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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Be the Kind of Person You Want Your Gifted Kids to Be

If we want gifted kids to be creative, motivated, balanced, socially competent, passionate about learning, then as adults, we have to be the essence of that which we seek. I know it’s a tall order, but if you are preaching to gifted students about using their potential and being innovative, and you are doing the bare minimum to get by as an educator, it simply isn’t going to work.

Children watch everything we do; they watch us closer than we think.  They model their behavior, their thinking, after us.  So we have to be more than just good at teaching the curriculum, we must embody those qualities we would like to develop in the children we work with.

Each day, I have fascinating conversations with my students about all kinds of topics. I share books I have read, movies I have watched. I tell them when I decide to learn a new skill or study a new area. I present them with riddles and tell them bad jokes. And perhaps most importantly, I aim to remain motivated and always stay a step ahead of them by generating new ideas, lessons, and projects, which keeps them guessing.

After reflecting on how I try to live what I teach my gifted kids, I narrowed it down to five actions.


Share who you are. Don’t be afraid to let them see the “real” you. If you’re excited about the new Batman Versus Superman movie coming out, tell them. If you recently visited Italy and toured the Coliseum, share it.  If you were in the gifted program when you were a child, relate the experience.  You will connect much better with your students if they see that you are like them in some ways. Gifted students want a teacher that is funny, intelligent, creative, interested in various topics, curious, and maybe a little quirky. It reminds them that it’s okay to be who they are.


If you want your students to be creative, then you must create on a regular basis. This means generating new and novel ideas, whether it is lesson plans, projects, or special events; you must continue to innovate. Gifted children will respect you more if they see that you can bring forth new, unique approaches and ways of learning.


Many gifted students love to talk about different topics and share their knowledge, but due to classroom constraints, they often do not have that opportunity. Chat with them about different issues-sometimes deeper issues about life, equality, the environment—and allow them to express the knowledge and allow them to have a voice.


Interact with other faculty and let your gifted students see it.  Let them watch how you can display social intelligence by interacting successfully with a variety of people, from classroom teachers, to custodians, to front office staff. This provides them with a model that says, “Hey, I can be smart and intellectual, but I can also be social and friendly with all kind of people.”


Finally, strive. Set and go after goals and again let them see it. If you are pursuing your master’s degree or doctorate degree, tell them about it. Explain how you are taking a course at night and tell them about the research paper you are writing. If you want to travel the world, tell them how this summer you plan to visit Paris. Again, it’s important for them to see an adult that is ambitious and striving for goals each day, each year. This sends a message to them that potential and brain power works best when used.


Thanks for reading,