Take a right at the second door and enter my gifted classroom ~photo by Angie French
Take a right at the second door and enter my gifted classroom ~ photo by Angie French
It’s been awhile since I have published an entry here. During that time, I have not ignored the issues surrounding the education of our gifted learners; just taken a short break from publishing on my site. There has been some exciting things happen over the past few months. I completed the end of the school year at one campus and moved to a new campus following the principal that hired me when I first started in this district.

This is my tenth year teaching with nine of those years working with the gifted learner. My Twitter handle @teachagiftedkid does not quite capture what I do in my classroom but it was the handle I came up with when I was completing my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in 2002. My job is actually more like coaching the gifted kid and my classroom atmosphere is more of a collaborative, invigorating, noisy place when the kids are engaged in their learning.

So, what aspects do I like about ‘teaching’ gifted kids? My list is going to be short and sweet and here goes:

I love the connections they make with the information or learning experiences they are participating in! Never, ever assume you know everything just because you are the teacher! The question that I use when a student says something that I don’t directly see the connection to what we are doing is, “What makes you say that?” Listen, listen carefully because you might learn something insightful or see things from a new and different perspective!

I want to preface this aspect of working with the gifted learner with a sorry. I apologize to all the state education agencies and the test making companies because of this next aspect that I love about teaching gifted children. Although, I do believe that testing is extremely helpful to educators and state lawmakers it just doesn’t make sense to dwell on it with my gifted learners. I know what they are capable of and I stress the need to show that in all the work they do, including standardized tests. I teach my students with an eye towards their future. A test will not guarantee their success in the job market years from today but it may play a role on their way to their future. I also address topics such as how to be successful in college, how to handle a bully who is teasing them about their differences, discussing their career aspirations and being true to who they are.

Some of these children are already owners of their learning so my job is to help them with direction, resources and communication. Yes, there are some gifted learners that need me every step of the way. In these cases, my job is to build their self-confidence in their abilities and perspective. When do I know I am successful with these students? Most of the time, it is years later when they send me a high school graduation announcement or their parent sees me in the grocery store and they tell me of their child’s successes!

Having raised two gifted learners into adulthood and watched them playing with their gifted friends has helped me to understand and relate to their social-emotional development. I’m also married to a creatively gifted man that when through his educational career without any specialized services. His insight has been invaluable for me. Much more valuable than all the professional development that I’ve attended. My current students look at me sometimes with the look that says, “How did you know I was thinking that?”

I love the challenge of educating the other adults who work with these children outside of my classroom. My charge is to build understanding and empathy for the issues that the gifted learner deals with. I feel it is important to advocate for services they need. I enjoy working with adults to help them understand the needs, intensities and joys of working with the gifted learner.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working with the gifted learner is when the parent of a gifted learner breathes a big sigh of relief when they realize that intensities they are dealing with at home aren’t a sign of psychological issues but rather are an manifestation of the child’s giftedness. I host a monthly gifted parent book club on Friday afternoons at my school for just this reason. This is a valuable forum for discussion for these parents.

That’s my short and sweet list. What’s yours?

Gifted Education

I love this! Thanks Jeffrey Shoemaker for providing me with the inspiration I needed to blog about issues that surround educating and advocating for our gifted learners. Look for a blog entry from me soon!

Gifted Education

I recently presented a session called, ” Positive and Productive Parent-Teacher Conferences to Communicate the Needs of your Gifted Child” at two TxGifted Parent Conferences. I’m publishing the handout that I created from my powerpoint for the session for those who missed the presentation.

Handout TAGT 2013 Parent pdf

Among the myriad of great articles out there that I also referenced, I used these three books in my presentation: If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice Exceptional by Jen Merrill, Perspetives in Gifted Homeschooling Series, 2012. Living with Intensity, Susan Daniels PhD and Michael Piechowski, PhD, Great Potential Press, 2009. Raising Champions: A Parent Handbook for Nurturing Gifted Children, Michale Sayler, Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, Fall 1997.

