Gifted is … As Gifted does …

I’d love to hear comments on what people think this saying means. I have seen it mentioned in books and articles I have read, but so far I haven’t come across a clear definition. I have decided it must refer to the great variety there is amongst the characteristics of all gifted students.

Perish the thought that it could mean that if the gifted child is not producing or “doing”, then they are not gifted! It depends too, on the achievement levels of the gifted child.

Underachieving gifted students are often hard to discern, because they have such different attitudes to high-achieving gifted students. Gifted students whose ability is masked by a learning difficulty are different again. But they all belong to the category of “giftedness” that New Zealand NAG 1 iii(c) asks us to cater for.

With all the variety, it is a tall order to ask all teachers who could be teaching a gifted child in their mainstream classroom, to know exactly how to deal with a gifted student from Day One. The best we can ask for from teachers with up to 30 other students to teach, is they make themselves aware of the gifted child, try to meet their needs on a regular basis, and make sure they are included in their plans for all children to achieve in their classroom. This presupposes they believe the gifted actually exist!!

As a teacher, I take the job of meeting every child’s needs very seriously. Equitable teaching to me, does not mean all get the same input, but each child is helped with whatever they need to move forwards in their learning. For some gifted students, it is not always academic extension they need, but it could be assistance with social skills, to enable them to become more independent in their learning, or to cope better with the stresses they experience in a regular classroom. Needs will often follow seasons, with some passing and new ones starting at different times throughout the school year.

Gifted students are unique to the extreme that they can’t always be grouped as like individuals. But some descriptions are more common identifiers of gifted students – such as quirky behaviours, fascination with unusual topics, left-field questions, and an often strong sense of justice, and injustice!

The gifted become … as they are given the opportunity to do. Please don’t deny them that opportunity.


About Debbie Smith

New Zealand Educator interested in online education, giftedness, and other special needs in education.
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4 Responses to Gifted is … As Gifted does …

  1. Shelly Sanchez Terrell says:

    Hi Debbie!

    I loved your line, “As a teacher, I take the job of meeting every child’s needs very seriously. ” I believe that is very important we try to meet the needs of every child. I’ve always taught students with learning needs and never GT students. However, I can say that every child is gifted at something. Every child excels at something. When we get them to see this then we inspire them to continue learning and shining. Standardized tests don’t work to achieve finding this gift in every child, which is why it is important every teacher tries to help the child find where he/she can shine.

    • Debbie Smith says:

      Hello Shelly

      Thanks for your thoughts. There is a misconception that giftedness just means a child is really good at something. You are absolutely right. We can always find something to praise a child for and encourage them to shine in that area. But giftedness is a bit different – it is more about the way a child thinks about things as they learn rather than the product of their learning. This is never so obvious as when you find a ‘twice exceptional’ learner – someone who may be gifted in the way they can solve problems, but can’t display their learning because they are unable to put it in words or express themselves. Their product is poor, but that doesn’t stop them from being gifted. There is quite alot more to explaining this, but hopefully I will address it in future posts.

      • Debbie Smith says:

        I have just read this on Teaching a Gifted about the wrangle over definitions of giftedness over the years.

        However, Dr. Delisle did point out that the definition that has had the most longevity is the one written 65 years ago by Annemarie Roeper: “Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.”

        You can read the rest at

  2. Debbie Smith says:

    Eureka! I’ve found it! Thanks to Rosemary Cathcart, a champion for Gifted Education in New Zealand! (Don’t know why I couldn’t find it when I was looking before.)
    You can read her article at It is a little dated now, as the George Parkyn Centre has been renamed The Gifted Education Centre, but the facts haven’t changed for gifted sudents. Enjoy, and understand a little better what it means, “Gifted is … as gifted does”.

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