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My daughter‘s teacher is saying that she should be removed from the gifted program because it’s too hard for her. At school, she’s non-responsive, distracted in class, and gets poor grades. It’s difficult getting her to focus on schoolwork instead of chatting and being distracted. At home, she does well and doesn’t seem to show these problems. What should I do?
If you’ve observed no problems at home, that usually rules out major attention problems, which should be observable in all environments. Your daughter’s behavior problems could be related to feeling like she’s not smart enough to be in the program. Sometimes gifted students have become accustomed to being “the smartest” in the class. When all the other students are also very capable, they can feel seriously inadequate when they’re only performing in an average way. So her distraction and chattering could just be escapes because she isn’t accustomed to finding the work so challenging.
By explaining to her that the work is supposed to be more challenging and that she’ll have to work harder in the class, you may be able to convince her that, in the long run, she’ll be better off continuing in the program. You can even tell her that a “B” in that class is like an “A” in other classes. That can prevent her from feeling stressed by the threat of getting less than “A” grades.
When students worry about not being “smart enough,” avoiding work protects their self-concept. They can then blame poor grades on disinterest and lack of effort. These students often use the magic word boring to describe this problem. It’s important for parents and teachers to recognize that the word boring can mean too hard, too easy, not enough action, or I’d rather be watching TV or playing video games.
Another possibility is that your daughter may be deliberately trying to avoid being in the gifted program, or the program may be the wrong program for her. If she’s new to the program, she may be struggling with adjusting to it.
You probably know her test scores and have been told about her capabilities that allowed her to be placed in the program. You may want to speak with the teacher about the curriculum. If it seems to match her identified skills, she is probably in the right place. However, gifted students may have uneven skills and even have learning disabilities. They may be gifted in verbal areas but only have average abilities in math. Or they may be gifted in mathematics but have a disability in reading, which could become most problematic and could appear to be an attention or distraction problem.
Talk to your daughter’s teacher some more. Consider the alternative possibilities and, if necessary, request further evaluation before you and the teacher carefully make the next decision.
Dr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For free newsletters about Raising Girls with Optimism and Resilience, Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and What You Can Do About It, and/or Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s Articles for Parents and Teachers and submit family questions online at www.sylviarimm.com. All questions are answered.