When we were students, it quickly became apparent who was "smart" and who was "not so smart." This writer happened to find himself in the latter category, especially when it came to math. How did we figure this out? Those who struggled with math, for example, simply interpreted the arrangement of the math groups: Group A students were often first to work with the teacher (and the first to finish). This was obviously the "smart group." Group B consisted of the "decently smart group" of students, and so on. "Smart kids" earned As in math. "Not so smart kids" didn't. "Smart kids" went outside during recess. "Not so smart kids" had to get extra help during recess. Most teachers know As say very little about a student's intellect. Unfortunately, most students don't.
Whether our struggling students know it or not, they have a unique gift. And it's up to us to unearth that special talent and find ways to empower them.