I concluded the session with some Q & A time because I know that I don’t have all the answers for each circumstance that parents of gifted children may encounter. It’s important for parents to share their experiences in affecting positive change through parent-teacher conferences. I encourage parents of gifted children to assemble their own personal learning network through the excellent parent blogs such as: Laughing At Chaos or Gifted Parent Support or Da Vinci Learning Center Blog. New to the blogsphere is Extraordinary Journey. If you are on twitter be sure to tune into the various chats dealing with gifted issues such as #gtchat, #gtie and #gtvoice. My readers can follow me at @teachagiftedkid.

Gifted Education

I believe that we should be doing more to inform and support the parents of our newly identified students. I came to this realization during a recent encounter at, of all places, a car repair shop. I was passing the time waiting for my car to get serviced by playing a game on my iPad when a mother and her two elementary aged daughters walked in. It didn’t take long for the oldest girl to casually take a peek at my game. I noted that she was intensely interested in her surroundings and, like most children, she was seeking out mental stimulation in a boring place. I mentioned to the mom that I was a teacher and shared one of the interactive books that I had downloaded onto my iPad. Soon, mom and I were in a discussion where she shared that her little girl had been recently identified as a gifted second grader.

What happened next formed the inspiration for this post. Within minutes of telling the mother that I was a teacher of the gifted, the questions came pouring out. “My second grader was just identified at the end of last school year, what should I be doing now?” “Should I have known she was gifted before she was identified?” “Was there something that I wrote that might have hindered or helped my child during the process because I felt like I was being tested, too.”

These questions indicated to me that this parent 1) was probably not given any information other than her child’s test scores 2) doubted her own parenting skills since she didn’t know that her child was gifted before testing 3) and she wasn’t informed of her role in the identification process. I believe that all these questions symbolize the lack of information and support that should have been provided by the school staff or private testing service to the parent before, during and after the identification process. This interaction led me to reflect on what I do to inform and support the parent of a newly identified gifted child.

In the qualification letter that I send home to the parent I include links to my district’s resources and my own online website. This assumes that the parent has time to look at these resources. I am hoping that they do because there is an incredible amount of resources online which was not available 20 years ago when my own children were identified. I also ask the parents to tap into my News Flashes to keep abreast of the next parent support group meeting or seminar offered in the area. I had four successful parent support group meetings last year and a local college hosted a parent’s seminar partnering with TxGifted. We discussed things like perfectionism, making friends, academic achievement (or lack of academic achievement) and opportunities outside of school hours. I hope to continue offer these discussions again this coming year. But is this enough?

I tried to assure the mom at the car repair shop that she may not have known that her daughter was gifted before she was identified. Parents know their child very well but may not know how they compare intellectually to other children. It’s likely they see some characteristics about their child that are different but ‘chalk it up’ to individual preferences, not giftedness. I look back at my own experiences with my son and daughter and I recall some characteristics that might have indicated giftedness. Maybe I will spot them in my grandchildren but I’m guessing that I won’t. Many times, it’s not until the child is placed in an environment such as a classroom where their characteristics and behaviors become evident. This is where the professional educator comes in. We have to rely on testing and observations by a professional who is trained to identify the gifted learner to confirm that we are dealing with a gifted learner.

This brings me back to the setting that inspired this piece. The guys who service my car are professionals who are trained to determine whether my car is functioning at its peak performance. I have to trust that they are qualified to do their job and that they are reliably informing me what needs to be done to meet this goal. It’s the same with the job of the professional educator. Educators are professionally trained to determine and should be meeting the needs of each child whether they be special needs, on-level or above level.

The mom at the service station was concerned that something she wrote about her child during the identification process could have hindered her child from getting “accepted into the gifted program.” She felt like she was the one being tested. I first heard a similar comment during one of the parent support group meetings that I held last school year. I remember being asked to write about my children during their identification process over 20 years ago. I was just happy to let someone else know all about the wonderful things my children were doing at home. What parent wouldn’t want to do this? I didn’t even think about how it affected his or her acceptance into a program. I know that today’s parents need and want more information so they can “do” the right thing for their child.

