High-Risk Gifted Kids

Everyone’s been saying all these brave things. Brave teachery things about taking a bullet for their kids.

Time for real talk. I really don’t know that I would serve as a human shield to block my students’ bodies from an armed assailant. I’m not saying I’d leave my kids high and dry, but I really don’t know what I’d have done.

I also have no clue what I’m going to say to my children tomorrow. On Friday, while everything was unfolding in Connecticut, my students were nominating each other as Wildcat Leaders. They are incredible children. I don’t know what to say to them tomorrow morning. I don’t know what they’re going to say to ME tomorrow morning.

This teacher is my hero. She protected her children, but she took care of herself too.

Gun control has been covered by people far more knowledgable than I could ever pretend to be. Mental health has been covered pretty thoroughly too. I’ve talked some about my own struggles with mental illness, but the biggest point I think I can add to this dialogue is the importance of supporting our high risk kids.

HIGH RISK KIDS. Usually that means students struggling academically or behaviorally, or students who come from poverty, or students who don’t have a traditionally “strong” support system at home. There’s no denying these students deserve our best work. But we need to include underperforming gifted kids in this definition too.

Whether it’s right or wrong, what attributes are assigned to many of the school shooters, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Aurora to Newtown? NERDS. LONERS. SOCIAL OUTCASTS. Who do I have in my highly capable classroom? NERDS, LONERS, SOCIAL OUTCASTS. In my mind, it was only a matter of time before we learned Adam Lanza was an honors student.

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My job as a highly capable program teacher is not just to provide my students with a rigorous, enriched education. My job is also to serve as a bridge for my students by empowering them to productively and patiently exist in the neuronormative world, which is often (in their minds) a frustrating, dull, annoying place.

Social skills need to be taught in all classrooms, it’s true. But these skills are CRITICAL for students living with intensity who oftentimes don’t know how to cope with all their feels.


Oftentimes, neither do their parents. Yes, we can often provide gifted kids with the academic differentiation they need in a gen ed classroom, but when do we ever honestly talk with them about dealing with a (in their minds) TOTALLY DENSE populace? I know we try to address this in our class meetings, and I also have a small group working on dealing with cognitive traps, but I don’t know what’s happening elsewhere. Can you give me some insight? (Please please please, leave notes in comments)

I’m a mess. GAH. Our babies need us. Children with brilliant mental gifts need us to help them learn to channel their power for good, not evil. If we don’t help them, they’re smart enough to find their own outlets. And too often, they’re unsavory outlets.

Also, not to be a jerk, but the Newtown school board voted earlier this fall to not provide advanced math students with additional instruction.

I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’ll definitely keep you posted.

Also. This is all very serious. So this video is pretty much the only thing that makes me smile right now.


6 thoughts on “High-Risk Gifted Kids”

  1. You are doing GREAT work with your students, both academically and emotionally. The only advice I can give you about tomorrow (and I’m giving myself the same advice) is to be truthful, straight forward, and don’t pretend to have answers where we do not. Remind students that they are safe, and be on routine. Let students talk and ask about it (even if they have already done so), and answer the same question a million times as kids process, if only to reinforce that they are safe, they are loved, and a horrible thing happened that we cannot fully explain or solve. Don’t get caught in cognitive traps yourself. ;) Oh, and I LOVE you, YOU are safe, and so much of what you say and do on a daily basis (this blog included) is part of the solution. Proud to know you!

  2. Good morning Honey. Emily’s comment says it all. I love you and I’m always thinking of you. When you were small I read everything I could find to learn about raising a special person like yourself. I implemented most of what I agreed with and that of which I was able–everything coated with love for you. Dad and I tried to always provide an outlet for your interests and feelings. However, you being just a child it was hard for you to express “what” you were feeling or really needed. Again, love was there for you, always. We feeded your interests as much as we could, (Fifty books from the library in a totebag was really heavy! Only to turn around and return them within a week or so.) You are a great person and educator, you’ll know what to do and say to your kids. Love always, Mom

  3. Thank you for this. We’re thinking about that process of learning to function in a world that seems “a frustrating, dull, annoying place” a lot of the time. We’re both STILL working on this (like we’re all over the 10 Cognitive Traps link, will be printing it out and using it for ourselves). Where ever we see people saying “I cannot understand how anyone could ever…” about shooters and destroyers, we feel taken aback. Doesn’t everyone have a part of themselves that wants to burn down the whole world sometimes? We both do. Maybe we’re both lucky that our tendencies have always been to turn that destruction inward rather than outward. It has taken us many years of work and support to come to where we are now. We think about how powerful it could have been for us to have a teacher who was aware of our need for help with this back when we were in grade school. It is so powerful that you see this as a reality that exists (we get weepy about it). Our grade school selves feel better just knowing you’re out there.

    1. Thank you for your openness and honesty. I just try to talk with my kids the way I wish teachers had interacted with me. I learned about the cognitive trap business from a gifted conference I went to a few months ago, and it’s definitely been as useful for me as it has been for my students. :)

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