Nysmith Blog

Could Boredom at School be a Sign of Giftedness?

We often think of intellectually “gifted” children as those who do exceedingly well in school, concentrate for long periods of time, and ask lots of in-depth questions. But did you know that other signs of giftedness may also include boredom at school, underachievement, and frustration with teachers?


Over the years, multiple studies have shown that some of the most intellectually gifted children often have the least positive school experiences. Professor of Psychology at Boston College, Ellen Winner, writes in Miseducation of Our Gifted Children, “Gifted children are usually bored and unengaged in school; they tend to be highly critical of their teachers, who they feel know less than they do, and they are often underachievers. In the best-case scenario, teachers recognize a student as gifted but, unable to teach at this level, they let the child learn independently. In the worst-case scenario, teachers fail to recognize a child as gifted and classify the child as unmotivated or even hostile.”


Because traditional classrooms must teach to a high number of students with varying levels of ability, a gifted child can often feel overlooked and uninspired. Dr. Del Siegle, a professor in gifted education and department head of Educational Psychology in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut says, “Gifted kids need intellectual stimulation, or they’ll figure out ways to find it on their own…Either they’ll zone out or they’ll act out.” In the National Education Association article, Are We Failing Gifted Students?, Siegle lists five needs of intellectually gifted children; he calls them the five “C’s.” They are:  


  1. Control: Students need to feel they have the power to change the situation if they’re not learning.
  2. Choice: Students need to feel they have a choice in what they are learning, so they can have authentic learning with minimal repetition.
  3. Challenge: Re-learning old material (repetition) isn’t challenging.
  4. Complexity: Gifted students want depth to uncover the layers of a concept or idea.
  5. Caring teachers: Siegle says that this can actually override the other four “C’s” if they feel their teacher actually cares about them and wants to engage them.


In over 30 years of catering to the educational needs of gifted children, the Nysmith School has developed a unique curriculum that goes above and beyond the five C’s. We begin with a low student-to-teacher ratio of no more than nine students for every one teacher. Smaller class sizes give our teachers the ability to differentiate learning in both reading and math, up to four grade levels above a student’s grade. That means students who have differing needs and abilities, aren’t stuck learning or re-learning material that isn’t appropriate for them. Smaller student-to-teacher ratios also give students greater access to their teachers, to be able to ask those in-depth, probing questions.


Minimal repetition and minimal homework are core philosophies at Nysmith.  We believe that 10 minutes per grade level, 4-5 times a week should be just enough homework to reinforce material and to teach responsibility and organization, without being repetitive.  We value time spent outside of school for our students to pursue other interests like sports, music or quality time with family.


Nysmith teachers teach the subjects they love. Rather than being required to teach a variety of subjects, our teachers teach only the subjects they feel most passionate about. A teacher who’s a history buff will teach history while those who just love math, teach only math. The vibrance and enthusiasm this brings to the classroom is palpable and contagious. Suddenly a student who may have been struggling in a certain subject area, is able to make connections and gain new insight.


But it’s not just the subjects that teachers are passionate about at Nysmith–it’s making connections with students. We know from experience that a joyful environment lays the groundwork for academic excellence. That’s why when you walk the halls at Nysmith, you’ll see students laughing and talking freely between classes and teachers and students engaged and immersed in classroom learning. Our K-8 students change classrooms with each subject area and the day is filled with project-based, collaborative learning in every subject from foreign language to computer learning, music and art, to social sciences, math, character education and much more. “Boring” is not a word that Nysmith students use to describe school, but rather, words like, “fun” and “exciting.”

If you aren’t sure whether your child is bored at school because he or she isn’t being academically challenged, or if there might be other issues at play, visit the Parent Resources page on the National Association for Gifted Children website. You can also refer to  Nysmith’s Traits of Giftedness checklist for common traits associated with giftedness.