’ kind)

@Frazzlld: A2: With difficulty! This is one where people’s eyes tend to roll…But once you’ve seen intensity in the right light, you’ll get it.

@sboswellhyde: A2: I think teachers see signs but interpret a “good” class and label it “easy”, so there’s professional envy at stake.

Q3. I always ask parents about sport/music/art/drama/math/science. How do we talk to teachers without ‘bragging’?

@RMMul: Just give the facts.

@peter_lydon But in an unimpassioned way.

@celinabrennan: That’s what I was thinking: honesty. Keep our emotions at bay.

@Frazzlld: As a parent, the temptation is always to counteract talking about your kid’s strength with a “but he’s not very good at….”

@peter_lydon: We should never talk down kids.

@celinabrennan: OR let them talk themselves down.

@RMMul: I have found that has come back from teachers too!! They prefer to focus on his bad handwriting than on the positive!

@peter_lydon: Bad handwriting is only an issue with exams – if you are happy.

@RMMul: I guess his Senior Infant teacher thought differently!!

@peter_lydon: Bad handing writing is different to ‘illegible’ – bad is not a problem.

@sboswellhyde: Just finished exam marking; complaining teachers beg to differ! Admin focus on results, which means making the school look good.

@peter_lydon: Same for me – the focus on ‘points’ for college gets in the way of really providing an education.

@Frazzlld: I had 7 years of that negativity before my son was identified. Then they said ” ah, but sure we always knew he was gifted”!

@sboswellhyde: Yes – defensive rebutting.

@RMMul:  In my case it was afterwards 🙁

@peter_lydon: But did they know what to do about it?

@celinabrennan: You deserve a prize for asking that question!

@Frazzlld He had moved on to secondary by then! But, no…

Q4. A biggie…Can we offer a teacher ‘guidance’ on giftedness without insulting their professionalism? If so, how?

@Frazzlld; That depends on the teacher. Some are open, some are defensive. It’s usually the good ones that have the confidence to be open.

@sboswellhyde: Coaching is effective; even better if you can conference their process after a class visit. Genuinely support professional learning.

@peter_lydon: I think it is important to recognise the great job Irish teachers do in difficult circumstances, but to also say that recognising G&T children doesn’t add a heap to the workload.

@Frazzlld:  In some ways/cases, it can probably make it easier!

@peter_lydon: It gets rid of a lot of discipline issues.

@Frazzlld: Agree, teachers have an almost impossible task nowadays. Some basic training in G&T would make such a difference for all concerned.

@peter_lydon: I found it changed how well kids were doing in all their subjects. #affirmation

@peter_lydon: Hello inservice people (@cpd_spd)! Welcome. I’d be happy to voluntarily present on inservice if you like.

@ffarry1 I’m thinking of using Edmodo to set extra activities for the gifted children in my room (4 classes). Can add educational videos and set tasks. 

@peter_lydon: You win tonight’s ‘Teacher of the Week’ award. Great to hear this. Thank you.

@peter_lydon: If there are any lurkers there who would like to ask questions, throw water, please feel free…

Q5. Is it a good idea to have a student write to their teacher?

@sboswellhyde: A5: Definitely write with your students: round robins, blogs, Google docs – collaborate on draft/review, process & strengthen craft.

@sboswellhyde: I also include self reflection/metacognition tools in tasks to learn from students; feedback goes both ways.

@peter_lydon: Metacognition is vital – not many teachers here are trained in this.

@sboswellhyde: Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence gives great context.

@Frazzlld: A5: Absolutely. How could a teacher not listen to a student explaining their needs?

@celinabrennan: Students’ voice is essential.

@RMMul:  A5: Eh….No

@Frazzlld: LOL! You have experience in this area?

@peter_lydon: Different views – I would like to hear the reasoning behind…

@RMMul: Not at primary level. I think it would be seen as disrespectful perhaps? Secondary is a whole new world to me!!

@peter_lydon: I would have thought at primary it would have been more remarkable to get a letter.

@RMMul: Incredibly so, but the child/teacher relationship is different at primary level?

@peter_lydon: Sure…it’s usually closer…I would have thought primary had more insight to listen. Most ICEPE courses are taken by primary teachers. The Gifted and Talented course, that is.

@Frazzlld: A student explaining to their teacher removes the “pushy/interfering parent” from the equation. Hard to ignore, I would think.

@sboswellhyde: Agree! Builds student agency.

@peter_lydon: Is the pushy parent replaced with a pushy kid?

@RMMul: And the pushy child can be admonished/punished?

@Frazzlld: Pushing for what? More teaching/learning??

@peter_lydon: We often assume that a student can talk to teachers, but this is difficult in most schools; not cool; not interested etc

@RMMul: I LOVE the idea of a child being able to explain their learning needs to their teacher but I’m not sure how it would go down.

@peterlydon: Isn’t that a little sad – how many kids would even be in that category of even thinking they should do that?

@RMMul: Did you mean “could” do that?

@peter_lydon: Sure…an average kid would never think of that in the first instance. IMHO.

@Jaffol: If the teacher listens then there is no need for letter – but if not…catch 22.

@RMMul:  I think you do have to give the teacher a chance first 🙂 But if it doesn’t happen then it becomes an issue.

@peter_lydon: By which time the teacher probably won’t listen!

@RMul: Maybe, but teacher might have done an ICEPE course over the summer and might be raring to go 😉

@peter_lydon: In which case it wouldn’t be an issue!

@peter_lydon: Absolutely, have to give the teacher the chance, to recognise the teacher’s professionalism.

@jaffol: Agreed, but I don’t think a letter from the child will get the desired result. I’d be talking to Principal too.

@Frazzlld: How the message is received probably depends on the individual teacher and how well they understand gifted.

@ffarry1: I have a box for notes in my room called the “no problemo box”. Kids put in notes about any worries/concerns they have. It’s confidential.

@peter_lydon: Ok…you get this week’s AND next week’s prize!

@cybraryman1: Teachers have to give up some control to have Student Centered Learning.

@peter_lydon: I think we are finally beginning to let go of the fiction of child-centred education, which was merely child-focused teaching.

@sboswellhyde: And system-driven to achieve results that make schools look good, but serve as “fail factories” for students.

@peter_lydon: And coming to an Ireland near you soon. Sadly.

We are coming to a close – any offers on the killer one-line statement that would do the job of conveying the needs of gifted children in school?

@ktvee: See the child, not the label. See their needs, not what’s easiest to manage.

@celinabrennan: “I am me.”

@peter_lydon: “Dear Teacher, my child really wants to learn in your class but is afraid to ask you for the things that really motivate him.” ?

@DevPaud: Have been lurching in the background but have learned a lot, thanks.

@peter_lydon: You’re welcome. I’m into ‘Disruptive Teaching’. Happy to answer any Q’s on giftedness.

@peter_lydon: That’s my name for it ‘Disruptive Teaching’…doing something other than expected to help children learn.

@cybraryman1: Don’t Forget the Students

@peter_lydon: This week – Teach Different

@sboswellhyde:  Thanks for the provocations! Always interesting to hear & learn 🙂

Further reading for parents wishing to talk to their child’s teacher or teachers wishing to learn more:

by Peter Lydon & Catherine Riordan


  1. When I approached my sons teacher at the American school in Dubai, she had results of a writing exam he had completed which had been sent to the US to be checked. He had achieved an extremely high result, she was so excited about this. When I tried to show her our results from the Clinical Pschologist she dismissed it saying “we have lots of gifted kids in the school”. Unfortunately he is not there anymore as they wouldn’t help him to get an education.

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