by Hanna Vock and Barbara Teeke
„Giftedness“ is an important technical term in the pedagogic discourse. It designates a certain psychological disposition.
If we come to know of a child’s presumed or determined giftedness in kindergarten or if we as kindergarten teachers ourselves presume a child to be gifted, we have to carefully consider whether or not to use the this term in front of the child, the parents or otherwise in the public space of the kindergarten.
Some parents are quite at ease about using the term giftedness, but then report of somewhat hostile reactions by others. For the longest time the term giftedness was off limits in Germany and to this day it causes unease arousing scepticism, envy and disapproval…
Other parents fear an early labelling of their child, constituting something that has not yet been ascertained and which even for themselves does not come free of ambivalent feelings and concerns.
Many are also concerned that the child might experience social exclusion by such terming or that they as parents might be considered conceited or overly ambitious.
All this seems to suggest that the term giftedness best be used with care. While it is desirable that handling the given fact of giftedness and using the respective term becomes a matter of normalcy it does still happen rather often that children who are termed and called gifted experience social exclusion. Therefore these children and their parents ought to be safeguarded from such possible consequences.
No kindergarten teacher should thoughtlessly force anybody to come out.
Aside from the children the parents, too, often confront alienating reactions when addressing the issue. They encounter lack of understanding, they are smiled at, their thoughts and concerns are dismissed as irrelevant. This makes it just the more important that pedagogues approach parents with respect, have consideration for the parents‘ apprehensions and reservations and communicate their own open-mindedness.
The good news is that the term is so easily circumscribed. The prerequisite for such circumscription is the close observation of the child in various situations. Describing the remarkable activities and utterances of the child in terms as concrete as possible with a sense of appreciation will perfectly do to establish a good line with the parents. Augment this with joint deliberation on how the specific needs of the child as to its thirst for knowledge, play and learning can be met and how its extraordinary cognitive resources may be taken in consideration.
At the same time it is important to use the term giftedness openly in the professional discourse while not referring to specific characters.
There are all kinds of negative labellings of gifted children. The language must be scrutinised: Which are the words that are usually used to characterize gifted children: „cheeky“, „precocious“, „pointy- headed“, “pert“, „nosy“, „egghead“ (= especially hideous).
Why not „clever“, „intelligent“, „smart“, „curious-minded“, “imaginative”, „reflective“?
Date of publication in German: May 5 th , 2007
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint