When we as individuals are challenged in a rewarding way, we feel happier—like we’re on the right path. Gifted students are no exception, and they can reach this level of fulfillment in the classroom through a thoughtful approach. At Davidson Academy, we recognize the importance of challenging gifted students in both middle school and high school in ways that teach them a solid, broad range of knowledge while connecting it to their interests.
A Few Ways We Challenge Gifted Students:
- Gifted students enter our school with carefully curated Prospective Learning Plans that each individual creates with the help of their family and staff members involved in student services, such as guidance counselors and the curriculum team.
- Of course, they still follow a core curriculum that includes English, math, history, science, world languages, and electives to fulfill our graduation requirements. Part of our curriculum is also working on social and emotional development.
- As Davidson Academy grows, it adapts by introducing a diverse range of courses that provide healthy challenges that meet the needs and passions of gifted students. For example, there are advanced classes in mathematics to suit learners of all levels.
- Traditional educational settings are unable to properly support gifted students as they do not account for different levels of abilities. These schools or settings are usually grouped by age, which limits a gifted student’s potential to expand their knowledge while simultaneously creating social tensions (i.e., they may struggle to make friends when they are disconnected at school). Our model follows ability grouping, meaning students are grouped according to skill level.
- Davidson Academy is a “writing-across-the-curriculum” school. Writing is integrated into all classes.
Understanding unhealthy challenges for gifted students
These facets of our teaching methods create academic challenges for profoundly gifted students who are healthy and productive. But let’s take a closer look at what unhealthy challenges look like first.
- One-Size-Fits-All Approach: Public schools cannot provide differentiated instruction that caters to the unique learning needs of gifted students. In turn, this leads to boredom, disengagement, and underachievement.
- Limited Connections with Peers: Gifted students may find it challenging to connect with intellectual peers in a typical classroom since they are grouped by age, leading to feelings of isolation.
- Misidentification of Behavioral Issues: Gifted behaviors, such as questioning authority, intense curiosity, or inability to sit still, can be misidentified as behavioral problems. This misidentification often results in disciplinary actions rather than addressing the underlying needs of gifted students.
- Unavailable Individualized Support: Public schools may not always have the resources or built-in specialized programs to offer individualized support for gifted students.
- Pressure to Conform: Gifted students might feel pressure to conform to the pace and content of the standard curriculum, limiting their ability to explore topics in-depth or pursue advanced coursework. Stress, anxiety, and a negative impact on their self-concept stem from this pressure.
These typically occur in traditional school settings as teachers are stretched thin with the number of students in their classrooms. It can also be difficult to identify gifted students promptly.
Academic challenges are essential to a gifted student’s overall growth, from academics to their mental and physical well-being.
How to balance challenges and support for gifted students
Balancing challenges and support for gifted students is a priority at Davidson Academy. We provide tailored academic challenges alongside holistic development services. Our dedication to integrating social and emotional support helps our staff and students cultivate a nurturing environment. Specialized services, including one-on-one check-ins, self-awareness and management development, and mindfulness techniques, demonstrate our commitment to a balanced growth mindset. This approach empowers gifted students to navigate challenges while appreciating their strengths and weaknesses.
Attending an institution like Davidson Academy that understands the necessary structure needed for gifted students to feel equally challenged and supported will give these learners a more fulfilling time in school and beyond.