Primary school teaching is one of the toughest jobs that anyone can do. Competing demands from school leadership, the Department of Education, parents and the wider community on top of the demands of diverse classrooms with 30 and sometimes more individuals, means that it is very difficult to do all the thing teachers would like to do.
Increased social and emotional demands from pupils that take attention away from the purely pedagogical requirements of the job rarely leave room for items not on the ‘required’ list.
As one primary teacher asked me during a presentation “I have 3 children with behavioural difficulties, two with Down Syndrome and one with ASD and now you want me to think about the gifted pupil who is going to be ok”.
I acknowledged that that was indeed a demanding classroom, but we could not ignore one child simply because it was convenient, or because we thought they would be ok.
The reality is that we can never assume that any child, including high ability pupils, will be ok if we do nothing. And that is not withstanding that every child is entitled to their ‘portion’ of teacher time.
But there is an easier path through this challenge. It starts with simply being aware that a child may be gifted (and what that term means), and whether or not the child knows they are gifted, at least acknowledging that their ability may be expressed in class in a way that may be misunderstood at worst, or ignored at least.
Teachers can take some very simple steps, that nonetheless make a big difference, to address the needs of gifted children in their classroom using approaches that ultimately free up teachers to work with other pupils.
Teaching is fundamentally about changing the world for each of our pupils. It is about making a difference in their life and seeing them grow in response. A knowledge of gifted education can provide teachers with the means to make an enormous difference to a group of children traditionally, and sadly increasingly ignored in Irish education.
Peter Lydon is a teacher with 26 years experience teaching gifted children including 17 years teaching children aged 6 - 16 years at the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland in Dublin City University. He presents regularly to schools and universities on gifted children and their education needs. He will be presenting at the ResearchED conference in October 2019 in St. Columba’s College. He also tutors the ‘Exceptionally Able Learners’ Module on our Masters in Special and Additional Learning Needs programme with the University of East London. Find out more about our Masters programme here.