This post is part of a series, When Giftedness Gets Annoying.
Let’s look at some case studies that represent some actual instances of gifted student behaviors. The ones we’ve chosen are student profiles where a gift, interest, or talent may present with multiple sides. How do you respond to the “rough seas” of giftedness and do a positive redirect? How do you harness the best side of the behavior and help students develop skills that lead to smoother sailing?
T is the student who prefers to work alone. Give her any project, and she excels in class, out of class, anywhere by digging in and hunkering down. She dives in and comes back to the surface with prolific research and products. She clearly enjoys working hard and is quite organized. With her laser focus approach, she’s done some amazing scientific investigations, and is always willing to join the science fair and competitions. Within hours of your assigning a new task, T is already on it.
However…assign her to group work, and she’s not a happy camper. You’ve noted her irritation during various shared tasks already, like some huffing and sighing when a fellow student shows up to class without a portion of the group work complete. You’ve heard her say, “I’LL just do it,” loudly and in a frustrated tone in one situation.
Then you get an email one evening: T informs you, after you’ve just appointed her group leader of an upcoming project, that she “always does all the work” and doesn’t want the “extra stress” of group facilitation. She presents you with a bulleted list of reasons why group projects never work. She requests that you give her the option to do this work as an independent study. This the first group project in several weeks. T has been able to complete a lot of independent work so far this year, and you don’t feel that differentiating this assignment for her is the best plan, because it’s a science project that requires several “hands on deck,” where students will share incoming data on a daily basis and will develop a hypothesis as a team.
You keep thinking: she’s so successful on her own, and so productive; I can see why she’s highly irritated by slacker behavior. Maybe I ought to let her alone…But for her to be successful, she needs to develop collaboration skills, social skills, and patience with her fellow human beings. Surely there’s a way to help her through this frustration and find some solutions to her concerns?
How would you respond to T’s concerns and redirect this situation in a positive way?