Giftedness is Like PoetryIf you’ve met one gifted kid, you’ve met one gifted kid. In other words, gifted kids are not identical widgets produced on an assembly line. Each gifted child is unique. Isn’t that what we say about all children? Every child is unique. We certainly don’t expect other children to be identical. We readily recognize and accept that different children have different strengths, weaknesses, and needs. But we also recognize that they share many of the same characteristics. Pick up any child psychology book if you don’t believe me. So why is it so hard for people to understand that gifted children share many traits, but are also unique individuals?

Lack of a Single Definition of “Gifted”

Part of the problem rests with the wide variety of definitions of the term “gifted.” There are 4 basic types of definitions:

  1. giftedness as a predictor of success
  2. giftedness as potential
  3. giftedness as asynchronous development
  4. giftedness as relative ability

All definitions will fit into one (or two) of these types. The first one includes motivation and achievement, while the second one is ability only, regardless of achievement. The third one takes into account the fact that gifted children tend to develop unevenly in different areas (i.e. physical, cognitive, emotional). The last one is one used by many school systems and simply sees as gifted those with greater ability and/or achievement than the rest of the students in the school system or school. Clearly, giftedness can’t be all those things at the same time. For example, achievement is either part of giftedness or it isn’t.

“Giftedness” is an abstract concept. You can’t see it or touch it. Like all abstract concepts, giftedness is difficult to define precisely. And without a precise definition, it can be hard to measure, and it can be hard for some people to understand.

Defining Poetry

How do you define poetry? Can you list the characteristics of poetry? Rhyme? Poetry rhymes, right? Wrong. Not all poetry uses rhyme, and some rhymes are definitely not poetry. How about rhythm? Poetry uses specific rhythms, which is the beat of the poem. The beat is created by the use of stressed and unstressed syallables.  For example, “Mary had a little lamb” is based on the trochee pattern – a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. Poems make use of various stress patterns to create rhythm. One of those is iambic pentameter – which is the pattern common in every day speech. It’s the pattern of English. If a poem is in iambic pentameter, how does the rhythm then identify it as a poem? It doesn’t.

So it’s not rhyme or rhythm that makes a poem a poem. How about imagery? Poems create images to evoke emotions, right? Yes, but so do other forms of writing. Short stories, novels, and even persuasive essays will make use of imagery to move the reader. How about beauty and lofty thoughts? Those are part of poetry, right? Sure, but what about poetry expressing fear and depression? Not too much beauty or lofty thinking there.

If all poems don’t have all these traits, how can anyone say they know what poetry is? But each poem is unique. Each poem will have some traits of poetry, but not others Put together, they can create what most people recognize as poetry. Some people, of course, have a hard time recognizing – and appreciating – poetry. They know poetry often rhymes, so everything that rhymes must be poetry. People who have studied poetry or have read a lot of poetry of various types are better able to recognize and understand poetry.

Giftedness Is Like Poetry

Like poetry, giftedness is difficult to define. Every poem is unique, created by a mix of the elements of poetry. Every gifted child is unique, made up of a mix of the traits of giftedness. The more we learn about poetry and the more we read poetry, the easier it becomes for us to recognize it. Even though it may be difficult to define poetry, it becomes easier to recognize a poem when we see one. The more we learn about giftedness and spend time with gifted kids, the easier it becomes for us to recognize it. Even though it may be difficult to define giftedness, it becomes easier to recognize a gifted kid when we see one.

The difficulty in understanding giftedness really isn’t just about the difficulty defining the concept. The problem is that most people don’t know enough about it. It takes time and effort to understand it, so it really doesn’t matter that no single definition of giftedness exists. Definitions are simply not enough.

Carol BainbridgeAbout GiftednessDefinitions,Identification
If you've met one gifted kid, you've met one gifted kid. In other words, gifted kids are not identical widgets produced on an assembly line. Each gifted child is unique. Isn't that what we say about all children? Every child is unique. We certainly don't expect other children to...