Gifted programs can be very beneficial for some students. My oldest child thrived in that environment during elementary and the beginning of middle school. However, that all changed around seventh grade.
While gifted programs can offer extra stimulation that children sometimes need, they can also set kids apart from their peers. A child who is held up as an example because of high scores, or one who becomes a “teacher’s pet” because she excels, may see these things in a different light than some might think.
At one time, such things seemed good, but as my child grew older, they seemed to bother her. I began to think that she was feeling as if she were too different from the other kids. When I asked, she said it made her feel “weird.”
Some kids will look up to gifted students, or seek their help with schoolwork. Some make no distinction at all, while others consider them “geeks” or “nerds.” No child wants to be seen as a nerd, and this negativity seems to outweigh any positives offered by other kids.
In the lower grades, it didn’t seem to have as much affect. My daughter was delighted that her teachers were pleased with her performance. Later, she felt singled out and no longer wanted to be a part of the gifted program.
Every child is unique and while some enjoy such programs, others do not. Some do at early ages but later feel that being set apart from other students is not right for them. The same is true of honors classes. They may be wonderful for children who don’t find regular classes challenging enough. However, they can also become overwhelming, making a child feel pressured.
If your child seems to be having difficulty, it’s a good idea to talk about it. He or she might need a break from a program or may need to opt for at least one less honors class. Life goes by too fast to feel pressured and overwhelmed all the time, so as parents we have to help our kids find what works for them.
Such decisions are personal and should be made between parent and child and then discussed with educators. You might want to ask for advice, but you know your child better than anyone else does. You have his or her best interest at heart, so don’t let yourself or your child be pressured.
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