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Gifted, Talented, and Anxious

By: Andrea Rosa

In an age of high intensity and competitive school environments, the label of “gifted and talented” often cultivates poor mental health and low self-esteem in students at Jenks. While each Trojan is unique in their study habits and performance, some claim that collectively, the system of on-level vs AP does not nurture academic diversity or positive attitudes surrounding class work.

“Some gifted children differ in terms of their emotional and moral intensity, sensitivity to expectations and feelings, perfectionism, and deep concerns about societal problems,” says the Nation Association for Gifted Children. 

If not executed correctly, the label of Gifted and Talented can perhaps lead students to feel insecure, unprepared, or stressed in academic environments. I spoke to our very own Trojans, as well as the leader of the Gifted/ AP program at Jenks to seek insight on the pros and cons of advanced curriculum. 

As a talented English student, senior, Gabe Banner reports his experience in the language arts division of the gifted (or AP) program. 

“In on-level, I would always be above what was considered average for that class,” says Banner. “There was just not enough stimulus for me, but whenever I joined AP, I found the class to be too much [pressure].”

Many teenagers in accelerated programs express a similar concern. After middle school at Jenks, the highschool converts the Gifted and Talented Program into Pre-AP and AP classes. Some students find it challenging to keep up with the group that the Gifted and Talented Exam (GATE) assigned them in their early years of learning. 

“It’s this weird thing that I don’t feel smart enough for AP, but I feel too smart for on-level,” describes Banner. “It’s always hard, because I just see everyone else around me [in my AP classes] get it, and I don’t. Especially at Jenks, where academics are so important, it can really hurt your self-esteem.”

Confidence and self-love are essential traits for students to bring to courses with a quick pace. Because juggling relaxation and a demanding workload can be difficult, Jenks teachers, like Mike Horn, aim to educate students on healthy study habits. 

“I would say generally, there is a discernible difference between the two groups. There is more academic anxiety among our Gifted and Talented students (or those who choose to enroll in AP classes),” says Horn, our High School Gifted Coordinator.  “Students have academic problems. They may, in fact, be gifted… but they struggle like everybody else. That has its own problems, because there is this expectation that [those identified as Gifted] are good students, work hard, and have no problems in academic study.”

Senior, Lindsay Sandford, a well-versed AP student, has also experienced the ups and downs of the label of “gifted.” 

“I felt bad about myself [when I was] little,” says Sandford. “It was second grade, and I remember I thought it was so dumb because I wasn’t in the gifted group at school. I really hated myself for not being on the ‘smart’ side.”

Jenks later placed Sandford into the Gifted Program after she took the standardized GATE exam. 

“I thought that because I was gifted and smart, I was supposed to handle [overworking myself],” Sandford reports. 

She explains that learning her limits took time and many years of trial-and-error. Throughout High School, Stanford realized that her peers face the same worries and hardships.

“Last year towards the end of the year, I started noticing that I wasn’t the only one struggling,” says Stanford.

Horn suggests that the best way to battle the fear of failure and anxiety in advanced classes is to simply reach out for help. He encourages students to seek support in their advisors and peers in order to get the most out of our AP classes at Jenks.
“I think people should take AP classes, because most of those teachers are amazing, but I think the mindset of being gifted [with] all these expectations– that’s not it. You might struggle and get a B or a C, and that’s okay!” says Stanford.

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