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I still remember the day that my teacher told my parents that I was the most brilliant student she had ever encountered and that I would be able to do anything I wanted in life: work for NASA, design space shuttles, etc.
It was a great memory and I’ll cherish it forever.
(THE ABOVE STATEMENTS ARE TOTAL LIES AND NEVER HAPPENED.)
But enough about me…
The question thrown out there was, “Teachers, when did you realize that a student was gifted?”
Let’s hear from folks on AskReddit and see what they had to say.
1. Mom ignored it.
“We took standardized tests like the second week of school. Hadn’t really done much academics yet as it was Elementary school (grade 5) and most of what we’d done was routines and introductions/games.
Kid scored at a 10th grade level in math and 9th grade in reading. Ok. Whatever, impressive but not unheard of. Except this kid was at the WORST school in the state. Literally. Ranked dead last. His whole schooling career. Nobody else in my class scored above a 6th grade level in anything and most were 3/4 grade level.
I basically had to do entirely separate lesson plans for this kid. While the rest of my class did multiplication facts, I had a coding curriculum and was teaching him basic languages. He had his own reading group in addition to the high reading group.
It was even more incredible, because he’d always been in trouble and in the principals office the years before. I sent him to ISS once. All year. (Really low for that school, kids on other classes went literally daily, I had a few go once a week).
I begged his mom to switch him out of that school track, said I’d fill out any paperwork, write any letters. It was my only year as a teacher, not sure what happened to him. Mom never contacted me.
He finished the year by shattering all of his records on testing exams. Literally the .01% on his tests. He’s legitimately one of the smartest kids I’d ever met, from the poorest school with the worst conditions I’ve ever seen.”
2. A real talent.
“After less than one year of music lessons, it was clear the student would likely become a concert pianist when he learned 15 of Bach’s Two-Part Inventions from memory – and played them brilliantly!”
3. Exchange student.
“Foreign exchange student from China in the 8th grade. His writing abilities far exceeded the majority of even the accelerated class.
I moved him from regular English to accelerated and not only was his writing strong, his insights were so deep and thoughtful.
At the end of the year, I learned not only was he a top student in my class, he won student of the year in Spanish as well.”
4. Of the musical variety.
“Not a traditional teacher, but I taught guitar at a mom and pop guitar store in my hometown.
A few years ago, a lady brought her 7 year old daughter in for formal training. Now… 99/100 times, a kid that young wants to play the guitar until they get one. After that, it sits in a corner and collects dust until it makes its way to Goodwill or something.
This girl had legitimate talent though. She managed to teach herself very basic chords on her own, and had even began writing music. Everything I taught her, she learned within seconds.
I also discovered through comparison with my own ear training, that she had perfect pitch.
Musicians are dicks. Many of us rarely recognize or appreciate true talent in someone else, but this girl was truly something special. If she isn’t a famous/successful musician someday, it will be a travesty.”
5. A bright one, indeed.
“I’m a preschool teacher and I knew a 3 year old girl that had very extensive vocabulary and could already read really well. Once during lunchtime, a little boy scarfed down his food and her response was, “wow, he must have been famished”. I was blown away!
She also taught me about the digestive system once during lunchtime, and it was accurate information. But her favorite subject was the solar system! She was full of facts about the solar system, and she would teach me new things all the time. I always told her mom that she wasn’t ready for kindergarten, she’s ready for college.
6. Fifth-grade science.
“I was teaching distance over time graphs.
The student stated that if the line just went straight up that it would indicate teleportation because distance has been gained but no time has passed.
This was 5th grade science.”
7. Like a human calculator.
“I’m a special ed teacher and I teach kids who have emotional and behavior disabilities like oppositional defiance disorder or autism which manifests as anger, that kind of stuff.
But anyway last year I had a kid who we think had a photographic memory and was a possible savant. He could see a map once and be able to draw it nearly perfectly hours or even days and months later. He had almost every detail too and all the towns and cities spelled correctly and major land features and even the major highways correctly labeled and named.
He also was like a human calculator. You could ask him nearly any math equation and he could answer it in a few seconds in his head. Granted they couldn’t be extreme equations but pretty much anything like PEMDAS wise he could do in his head quickly.
His trouble was that he was very aggressive and we could never put him back in a gen ed classroom because he was such a danger to other kids and teachers if he became annoyed or upset. But he was a good kid and very intelligent he just had a lot of trouble with his emotions and behaviors.”
“Took a summer job helping at a daycare. One of the toddlers (about 18 months old) was way ahead of the rest. Could talk full sentences, knew his abc’s, could count beyond 20. Already had shapes and colors down. I’ve seen kindergarten aged kids that haven’t mastered some of these things.
He’s in his early 20s now with a masters in engineering and a six figure salary.”
9. Never a wrong answer.
“When she never got a single question wrong on any of my assignments and ended each marking period with an average higher than 100 due to extra credit assignments.”
10. A delight.
“11 year old girl in my Math class.
She started asking questions that would have stumped the brightest in my top set year 11. It was a delight to have her in my class and I’m so jealous of the teacher who gets to teach her this year.”
11. A legit superstar.
“Not really a “kid,” per se, but when I was teaching in uni, one of my first year students wrote a paper that was too good to be true. Now, I’d had several plagiarists over the years, so I did my diligence and asked him if he could come to my office hour to discuss his paper.
This is a good test, because a plagiarist will not likely be able to actually discuss what they “wrote” in any detail.
Well, this kid proceeded to just blow it out of the fucking water. Not only did he write the paper, but he was also able to describe all of the theory behind it in great detail. Kid got an A+ in the class, needless to say. He could easily have jumped straight into a PhD. Legit superstar.”
12. When they write…
“English teacher here… I see it when they write.
Classroom dynamics being what they are, not every kid talks much in class. Some prefer to stay back, and some are held back by some of the bigger personalities in class, but when they write… they write directly to me. You can see it in their ideas and the way they express them, whether the spelling is perfect or not.
You can tell when a kid is bright and insightful when you’re one-on-one.”
13. Got a good one here.
“Science teacher here.
I had a new student join my environmental science class on the day of a pretty difficult test. I told him that he could try the test and if he scored poorly, then I would simply not count it in his grade.
I really just wanted to get a feel for what he learned at his previous school. Well, he finished the test in about 5 minutes. He got a perfect score and provided the best answer to the extra credit question at the end. I walked to the principal’s office after the class period and asked for him to be removed from my class and placed in advanced chemistry.
I think he ended up with a 97% in the chemistry class by the end of the year.”
“This kid was always bright but never really inspired by much of what he did. Seemed a little lazy but wasn’t troublesome he was just kind of a neutral kid in the class.
The we did one day of Lewis Structures and he thought it was ‘too easy’. Gave him a harder worksheet which he finished in like 3 seconds. So I gave him an organic formula that had 12 different isomers and some resonance structures.
He came up with all of them in less than 15 minutes including ones that had to do with how the object would look in 3D even though we never covered it.
Kid is currently working on his PhD at Yale in Organic Chemistry.”
There are a lot of smart kids out there!
Now we want to hear from more teachers.
In the comments, tell us about the most gifted kids you’ve ever worked with.
We can’t wait to hear from you!