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Talent and Giftedness...

I was chatting with a friend last week, and the way she reacted to a couple things I said made me think about talent and what that means.

Our neighborhood school is the center school for the Gifted and Talented (GT) program. That means that they have entire classes and curriculum written for kids who test into the program. I've never really liked the name of the program, because I believe that every child (person) is talented in some fashion. Obviously, they can't all be academic talents, and some are hidden pretty well -- but I do believe they're there.

My friend doesn't consider herself gifted, I don't think. Her son is in the 6th grade GT class, and he scored very high (upper 90s) in all areas on the test. But she thinks of herself as a perfectionist and attributes her abilities to that trait. My mom, also a perfectionist, attributes her successes to that trait, as well. She even has trouble admitting that her artistic ability might be a talent.

I'm not sure where the difference between *gifted* and *talented* lies -- I've never really thought of myself as gifted, either. But I know I have some talent. Talents you're born with, imo. They're things you can do with less work than the average person -- at least, this is my definition. By that definition, then, I'm talented at piano, photography, writing (ha).

But my friend was saying that she believes I'm "gifted" in writing. So what does that mean? I think, to her, it means that I've never had to think about how to write something -- it's instinctive. When I was assigned a report in school, even at a young age, I automatically did it correctly. I never wrote first drafts until I wrote my thesis as a senior in college. Even there, I only had one 'first draft,' and I basically typed it into the computer without changing anything.

To me, though, that sounds like talent. I think giftedness is something more -- something sparkly ;) As a parent, I do admit that I see giftedness in my kiddos (hehe). It's not necessarily academic, however. D is definitely gifted in music. He understands music, and when he sits down to learn a piano piece, the music gets inside him -- he plays beyond his years (musically speaking -- technically, he's ahead of your average 10-year old, but he's not a prodigy). E's gift is in art -- and it's very similar to D's gift. She's not technically advanced (she is a little bit but not a prodigy), but the art is part of her. She actually sees the world in a different way, and when she expresses herself through art, it's unique and beyond an 8-year old.

So I wonder where talent comes in compared to 'giftedness'? Do you think there's a difference? If you could have your kids or yourself when you were a child in a special program, what do you think it should emphasize? Do you see giftedness in yourself?



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 8th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
I was in the WGAWT program. And have stayed there.
May. 8th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
What Gift and What Talent? Silly...;)
May. 8th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
Oh shoot, I feel a bit of a rant coming on about the way public school is set up, but I'll bite my tongue and just say that I believe everyone is talented and gifted in their own way. And to me, the words talented and gifted say the same thing. All of us are moved to express ourselves in unique ways, but unfortunately our society looks at the end result as measurement of these "gifts". We pass these ideas down to the kids and they measure their worth by them and often feel like they aren't up to what's expected. In these programs, the usual talents are rewarded and nurtured--but kids who have quiet gifts or gifts that aren't valued in the school system often overlook their own strengths. And so they try to fit themselves into a track that may be totally wrong for them and could affect them for their whole lives. This is one of the biggest flaws of the public school model.

Okay, I'm ranting. Sorry. I just feel like kids (and adults) have so much potential that is labeled and categorized into neat little boxes. Then we question and doubt our innate strengths.
May. 9th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC)
It frustrates me too -- and it really frustrates me that there are so few options for kids to explore their various potentials outside the two basic options (gen ed and GT). :( I also don't like labels...
May. 10th, 2012 03:54 am (UTC)
Argh! I have a real love/hate relationship with these programs for that very reason. As soon as I heard about it in the late years of my elementary school days, I absolutely wanted in. Regular schoolwork bored me, and the kids in the program at my school always did such cool activities and special projects about history and science that I would have loved to do. I asked my mom about it, and she had me tested in the summer before I went into middle school. I tested "above average," but below the level that would have gotten me into the gifted program at middle school. So in middle school, they put me in advanced classes, where I was still bored. Eventually, depression set in and I just stopped doing the work. STill got Cs, though.

Not that I really blame the school directly for their lame testing standards. I just wish that I'd had more options, or if they'd had it so anyone could try out the gifted program if it appealed to them. I was always such a quiet kid that I just flew under the radar the whole time. No on ever addressed my drop in grades or anything like that. One reason of many that I'm still considering homeschooling my son, since I dont want him missing out on possibly opportunities just because of how someone else decides the school should be set up.