I decided to ask one of my parents what she needed but was not provided during those first few weeks of finding out that her child had been identified as a gifted learner. I appreciated her honesty and perspective and found her suggestions very enlightening. Her first comment was that “both her and her husband are college educated and she has a teaching degree” and yet she didn’t truly know what the test scores meant and what should she be doing now for her child. Sound familiar? I loved it when she wrote, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Some of her other suggestions included an initial conference to explain the results of the testing, a book list of recommended reading and a mentor-like seasoned gifted parent for exchanging parenting stories. These are all things that I can implement easily next school year.

My encounter with the mom at the repair shop in a way parallels my experience as an educator of gifted children. I understand that those who know how cars work are better equipped to service and maintain them. They give me advice on how to make my car function at its best. Likewise, parents of gifted children would greatly benefit from understanding the identification process and how to support their gifted children throughout their school years. As ‘mechanics’ of a sort, gifted educators are a vital part of equipping the parents of identified gifted children to service and maintain their little gifted engines so they obtain peak performance in the classroom and throughout their educational careers.

Part of the International Year of the Gifted Child Blog Tour

Education Gifted Education

Notes from the EXPO and Parent Mini Conference on January 28, 2012
Lone Star College – University Park

This conference was presented by the Houston Area Cooperative on the Gifted and Talented, The Southeast Cooperative for Gifted and Talented, Lone Star College – University Park and Education in Action and the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented. Vendors, summer camps, academies and museums, and universities were on hand with loads of information and applications for their programs. According to Lynette Breedlove, PhD., current President of the Texas Association for Gifted Children, summer camps and after school programs are important for our gifted children. Some camps and after school programs serve a range of ages making it easier for the gifted student to find their academic (rather than their age) peer among campers who have the same likes and dislikes as them.

Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden, Psychologist/Consultant for the Gifted, was the keynote speaker for the event. She addressed the multi-faceted needs of gifted children. She has worked with thousands of gifted and profoundly gifted children and adults. She began her address with the question, “What does it mean to be gifted?” and “What do the gifted children want the adults in charge to know about them?”

Most people think that giftedness is IQ or academic or getting high grades. Although having an IQ and getting high grades are part of being gifted, it doesn’t define giftedness. Giftedness can also defined by characteristics of asynchronous development, sensitivity, perceptivity, intensities and perfectionism. It is vital that a gifted individual understand that, “giftedness is your abundance – it’s not negative.” It’s no secret that gifted individuals are different thinkers. Sometimes, they feel like they are so different that no one understands them. They feel that no one can relate to how they think. Dr. Gatto-Walden wanted the listeners to know that, “Giftedness is a two-sided coin.” There is the side of accomplishment and praise and the inner side of doubt and lack of self-confidence.

She presented the analogy of a TV to illustrate the magnitude of these characteristics. Individuals with an average IQ have about three TV channels. These can be turned off and turned on at any time. Individuals with an IQ up to 130 have about 90 channels that are always on. Individuals with an IQ of around 130 to 160 have a satellite dish with 500 channels that are always on and amplified. Individuals with an IQ of 160 to 200 have about 50,000 channels, and above that, imagine a Hubble Telescope (big yet minuscule at the same time). Most teachers are trained to teach to the 3 channel student who is capable of turning on and off. Gifted students take in those three channels and have another 43+ available and ready.

Dr. Gatto-Walden cautions parents and teachers to look to the individual and not the lists of characteristics that define giftedness because “Individuality trumps everything!” She advised parents to look at their home environment, family history, daily support system, their child’s innate individual temperaments to help their child navigate through their world because “Children learn what they live.” As an additional advice, Dr. Gatto-Walden suggested that a parent should always respond to a child at their emotional age, not their chronological age. She suggested that parents should not be fooled by their child’s asynchrony development in other areas.

