In a rural school district, Abby is responsible for creating and delivering gifted-education programming across all school levels. She wants to develop a comprehensive K–12 affective curriculum for it. Though the majority of students are from middle-class families, others come from families that are struggling economically due to unemployment, military deployment, parental incarceration, single parenting, and addictions. Teachers and administrators are concerned about student well-being. Bullying has been a school concern, and the community has been shocked by three student suicides among the “best and brightest” over the past 2 years. Abby believes that attention to the social and emotional development of gifted students during all school years might make a difference. She wants to collaborate with Jack, the one K–12 school counselor, in possibly cofacilitating two proactive small discussion groups of gifted students. She wants to observe his listening and responding skills and share information with him about giftedness. In the past, Jack has not thought of organizing small groups for gifted students, but agrees to the collaboration. He says they should conduct a needs assessment among students identified as gifted and organize a group of high achievers around a common concern, such as bullying or bereavement—an approach he used in the past with the general population. Abby has something different in mind, but is hesitant to advocate for her view, since group work is in Jack’s “territory.” After she learns some skills from Jack, she wants all identified students to have a small-group experience at some point. She also understands that programming should address needs of more than just high achievers, including highly intelligent academic underachievers, who currently are not viewed as eligible for it. Abby needs to have a clear rationale for both the group format and mixing achievers and underachievers in the groups before she talks with the counselor again.
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An experienced, progressive superintendent is new to a large school district, and at her first meeting with all teachers, she describes ambitious goals, one of which is to reconceptualize and reorganize the program for gifted students. She wisely does not speak negatively of the present program; instead, she explains that an administrative transition is simply an opportunity to look at existing programs. Regarding gifted education, she wants to examine current thought in the field about giftedness, what residents in the district think about those perspectives, whether criteria used for identification of eligible students in the district match the programming offered, which programming models are available, which kinds of goals might be appropriate for local programming, which community resources might supplement and enhance programming, and whether the “whole” gifted child is adequately attended to.
The district she left had experienced individual and family tragedies and disturbing student behavior in recent years involving gifted scholars, gifted athletes, gifted musicians, gifted visual artists, gifted leaders, and gifted underachievers. She says she has already begun her own personal exploration of pertinent literature, and she wants the district to be proactive and strategic regarding preventing poor outcomes for gifted and talented students—at all school levels, beginning at the elementary level. She promises to organize a task force of representative classroom teachers, school counselors, gifted-education personnel, parents, and possibly students to study pertinent literature, explore various models, and make recommendations. She encourages individuals interested in being on the task force to contact her.
Ben, a middle school counselor, immediately expresses interest. He has been frustrated with not being able to connect adequately with some gifted students who have concerns—both high and low achievers. He was always a high achiever himself, but he has realized that gifted students are highly idiosyncratic, with many not fitting common stereotypes. He wants to understand them better and help them understand themselves better as well. He is glad the superintendent seems interested in their well-being, not just their academic performance.
Ben suspects there are many counseling needs in this population, but he has never heard a local or state counseling peer refer to these needs at professional meetings. He also has wondered about the identification process and the fit of his most complicated gifted counselees with the current programming. In fact, he has met with brilliant thinkers who have not been deemed eligible and assumes that learning disabilities affect the test scores used for screening. Last, since he has worked with a number of referred gifted underachievers, he has wondered which kind of program would engage them in school and academics—and even whether academic achievement should be the sole goal.
Ben believes that being on the task force, if he is selected, will be informative and helpful as he considers how to be more effective with this special population. In fact, he is selected. The superintendent is wise to include a counselor on the task force.
This concluding chapter presents brief summaries of the chapters of the book. The chapters in the book have covered a wide range of theories, concerns, and perspectives. Chapter content has implications for policy and practice. School professionals can incorporate the information and recommendations in them into their current services to ensure that gifted students receive needed support. School counselors respond every day to students who feel different, perhaps painfully different, from those around them—at home, at school, or in the community. Those counselors are distinguished in the school context by rare skills and perspectives that can be used to help gifted students make sense of themselves, value their differentness, and embrace their complex feelings and sometimes perplexing behaviors. Change can happen in either direction because of life events or circumstances. Moving out of impasse and accomplishing developmental tasks can contribute to increased motivation for underachievers.
A speech/theater teacher at a large urban high school refers Andrew (pseudonym for a composite profile), 16, to the school counselor because “he’s out of control and living dangerously.” The counselor, who routinely examines the student’s school file before such a meeting, finds standardized test percentiles in the high 90s, a good attendance record, and regular participation in the arts, but also a high incidence of lateness to class and an academic record that has deteriorated in high school. Family information shows an older brother attending a distant university, parental divorce when Andrew was 5, and, at age 12, Andrew relocating with his brother and mother when she remarried.
Andrew presents as personable, verbal, socially smooth—and somewhat arrogant. He claims he can raise his current low grades before the semester ends. Missed assignments are the key. He says he adds provocative comments to class discussion, and teachers like him.
His best friend lives 2000 miles away, where Andrew lived prior to his move at age 12. Andrew has gravitated toward dramatic females locally, and his current girlfriend is in high conflict at home. His grades deteriorated after becoming involved with her. He has run away several times and now has thoughts of running away with her. He mentions a special relationship with a male friend. When he drinks, he drinks too much, and his friends worry about him.
Andrew believes the psychologists he saw in the past did not understand him. He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (
ADHD) and depression, but was noncompliant with medication. He recognizes that he makes poor choices. He claims not to be suicidal currently, but has been in the past. He has self-harmed. He says his father has almost no contact with him, but his father does have a close relationship with his brother. Andrew says his own problems resemble his highly intelligent father’s. Andrew has been exploring anarchic and white supremacist groups online.
The counselor plans to meet with him in a week, but will informally check on him daily and then meet with him and his mother together, a meeting Andrew quickly agrees to. Regardless of whether a referral will be made eventually, the counselor hopes to build a therapeutic relationship with Andrew to be able to provide ongoing support at school as needed.
A few days after the school counselor’s meeting with Andrew, his mother contacts the counselor because of the girlfriend. She says Andrew struggles with impulse control, is easily distracted and affected emotionally, has difficulty managing emotions, and escalates conflict quickly when sad or angry. He resists authority at home, and his arguments with her leave her worn out and sad. She says her husband, Andrew’s stepfather, ignores Andrew and does not understand giftedness.