Search form

About The Blogger

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...
Back to Blog

Know Thy Student-Training in Social-Emotional for the Gifted

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Lao Tzu~ Tao Te Ching

About five years ago~ when I first began teaching gifted children~ I had no idea what to expect.

Here are some of the social-emotional challenges I faced:

One girl~ whenever receiving anything less than a 90 percent on her tests~ would crawl up under her desk in a ball and cry for an hour until I could coax her out (boy~ I was happy to get a C in geometrynot the best student when I reached high school).

Another young lady would cry~ turn beat red~ and have a mini-panic attack when she thought she would get less than straight As on her next report card. My parents are going to kill me~ she would tell me.

More recently~ I worked with a fifth-grade student that would go in the corner and shake whenever he had to write an essay~ which he felt was below his intellectual level.

Then~ there are the students that fail to make eye contact while you engage them in conversation~ instead~ feeling more comfortable hiding their faces in a book while they speak.

I could go on~ but I think you get the point: gifted students can have their own unique social-emotional challenges. While gifted education experts point out that the research does not unequivocally conclude that gifted students possess their own unique social emotional needs~ it has been my experience and the experience of other educators of the gifted~ that some of these children do exhibit unique traits and tendencies. If we can agree upon that point~ then possibly we can agree on the need for all teachers or at least those who come in contact with the gifted to complete some basic training in this area.

Referring back to the quote by Lao Tzu at the top of this blog~ its wise to really know our studentsand when it comes to the gifted~ we need to understand their social and emotional issues.

Being unaware of their challenges can cause barriers. Let me share an example. Several years ago~ when I worked in a position that involved sending my self-contained gifted students to specials classes (art~ music~ physical education and other electives)~ the teachers began complaining about the behavior of some of my students. While these behaviors did not pose a problem in my classroom~ the special teachers reported that my students talked too much~ were too emotional~ too competitive and intense.

In my opinion~ these teachers were experiencing the same challenges that I faced when I first worked with gifted students~ and before I had received training on this topic.

This is why I believe that all teachers who work with gifted kids should be required to complete a Nature and Needs type of course so they at least become familiar with the general characteristics and social-emotional issues of gifted children. The trainings would help teachers design their classroom management methods~ teaching techniques and other approaches. This practice would result in other positive impacts~ such as teachers being better equipped to identify potentially gifted children in their classrooms.

In the same breath that school districts require teachers to attend training if they work with speakers of other languages or to prepare for changing reforms such as Common Core~ educators working with the gifted have an obligation to understand their unique needs and issues (obviously~ I have bias here~ but my intentions are good).

For teachers unable to attend training or those who would like to learn more about the topic~ Id like to share some resources:

Tracy Cross book~ On the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Children~ is an excellent resource that provides a researched-based perspective on the subject.

When Gifted Kids Dont Have All the Answers by Jim Delisle and Judy Galbraith is another book that provides all kinds of activities to help students with challenges they may face.

I hope my blog has convinced you of the importance of understanding our students-gifted or otherwise-and motivated you to seek the skills and knowledge to effectively assist young people with their social-emotional differences.

Thank you~
Steve