Dr. Breedlove’s session on “The Intensity of Giftedness” used the example of being tall to explain the innate characteristics that a gifted individual has. “One does not go around bragging that they are tall, it is just part of who they are.” It’s the same with being gifted with psychomoter, intellectual, imaginational, sensual and emotional intensities (based on the work of K. Dabrowski, Piechowski and Lind). “Individuals are born with intensities in these five areas and these intensities will remain with them throughout their life. It’s not something to brag about; it’s part of who you are.” Our job as parents and educators is to help these students manage and use their intensities to become successful students and adults.

Gifted individuals also struggle with asynchronous development in the areas of physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. As an example: an individual may have the physical development of an 8 year old but have the cognitive development of an 11 year old. Most issues that arise in working with gifted children are a result of misunderstanding the development level in an individual. The speakers that I listened to during the conference (Dr. Breedlove, Dr. Patricia Gatto-Walden and Dr. Laura Mackay) all emphasized that the best thing a parent can do to help their gifted child is to LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN.

“Understanding Perfectionism and How to Help your Gifted Child” was the topic of the session presented by Dr. Laura Mackay, TAGT Past President. Dr. Mackay presented both the positive and negative aspects of perfectionism. Gifted students are susceptible to unhealthy perfectionism because of their high expectations of themselves and others around them. Our job as parents and educators is to help gifted students learn how to manage their perfectionism characteristics to work towards excellence. Some gifted students can look completely normal at school and complain of stomach aches at home. Some students exhibit behaviors that look like laziness but are really their response to perfectionism. Some children will only put forth the effort if they feel that the project is worth doing. This can be confusing to teachers who are trying to assess where the student are academically. What they notice in the classroom is unfinished projects, assignments stuffed into desks and behavior issues. Parents and teachers also need to carefully phrase their words while working with a perfectionist. Phrases like “Do your best” can be interpreted by the perfectionist as “my best is perfect” which can lead to more stress in the child’s mind.

I’m happy to report the answer to a question that one of my parents asked me during our recent parent group get together at my school. She asked if perfectionism a result of heredity or environment. Dr. Mackay noted that “perfectionism traits can appear as early as 2-3 years of age. It has not been determined if it is a result of genetics or environment, although there does seem to be some basis in genetics as it seems to passed down from generation to generation.” I also received an interesting tweet after posting the question to my PLN on Twitter on the topic from @kellyhines during a #gtchat “Going to go with genetic influence. I have 8 yr old twin boys. Both gifted. Only 1 has perfectionism issues like me.”

Unhealthy perfectionism can be demonstrated by a child magnifying or minimizing an accomplished goal, or working towards a quantity or awards rather than quality of awards. Sometimes, they procrastinate, have mood swings or stomach aches and find it hard or are unable to concentrate because “being board can also stress a gifted child.”

What can parents do? Learn to appreciate the trait, help the child label and manage perfectionism and how it makes them feel. Help them to self-censor or to listen to that inner voice. Help them to savor their successes and accept compliments and praises rather than rushing on to the next accomplishment. Be sure to schedule time for fun! Dr. Mackey recommended getting the book “Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being Too Good?” by M. Adderholdt-Elliot, 1987 for you to share with your child.

There were several other sessions that parents could attend that covered the areas such steps to advocacy and creating parent groups, tuning parental skills toward family harmony and the five levels of giftedness. For the parent with the older child, letting your gifted teen grown up was one of the sessions. The Expo and Parent Mini-Conference was well organized, well attended and well presented. The accommodations provided by Lone Star College were beautiful, spacious and clean. Kuddos to the organizations involved for organizing and presenting an informative session for parents AND organizing activities for children at the same time. The activities were provided by American Robotics Academy, Camp Invention, Destination Imagination Journey Camp, Mad Science and Summer Creative Writing Workshop.

