Teachers often have multiple classes and deal with hundreds of students a term. You would think they'd all start to run together at some point, but certain students do stick out.
After Redditor DrPhilsHair asked the online community, "Teachers of Reddit, when did you realize a student was gifted?" teachers, others working in education, and even other students, recalled their most striking students and classmates with smiles on their faces.
"I basically had to do entirely separate lesson plans for this kid..."
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.
"After less than one year..."
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!
"This kid was always bright..."
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.
"I knew when he surprised me..."
I knew when he surprised me by reassembling an engine out of a car all by himself in a single 90 minute class period. It was right before school let out for Covid. I had to hurry up and get some projects thrown back together quickly since school was closing. He asked to do it so I let him try and went off to do other things. By the end of the class it was completely assembled! Never asked me for help and it was "working" Definitely gifted!
"One day we were having a class discussion..."
Biology teacher here.. had a new student come in at age 15. He didn't talk much but he did all his work as asked and did it well. One day we were having a class discussion about something and he joined in. It ended up being a back and forth between just the two of us and at some point I realised I was discussing pretty high level stuff with a 15 year old. He's a neurosurgeon now.
It started off as a talk about the ethics of human cloning and genetic engineering. We ended up getting into the detail of the mechanics of it. He was asking questions, understanding the answers and immediately seeing the repercussions and elaborating on his opinions. It was a great experience.
"I moved him from regular English..."
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.
"Next she tried..."
Not a teacher, but a student with a gifted kid in his class. In third grade we had a new student come in who had just moved to the country with his family. Our teacher saw he was smart, she she challenged him with some math we were meant to learn in a couple weeks. He solved the problems no problem.
Next she tried some 4th grade level math, again he solved it with no problems. After that she called in one of the 5th grade teacher and she gave him some problems meant for 5th graders. As expected he solved those without any problems. They kept going until he got a question partially right. I believe but that point they were giving him stuff intended for early/mid-year 6th grade students.
Last I heard this kid got a degree in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University.
"I was teaching distance..."
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.
"Took a summer job..."
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.
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 f**king 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.
"You can tell..."
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.
Future of Gaming
One child - he was more ahead of his peers in every aspect - it seemed like he was babysitting the rest of his classmates. After a week of teaching the class simple coding, he built a fully functional multiplayer game with material he taught himself. This was at age 8.
Another child - consistently produced excellent work, finished early, and could discuss his viewpoints in-depth and actually made me change my viewpoint. He was brilliant in maths - once I was explaining a new concept to the class and worked out one example together. I told them that I would guide them in the second example so that I can help whoever needs and I hear a really genuine and cute "oops ... I just finished them all now".
Ivy League Recruit
I teach foreign language at a university, and one semester I get a notification that there will be a minor (under 18) in the class. I have to take some online test about that, so it’s a bit annoying, but fine.
Anyway, flash forward to a couple weeks into the semester. I’m talking with one of my students during the break. He’s an advanced undergrad in his junior year, taking grad courses in theoretical topology. Thinning hair, glasses. Also very interested in philosophy, which was my major in college, so we got along on that front. I figured he was a little older than everyone else, and had come to college late or something. Then it comes out. He’s 17. He was so brilliant that he gave his high school principle an ultimatum after his first year: either they give him the degree early and he goes straight to college, or he drops out and goes to college anyway. Ivy leagues were already looking to recruit him.
I’d never encountered a genius before that. And he was just this very humble, unassuming guy. Always did his homework and showed up on time.
Aced The Test
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.
I teach editing to grad students in creative writing programs, but I once witnessed a kid who was so amazing that I know i was witnessing pure, raw genius at work. Her big sister was in my daughter’s 3rd grade class. A bunch of us mommies were just chatting and laughing with our kids’ teacher, in their classroom, while our kids and their siblings milled around the classroom. Out of the corner of my eye I was noticing one tiny little kid about three years old. She was staring at the alphabet border near the ceiling and asked another kid to tell her how both the “big and little letters say, not their names. I know my ABCs.” I guess she thought upper and lower case might be different. The big kid did, even the complications of “c” and “y.” The toddler looked at the border, saying each of the sounds. She had our attention then.
Then toddled over to a book, “The Celery Stalks at Midnight,” sat on the floor with it and sounded out the words. Slowly, and awkwardly at first, then faster, until they sounded right, maybe not knowing all their definitions, but that didn’t stop her. By then we were all watching— mesmerized. She finished her awkward first pass, then read a few pages out loud to us, prefacing it with, “This is a funny book, Mommy, listen!” She was only three years old— and with minimal help, she had taught herself to read in about 20 minutes. That remains the single most amazing few minutes of my life. I knew I was in the presence of a magnificent human mind and I was deeply moved.
One of my 3rd grade kiddos broke a PS3 controller apart and canabalized the parts to make a handshake zapper device.
Space to Fly
My kid had a fourth grade teacher who let him work at his own pace in math. She managed to acquire books with more advanced material for him. He had taught himself calculus by the end of the school year.
She was such an amazing teacher to give him the space to fly.
These moments must be so rewarding for educators!
Do you have any similar experiences to share? Let us know in the comments below.