What can teachers do to enhance gifted, talented, and creative students in both their academics and their specific talents?
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For many years, the focus of education was geared right down the middle, so to speak; students who struggled and students who excelled were virtually ignored. Of course the pendulum has swung back and forth several times on both extremes over the years, and now both groups are given sufficient opportunity to succeed in most educational environments.
Students who display extraordinary abilities in some area can be considered gifted, and teachers can play a significant role in enhancing their academic experiences as well as their talents. For students whose specific gifts are music, art, acting, or some other form of the arts, teachers can be most helpful in several ways.
Teachers can encourage and appreciate these students' gifts. So many times we hear stories of adults who have succeeded despite their teachers; they got criticized or belittled by teachers at some point in their lives and they used that as a motivation to succeed. How much better it is to hear the stories of teachers who were inspirational because they believed in their students and supported their efforts. Teachers who have nothing specific to offer these students in terms of instruction (because the gifts are out of their fields of expertise) can still attend recitals, performances, and showings. They can encourage simply by acknowledging present talents and future dreams.
Obviously teachers who have something more concrete to offer should be giving these exceptional students opportunities to perfect and display their talents. Use them to help others in the same field so they can learn to articulate the mechanics of their talents but also sharpen their own skills by teaching. Help them find the right opportunity after graduation, whether that is college or some kind of specialized training, and use any contacts to provide guidance and/or opportunities to continue showcasing those talents.
For students with exceptional intellectual abilities, teachers must find ways to stimulate continues inquisitiveness. One of the most tragic (and common) things these students experience is boredom because the class material is below their intellectual capabilities. Teachers can offer opportunities for further study or for these gifted students to tutor or teach others. This serves both as a challenge to the gifted student and an effective reminder that not everyone has his capabilities (as well as benefiting the recipients of the instruction). This is a bit tricky, as students are quick to call out "teacher's pet" in this situation.
A less conspicuous but equally effective method of challenging exceptional students is to "up the play" for them in ordinary work. For example, when choosing a research paper topic, these students should never settle for the commonplace. Teachers should encourage them to go higher, deeper, or further in all work and refuse to let extraordinary students settle for the ordinary. The link below also has some helpful, specific suggestions.
Teaching is a high calling. Every student should be challenged to excel; those who achieve that goal early can be encouraged and motivated to improve by those charged with educating them: teachers.
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