For more information on the presenters, summer camps and activities and the TAGT Scholarship (to help pay for them), be sure to visit your Gifted Specialist’s webpage or contact them directly. Be sure to visit www.txgifted.org/insights for details on available summer scholarships.

Blogroll Gifted Education

Here are a few interesting tidbits from my recent attendance at the National Association for Gifted Children in New Orleans, LA in the form of a Prezi presentation. I took 13 pages of typed notes (along with a multitude of handouts) so I thought I would save you time by highlighting those that I found most interesting or motivating. I’d love to hear if any of those sparked a discussion among your PLN.

Not only did I hear some awesome speakers, I also met up with seven Twitter friends that I’ve never seen before, two former co-workers and visited with my son’s 5th grade gifted Science Teacher (my son is now 28 years old, BTW). All in all, a wonderful experience.

Now, if you couldn’t make it to the NAGC, you still have time to make it to the TxGifted 3.0 conference. The details are found here: http://www.txgifted.org/tagt.

Here is what you have been waiting for: Recap of the 2011 NAGC Convention 2011

Education Gifted Education

Dave and I veterans of evacuation, it seems. As we were packing up our suitcases for with several sets of clothes, our electronics and all those irreplaceable photographs, artwork, and my recipe box, we were recalling the five hurricanes we’ve evacuated for. Now, we can add evacuating for two wildfires. Our adventure started on a lazy Saturday. Dave was keeping a mindful watch on a smoke plume off to the North. By late in the afternoon, he was concerned enough to force me out of my comfortable chair to pack up all our essentials. The major problem was that I had just taken a new pain medicine for an excruciating back pain. I had no relief from the back pain and the side effects were making me lethargic. I walked gingerly to the bedroom, taking a handful of work clothes still on their hangers and laying them in the suitcase. No decision process – no sorting, just getting something in the suitcase.

We gathered up the dogs and left just as many other neighbors were leaving the subdivision. The smoke plumes were quite close at this time. We parked at a safe distance just outside our subdivision to watch all the activity which included neighbors walking their horses out, people taking pictures of the fire crossing Old Hempstead Highway, and emergency vehicles roaring by. I finally realized that I had my Canon Rebel in the car and continued to take pictures with it rather than my phone. It was amazing how high the flames and smoke were and how quickly it moved across the road headed straight for our homes!

Eventually, we made our way to our friend’s home,Kathy & Bob, who made the unfortunate mistake of calling us as we stood gaping at the flames. We spent two nights and two days on our regular schedule of getting up early, heading off to work, getting some supper and heading back to bed. All the while, we are checking up on the wildfire status using internet news sites and (of all places) Facebook. The worst thing an evacuee can do is follow the news reports on the local TV sites. Not only are they grossly inaccurate, they are also depressing! This was a lesson I should have remembered after Katrina.

We were allowed back into the subdivision on Thursday. Friday afternoon, Dave had just returned with the dogs but I was still at school when the Sheriff came speeding over the hill towards our street. Two officers peeled off one direction in their patrol cars, one headed our direction. Dave hadn’t even taken the leashes off the dogs when the Sheriff yelled over the fence, “Get out now, we are not coming back to warn you again.” There was no time to pack anything! Dave loaded the dogs back into the car. He frantically texted me about the activity and the DC10 flying over dropping red flame retardant.

This evacuation found me with little more than what I was wearing, only two of my electronics (luckily, I had the recharging units) and my school bag. We stayed three more nights in a hotel near another set of friends who were gracious enough to keep our dogs again. After breakfast on Saturday, we made a trip to the store for toothbrushes, and clothes. We spent hours checking the wildfire status using the hotel’s internet and our Ipads. The maps we were seeing had the fire sending its tentacles back into our subdivision but we had no way of knowing exactly where.

