Many teachers have encountered them -- students who pick up knowledge seemingly without effort and become beyond bored by the age-appropriate instruction offered in the classroom. These naturally adept students may seem scary anomalies, but they actually have a category all of themselves -- gifted. If left in the general classroom setting and provided no additional challenge, they will stagnate. With effective and competent gifted teachers, however, these students can thrive. To properly educate students who fall into this category, teachers require specialized qualities.
Even within a leveled classroom, there remain differences in students’ specific abilities. To effectively educate gifted students, gifted teachers must be flexible and willing to differentiate or create lessons that reach students of varying ability levels. This flexibility may include having students work in small, leveled groups and giving each group a slightly different task to ensure all are appropriately challenged.
Gifted students are often naturally curious. A teacher who possesses a similar curiosity will be more effective in fostering curiosity-induced explorations of the world. The most effective relationships between gifted students and their teachers are ones in which the students and teachers work together to explore the world and expand their mutual bases of knowledge.
Advanced Content Area Knowledge
It is vital for gifted teachers to possess a high level of content knowledge, states the National Association for Gifted Children. Teachers with only a surface-level understanding of a content area will struggle to keep up with the gains their students make and will, as a result, not be able to adequately challenge these learners.
Rapport with Students
Teachers of gifted children often work with students in smaller groups than a general classroom teacher. To effectively assist these students in their self-directed research or provide the students individualized instruction, they must have uncommonly close relationships with their pupils. If students don’t adequately trust their gifted teachers, they may not open up to them as completely as they otherwise would.
Understanding the Gifted
The mind of a gifted child works quite differently from that of his normal-ability peer. To promote growth in students who are already high above the curve, gifted teachers must have a theoretical knowledge of how gifted children learn. Teachers often acquire this understanding of the cognitive function in teacher preparation programs. Those who intend to focus on the education of gifted students should seek additional training opportunities in these areas to ensure adequate preparation.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.