I think the difference between "gifted" and "talented" is really just semantics. Maybe gifted is more of an inate propensity for some kind of talent, but that's about it. I've always been a believer, though, that talents aren't any good unless one works at them, though. Then, they'll just fade away, like unused neural connections. Or, exactly like unused neural connections.

May. 10th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
The tests are a problem, imo. Too often, external factors make significant differences in the scores, and those scores are HOLY (ha). E took the test as a 5-year old and wasn't allowed in the program. Then they tested her with different tests as a 6-year old and said she still wasn't 'gifted.' This year, as a 7-year old, she took the test with all the other 2nd graders, and now (suddenly) she's gifted in every area (yeah, right) -- so, I'm not a huge believer in the testing ;)

I would have to agree that talents or gifts need use! :)
May. 8th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Now that you made me think about it I think that talent is an ability you have that might or might not develop, but if you want it to become something you have to put work into it. Giftedness on the other hand is so much a part of you that it will develop almost without your choosing. Does that make sense to others than me?

With regards to giftedness in myself I don't know how to answer that. If I compare myself to my husband I often feel that I come up short. He had brilliant academic results and can recall things he learned 20 years ago almost without trying. I had good enough academic results in the same field and do well enough in it.

My husband on the other hand feels differently about it. He claims that he has developed the one thing he felt that he was good at, while I had several options and could make a choice between different ones. My song teacher thinks that I should have done a Master of Arts and made music my career. I have an aptitude for languages and could easily have made that my career and my High School German teacher was appaled when I chose to go for a Master of Science degree. Is that giftedness or do I just have several talents? I don't really know.
May. 9th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
I think many people who have tons of 'gifts' feel similarly -- it's easy to downplay it when you have so manyto choose from, whereas those who have only one or two have a clear view, right? :)
May. 9th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
This is such a gooooood question. I used to be on the Vermont Council for Gifted Education, so it's also one I've thought about.

For me, the difference between talent and gift is this: A talent is something that finds expression, whether it is artistic or mechanical or scientific (a well-designed research study would be the result of talent). Giftedness is more of that internal way of looking at the world piece, the seeing the world in a different way, whether it is through art or empathy or big picture thinking.

This isn't the way the two are usually defined in the G&T community, but it's the way I look at it.

Like you, I think everyone has talent, but unfortunately not all positive talents are recognized at schools--kids who are talented but visual learners often struggle.

I also know that being gifted and talented tends to run in a family. I'd say your friend is likely also gifted (as are you)--and perfectionism is often a talent of the gifted, for better or worse. We can be awfully hard on ourselves when we come up against those areas where we have to work harder.

My daughter was in a gifted program when she was in elementary school. The way our school did it, the G&T teacher set up different units in different subject areas--math, reading, science (one teacher in a K-6 school of 300)--and students could choose to participate if they were interested. So my daughter did a variety of reading and writing units, and a geometry one, and an architecture one. The school also mixes up math classes and spelling classes according to ability, so students work on those subjects with their ability group, not their age peers.

In eighth grade my daughter qualified for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and we were able to send her to three summer camps where she worked to stretch her writing skills.

I wouldn't hesitate to enroll a child in a program where they can be with their peers in both age and ability. It makes a huge difference in confidence.
May. 9th, 2012 02:27 am (UTC)
We've been told by a number of folks that perfectionism is one of D's connections to giftedness -- he's an extreme perfectionist, and sadly, that seems to go hand in hand with his intrinsic abilities.

Even though I struggle with the labeling and limitations of the program, I am thankful we at least have the option of finding a way to keep D involved and challenged. If he didn't have the option, he'd be bored out of his mind. As for E, she also needs a push (and she'll be in the program full time next year) -- she is more like me (ie, lazy) ;)

I like your definition of gifted. Of course, I might like it because I can see that in myself (perception), ha! :)

It sounds like your daughter had some great experiences -- and I love how you kept on top of it all (you're a great mom) :D
May. 10th, 2012 02:57 am (UTC)
I say, it's a gift, if the time you spend doing... whatever it is... *feels* like a delightful gift.
Or sometimes, a curse.
And especially if you don't seem to be able to stop doing it, even when you can manage to take extended breaks on occasion.
Because you always find yourself there again.
May. 10th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
Now that's a nice way to view it -- gives each person control (kind of), no? :)
May. 10th, 2012 10:57 am (UTC)
Or the gift owns you, maybe. :o)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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