Having been a student in a gifted program during middle school, I have been thinking about up how the program may have helped me, but also harmed me.

The positive thing about gifted programs is that they allow students who are not challenged by the regular curriculum to receive that challenging education. Students that are not able to thrive and grow with the general education system they are being placed under because it is too easy for them, are given the chance to receive that same kind of intellectual challenge and growth through these gifted programs. This is undeniably a positive thing, as I am sure everyone would agree.

However, does giving kids the title "gifted" actually help them, or are we stunting their intellectual growth and confidence by inflating it? These titles tend to give students a difficult idea of themselves. A sense of preexisting intelligence is given to them. I know, from my own experience, that having this "gifted" title makes students feel like they should be able to get good grades and do well without having to try very hard in regular courses. We become so used to breezing through things, that when something is truly challenging for us we feel dumb for not being able to do it. There comes a sort of stigma that if you are really gifted or if you are really a genius you should not have to work that hard or study that hard for anything. This thought process is especially common in high school. Anytime there is a test, you hear those intelligent students "who don't even have to try to get good grades" proclaiming how little time they spent studying for it (whether it is true or not). You can't make it seem like you spent a lot of time on it, or they might think you are dumb and that you have to actually work for your good grades. There should be no stigma against hard work. Achieving after putting in a great deal of effort to do so, should be the greatest feeling. There should be no negative stigma around trying and really wanting to learn things. Sure, in high school -and even in college at times- some things are going to be easy and not require effort, but other times you are going to need to take that extra time to study, or go over your exam one last time to double check your answers (finishing your exam before everyone else still doesn't make you the smartest), or read over your essay a few times to check for mistakes, and that doesn't in any way make you dumb.

Be proud of the work you do. Go above an beyond. Don't settle for "gifted". Because even if you have been smart from birth, intelligence is malleable and you can learn more if you try and aren't afraid to look dumb. You don't have to be all-knowing to be intelligent. Whether you're "gifted" or not, it is all about the effort. Go beyond gifted.