Not Gifted?

“Your child didn’t qualify for gifted.”—those were words I dreaded telling parents. But under Ohio law, only students who tested at an IQ of 130 or above qualified for our district’s gifted program. At first, I was awkward and unprepared at these post-testing meetings. But an educational theorist, Howard Gardner, came to my aid.

Gardner, I’d tell parents, said there are multiple ways to be smart. And I’d list his categories:

  • People Smart—understanding and communicating with people
  • Self Smart—knowing and managing your own emotions and motives
  • Music Smart—discerning sound, pitch, tone, rhythm
  • Picture Smart—using visuals to express meaning
  • Logic Smart—reasoning abstractly
  • Word Smart—finding the right words to express meaning
  • Body Smart—coordinating the mind with the body
  • Nature Smart–relating well to natural surroundings

According to Gardner, an IQ test measures only a narrow band of intelligence—abstract reasoning. And abstract reasoning was the focus of the gifted program at our school.

What I wished, I admitted to parents, was that the school had a gifted program for each of the multiple intelligences. But I encouraged parents to find the strengths of their children and then to develop those strengths through music or art lessons or sports programs or writing classes or speech competitions or leadership camps.

This idea of multiple intelligences was especially helpful for parents who had one child in the gifted program and another child who didn’t qualify. One family, for example, provided horseback riding lessons to a child who went on to win blue ribbons at the state fair. Because that family celebrated both athletic and logical abilities, both students felt supported.

I never learned to look forward to telling parents their students didn’t make the cut on the IQ test, but the tension of the meeting was eased when we talked together about talents that could be developed.

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