By Guest Blogger Kelly Nichols

It always happens this time of year. Tensions rise. Anxiety peaks. Parents whisper and wonder. What is this AIG (Academically & Intellectually Gifted) testing? How will my child measure up? What do I need to do to make it happen? What will happen if my child doesn’t make it? What is it with AIG anyway?

The facts. In North Carolina, our state sets six program standards for AIG. After that, each LEA (or local school system) creates a plan that meets the state’s standards. While the details may be different in Guilford, Forsyth, or Davie counties, the programs are all based on the same six standards mandated by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

As an educator of gifted children for almost 25 years, I believe in gifted education. With that said, I want parents to realize this; whether or not your child qualifies for gifted services has no reflection on you whatsoever. You cannot “make” or tutor your child to be “gifted”. No preparation, no special breakfast, nor preschool can make your child gifted. Giftedness is innate. It does not determine future success or happiness.

The testing process, which goes on in second or third grade (depending on your local system), is not a life ordaining moment. Parents, take the pressure off of you and your child. Just like we all don’t learn to walk, tie our shoes or ride a bike on the exact same day, neither does all reasoning and intellect develop at the exact same rate.

Gifted education is appropriate for those who need it when they need it. Sound vague? It is. The art of teaching lies in figuring out the puzzle that is each, individual child. Don’t miss the individual part. Remember the guy in high school who barely made it but after college was incredibly successful? Or the girl who sat next to you and struggled in elementary school but wound up ahead of you in class rank? We are all different.

Labels can be divisive. We have learned that throughout history. Remember Dr. Seuss and the Star Bellied Sneetches? Even though the AIG label may seem “positive”, it can still be divisive. Labels separate people; specifically children. All students must know they are important, capable and special because of who they are, not because of any label.

So what is gifted education? According to the National Association of Gifted Children, certain students “need gifted education programs that will challenge them in regular classroom settings and enrichment and accelerated programs to enable them to make continuous progress in school.” It is simply education in a different way. The pace tends to be rapid and the requirements arduous. It is the intersection of curiosity, endurance, and inquiry. It is amazing to see a child blossom in these situations. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Students who are bright, multifaceted children may perform their best in regular classroom settings and deteriorate under such conditions. Pay close attention to your child and love him/her well.

Good teaching is good teaching, regardless of any label, school, or class. When we find a place where our children thrive, that is where they belong. Celebrate hard work and small successes and your child will flourish. Next time your child heads to school, kiss him/her goodbye, remind him/her that hard work is good work and know there are amazing experiences waiting.

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