Another 2e? Being Gifted and LGBTQ

Some of you may have noticed that my intent to post every other week was optimistic. This may or may not have been affected by the start of my accelerated graduate courses.

Yes, I have a full-time teaching job and made the decision to begin my Master’s degree this year. Am I crazy? Probably. The Master’s program runs summer-to-summer because that was the fastest, most efficient way to do it. This has kept me quite busy and reminds me I could do with some speed-reading lessons.  Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of material covered daily in 5-8 week classes. My new goal is to write in between writing for my classes when possible.

Reviewing articles about current studies in the field of gifted education has been a focus of several of my classes. This requires that I spend quite a bit of time skimming multiple articles in search of one to write about for a class. While completing an assignment in one of my courses, I came across a journal article with some information that I think warrants discussion.

The article was entitled “Social Coping Strategies of Gifted and LGBTQ Adolescents” and can be found in the 2014 Journal for the Education of the Gifted.  (Consider searching for it on Google Scholar with the DOI in the reference below.  I do not have permission to link the full study here.) This study examined social coping strategies of students that are gifted and LGBTQ.

There were some limitations to the study: students interviewed were from the same elite college, all belonged to the school’s Gay Straight Alliance organization, all were already identified in some way as gifted, and all were undergraduate students who had already “come out”.

What I found interesting was that the coping strategies shared by the study participants were very similar to their coping strategies as a gifted student. Some strategies that participants reported using were:  establishing groups of friends that were supportive or finding supportive teachers, hiding their LGBTQ identity and/or researching the topic of LGBTQ identity to better understand it, and expressing themselves through writing, leadership, and musical endeavors.  Another interesting thing to note was that participants expressed the belief that their giftedness motivated and enabled them to seek out and create areas that were safe in order to cope due to their LGBTQ identity. Suggestions were provided by participants regarding school cultures and policies that would be inclusive and welcoming to gifted and LGBTQ individuals.

There is a lot of literature currently available that discusses the importance of identifying and serving underrepresented populations and twice exceptional students. Underrepresented populations typically include students from poverty, students of color, and students learning English as a second language, as these students are often missed or are hard to identify with current procedures in many gifted programs. Twice exceptional students typically include gifted students that have an additional challenge they face, such as ADHD or a learning disability. As a result, there are efforts to improve gifted identification methods and put systems in place to support these students.

In my opinion, the LGBTQ gifted student isn’t included enough in many of these discussions.  The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) does, however, have several resources for teachers and parents of gifted LGBTQ youth on their website. I think further attention to these students’ needs is warranted. In addition, when considering the social and emotional challenges that many gifted students face, if we add to those challenges identifying as LGBTQ, we may have another twice-exceptional designation that needs unique and differentiated support.  It is important, I think, to consider the 2e status of the gifted LGBTQ student and their specific social and emotional needs for healthy development. I also believe that these marginalized students need to be fully included in conversations about gifted education.

This topic is intriguing to me and I am interested in seeing what other work has been done in this area to determine the best way to support this gifted population beyond simple acknowledgement.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above!

Reference

Hutcheson, V. H., & Tieso, C. L. (2014). Social coping of gifted and LGBTQ adolescents. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(4), 355-377. doi:10.1177/0162353214552563

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). LGBTQ diversity toolbox for parents. Retrieved from: https://www.nagc.org/lgbtq-diversity-toolbox-parents-introduction

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). LGBTQ diversity toolbox for teachers. Retrieved from: https://www.nagc.org/lgbtq-diversity-toolbox-teachers-introduction

 

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Finding Like-minded Peers, A Coming Home

Recently, I realized that I actively seek out like-minded individuals who can teach me something. As an adult, my passion for learning and the need to understand manifests as deep-diving into a topic, sometimes to the exclusion of all else, and finding others to learn from, that have knowledge and experience in that topic. Discovering fellow lifelong learners who share my sense of humor, passions, and even outlook is an added bonus that is very fulfilling. I have developed many strong friendships this way because these are my people. When I find them, I feel a sense of coming home. Conversations are easy while simultaneously challenging, and I feel comfortable being exactly who I am, however weird, quirky, or intense that may be.

In pondering this, it brought to mind the real need gifted children have to be with their gifted peers, in classrooms or out of them. Gifted students tend to enjoy focusing intently on a topic, a question, or a passion and want someone to share that intensity, to share the excitement that often comes with knowledge discovery. They don’t have the need for others to love their topic, just to understand their passion for it. It is a need to find the like-minded, a reflection of themselves, if you will, and the passionate pursuers of knowledge and the critical thinkers that they are.

If you have ever worked with gifted students or been in a classroom where these students are grouped together, the like-mindedness is very evident. There is an inherent and beautiful support for: intense passions, a weird sense of humor, skill in making puns, and having brain blasts (or loudly stated connections). It can be noisy and chaotic at times, but the sense of camaraderie is there. These students need to be around others like them and that make them feel comfortable being who they really are. Since there may only be a few gifted students in a classroom, or many times only one, gifted students may spend most of their day feeling like an outsider. Being with others that think the way they do or that can be as intense as they are, in feelings or intellectual interests, validates gifted students and gives them a sense of belonging.

In schools, the practice of clustering gifted students in classrooms helps, but designating pull-out class time, when they are with many like-minded gifted students, is a great way to support their social and emotional well-being, their intellectual growth, and their resiliency. As Dr. Tracy Riley states “Gifted and talented students have the opportunity to learn how to learn, take risks and develop resiliency when learning with like-minded peers. Knowing how to think – not what to think – is what really matters.”

Here are some articles to read regarding ways gifted children differ in thinking and how that might be supported.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above!

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