22 Sep 2008, Sakshi Khattar (TIMES OF INDIA)
Visualise this: A mathematics class in progress and the teacher explaining the concept of length and breadth. When it comes to describing a 'point,'
which has neither, a student raises his hand from the last bench arguing that it has both, but just a miniscule of it. The entire class is in splits but the teacher is left with a big question, as the child made sense.
Similarly, a question is thrown to the class to measure the rate of evaporation of a swimming pool if everyday it evaporates at a constant rate. And there comes an unexpected question - what if it rains?
Most teachers encounter loads of such questions everyday and often ignore them, as their job is to finish the syllabi. As a result, these children are often neglected. Few teachers would also describe such students as those with 'behavioural problems.' This is the biggest myth, feels Usha Pandit, an educational consultant, Mindsprings. She explains: "These children are the gifted children, who are not easily identified in a class and hence, often get ignored."
Pandit, who specialises in curriculum development in gifted education, shares: "Under the learning curve, the two neglected ends in a classroom include students with learning difficulties (LD) and the other - the gifted ones. Those with LD are easily identified as their behaviours are frank whereas the gifted ones are mostly the quiet lot and hence, often get neglected."
Susan Baum, author, Multiple Intelligences in the Elementary Classroom: A Teachers Toolkit and director of International Center for Talent Development, US, suggests that it is important to nurture the needs of gifted students. She gives J S Renzulli's model for identifying giftedness in a child.
Renzulli, in his book, The Schoolwide Enrichment Model said: "Research has consistently shown that people who have achieved recognition because of their unique accomplishments and creative contributions possess a relatively well defined set of three interlocking clusters of traits. No single cluster "makes giftedness." Rather, it is the interaction among the three clusters that research has shown to be the necessary ingredient for creative or productive accomplishment. Other factors that seem to impact gifted behaviour are personality and environment."
According to Baum, it is not always that gifted students display their abilities. Teachers and schools need to continuously provide circumstances to get all these abilities together.
In a regular classroom, the teacher teaches to the average and uses left over energy and time to deal with the remedial. Therefore, the bright end of the spectrum is generally neglected or undernourished mainly because they are not as visible or volatile as the handicapped at the other end of the learning curve.
Most teachers and even counselors have a common perception that a gifted child is a one who is a 'genius.' So when it comes to sending students for a mathematics quiz, for instance, the names that come to a teacher's mind would be of the first three toppers in maths in a class. And the child who solves the question first and solves it right, even without following the steps that the teacher and class is following, is often ignored.
"This kind of a child (called an intuitive learner) might not even know as to how he arrived at the solution and yet have it answered right, but the teacher would never acknowledge or appreciate, rather ask him to follow the rote methods, so such an attitude might kill a child's creativity forever and hit his confidence badly, so much so, that he never raises his hand in the class again" says Pandit.
Veena Dhyani, counsellor, Cambridge School, Noida, says: "These children are usually labeled by teachers as the 'disturbing elements' of a class." Talking about some common traits, she says: "They are restless and want something creative every time. They would finish their work much ahead of their peers and when their work is over, they interrupt the class."
Says Shreshtha Madhwal, teacher, CRPF Public School: "These students have very high IQ levels and hence, they won't really listen to a teacher as they know most concepts already, in fact, they might even add to what is being taught." Also, most teachers are quite 'insensitive' towards these students because of time constraints, she adds.
Most teachers also feel that because of the high teacher student ratio in a classroom, it is difficult to pay attention to each and every child. As a result, these students get neglected. The need therefore is, as Pandit puts it, "to identify and nurture their talents."
Giftedness is a special need, says Pandit. "If these children are neglected, many of them will become under achievers, anti-social or even self-destructive. More importantly, it is deprivation of the child's right to a happy and fulfilled childhood and future. Just as we cater to the lower end of the spectrum by differentiated programmes, we must respond to the need of the upper end by making sure that they do not lose their way."
She recommends: "First and foremost, identify the gifted child in your class, which is not easy. They may vary from mildly-gifted, moderately, exceptionally, profoundly to even dysfunctionally gifted."
Gifted children can be excellent peer-tutors, says Dhyani. In addition, she says: "Teachers can prepare worksheets to keep them involved." Similarly, Madhwal says: "If there are two or three such children in a class, they should be grouped together and given a task which is above average as these children are very restless and enjoy challenges."
Pandit sums up: "Accept children as what they are. A teacher has a major role to shape up the child, so the next time you come across such a child in your classroom, nurture his abilities."
(With inputs from Surbhi Bhatia)