Understanding Gifted Learners

After a nice Holiday break, we finally get down to some new topics.

Being a high school student myself, when I first heard that my school had the available IB program (For those who do not know, the IB program or International Baccalaureate program, is an internationally recognized educational program, similar to the AP program, that allows students to get a heightened education. Upon completion of the program, the student receives a Diploma, the program can potentially have more prestige than the AP program because the IB program is recognized around the world. For more information on the IB program visit their website at IBO.org) I was delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the prestigious program. However, after going through the advocating process at my school, and trying to make my case as to why I should be allowed to pursue a distance program as a substitute for the regular English class, I have started to think about whether the IB or AP program is right for me. The pro’s and con’s of this situation have been discussed in numerous books and websites, including my most recent read The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids .

This problem faces many of our gifted youth today, the seemingly obvious choice is to go with the AP or IB program, they will look really good on the college application; however, the AP and IB programs may not be right for every gifted child. For starters the courses are extremely rigorous. The course load is tough and the challenges that face the students in these courses are not to be scoffed at. I had to take a good look at myself and decide whether I could take the challenge, especially because I have not really experienced an extremely tough course load in the past. The AP and IB programs are not for the faint of heart, and even though many gifted students are extremely motivated, every student should ask themselves whether they are ready for the challenge. Secondly, the IB and AP courses may not offer the kind of challenge that your gifted child may want. This was and still is the big question for me. Will the AP and IB courses offer an environment that is both stimulating and challenging? Will the peers in the AP and IB courses allow me to have in-depth discussion and analysis? Will the teachers understand my gifted personality and allow me to be creative in their classroom? Your gifted student should ask themselves this, and if they are not satisfied with the answer, then maybe he or she should look into other programs such as the EPGY Online High School .

The best way to answer the previous questions is to ask. Talk to parents of students who are participating in the various programs at your school and get your gifted student to talk to other students in the programs. As you develop a sense of the programs and teachers at your school, evaluate the options available to you. For me the question that is most important is whether the students and teachers in my classes would stimulate discussion. I learn best when there is a lot of discussion, debate, and analysis. My favorite teachers have been ones that I can have an in-depth discussion with. So if the class consists of desk work and there is not much discussion, I am not likely to enjoy the class nearly as much as the one where everyone is talking and sharing ideas.

In the end, it comes down to how your gifted student learns the best and what kind of environment your gifted student thrives in. If you can determine that the IB and AP programs will provide opportunities that will stimulate and nurture your gifted student then go ahead and join the program. What I urge you not to do is just join because it will look good on the college application. Ultimately, your students happiness is much more important than the college that they get into.