In my 16 years of years, I would argue that as few as 5-6 students readily were clearly visible in the English classroom context as being very, very elite and to some extent gifted and/or talented in their English thinking. Remarkably two of these students were in the same English class and alongside another highly capable student gained Scholarship English at the end of their Senior year, in reality with a fair degree of ease. These two young men distinguished themselves with their profound philosophies on everything from the writings of Sassoon & Owen to the positive attributes of Lady MacBeth. What was even more impressive about these two were not they capable of such wonderful musings on literature but that they were also capable of squeezing their knowledge into the constraints of academic examinations. The other student in recent memory who makes me think of exceptional ability is again one of my former students who while solid at English is now study Musical Architecture at Auckland University. Maybe this individual is beyond gifted and talented, arguably genius?
Is it possible that every student is some way, shape or form is either gifted and/or talented? If this is the case, what's the point of time and resources within a school being focused on gifted and talented? Many students have exceptional abilities beyond the traditional requirements of a student curriculum whether in cultural, performing arts, sports or service and leadership contexts. I do believe that every student does have within them a special gift or talent. Often it may years to be released, maybe never, often it's been ever-present from an early age. Furthermore if a student is labelled gifted and/or talented, is this actually to their own benefit or as raised in today's #engagechat, does it only lead to social and academic isolation and often a reticence to future-present their heightened ability?
I made public my question in the chat "What if every student was treated as gifted and talented?", something I have genuine belief in and try to practice as much as possible. In my class, I expect every student to do their very best, to highlight their English-subject gift and to realise their talent in our shared learning space. Many of my students this year are supreme talents in and beyond the classroom and arguably beyond testing.
One of the fundamental concerns I have with gifted and talented
identification is that it suggests that one supreme element of the individual is more of importance than the collective, a notion I have considerable issue with. Our modern world is full of extraordinarily talented individuals in music or sport and beyond who struggle as holistic individuals and in areas removed from their talented domain. I myself was seen as of suitable academic ability to go to university at the age of 17, something socially I was at the time too immature (and not ready) for. What made this educational experience even more problematic for me was that none of my close friends attended university with me and as a result found it hard to empathise with my situation. Now I'm not even suggesting that I'm of any supreme gift or talent but I've done alright academically, most ironically once moved on from my school student days.
For me, another dilemma is the possibility that gifted and talented could arguably be so contextual to the point of inaccuracy. For example, this writer failed Year 10 Maths but did exceptionally well in Senior Maths albeit with a change in teacher and similarly in my university academics did considerably better in my Master's study than I did as an undergraduate. It could also be argued that many students due to the learning contexts they're located in, can either be encouraged or suppressed in terms of their fruitions or otherwise. Many students may possess supreme ability but may be incapable of showing such gifts or talents due to the lack of agency or choice in their learning journey or expression.
Ideally as modern learning becomes the core existence in the classroom over monotone teaching, more and more students will feel the freedom, confidence and the resources to show their true abilities innate or acquired. Regardless, when teachers-in-play expect the best from every student and encourage these boys and girls to achieve to the very height of their individual and localised potential, we all win, and win without maybe the need for labelling or unnecessary pigeon-holing or unintentionally isolating certain students. Now such an occurrence would truly be at once a gift and a talent, don't you think?