We were allowed back into our home after five days of evacuation all together. The electricity had been off for at least three days but clean up was so much easier than when our refrigerator had sat for three weeks without electricity after Hurricane Katrina. There were burned fields just outside of our subdivision and trails of graded fire lines within our subdivision. A few days later, we drove around our surrounding neighborhoods. This is when we realized just how close our home was to danger and how impressive our firefighters worked to save the homes in harm’s way. We stared at the white picket fences that were melted to the ground and the reddish tint on the road from the flame retardant.

The contrast between green and charred tree trunks and bushes greets me everyday as I pull into my subdivision but I am still very thankful. Our emergency personnel and fire fighters did ONE VERY IMPRESSIVE job protecting our homes!

Random 'Munchings" Writing Entries

Somewhere in our educational history the message came down that teaching the child with a “gifted” label was easy. It’s not. Teachers have to be fully prepared to move quickly through material, be more flexible, understand and carefully use sarcastic humor, respond to boundary pushing, answer constant questions, allow for discussion of moral injustices, manage outbursts and intensities, establish expectations that match the skills and abilities of the learner and be sensitive to physical and emotional issues such as ADHD, underachieving, Bipolar, dyslexia, learning English, and a myriad of others to numerous to mention. Yes, gifted kids are not all high achieving perfect students!

Because of the age-old message that teaching gifted children is easy, administrators and teachers assume that those labeled as “gifted” can excel when other students who are “labeled” low-students are placed in the same classroom (as the phrase goes) “to spread the wealth”. While there should diversity in a class of students, excessive spreads of skill and ability doesn’t make sense for several reasons and is not research based.

Although teachers are masters of differentiation, in the real world they struggle with meeting the needs of every student and the requirements of paperwork, meetings, email and other demands on their time. Students know who struggles with concepts and who gets it the first time. “Gifted” or high achieving students might brag or tease their classmates. They are likely to adopt behavior problems to deal with their boredom if the teacher spends his/her time addressing the needs of the other students. “Gifted” students may feel undue empathy towards their peers and stress over the injustices. Anyone who has looked into brain-based learning knows that any kind of stress on the child takes precedence over the learning functions in the brain. In other words, good, solid learning doesn’t occur when the brain is stressed.

Low students recognize that they don’t know the answer as quickly as their classmate. Their self-esteem plummets. Parents become concerned. They make more phone calls, send more emails, and ask for more conferences which is taxing on the teacher. Additionally, if the parent doesn’t find satisfaction with the way a teacher is dealing with these issues, they move on to administration. We can easily relate the affect of stress on learning with the affect of stress on teaching by asking the question: how does stress affect teaching?

As research reveals more about the best situations that children learn in, educators and administrators need to change perceptions on what creates successful learning in the actual classroom. Part of the job of Gifted researchers and teachers is to explain the results of educational research to administrators, teachers and parents. This includes different ways to look at things and new terminology.

When a message has been hammered in and repeated millions of times over the course of decades, whether or not that message is actually true becomes irrelevant — and the people invested in presenting that message, whether for monetary gain or not, are especially resistant to any evidence that might be contrary. ~K Wartman/Huffington Post

Gifted education has amassed loads of research and more research on the diversity of learners and their performance in the classroom, which we have done a fantastic job of explaining to other gifted advocates. We need to get the message out to those who make the decisions: the administrators and school boards. Our students, whether they are low or high, need to have their academic and social/emotional needs met. We won’t do this by appeasing anybody. We don’t do this to avoid griping by other teachers. We do this by using research based results, creating our action research projects to verify our results in our population and imparting that information to leaders who make decisions. Change needs to be responsive to the needs of our students, not static and age-old.

Education Gifted Education

Much is being said recently about cutbacks in gifted programs and education at large in our area. We should not have the ‘pitiful poor me’ attitude. Statements like “with the current cutbacks” needs to be replaced with “maybe we can use this or that to do the same thing.” We can call it problem-solving. Imagine that!

Engineers are masters at using what they can to solve problems. I was totally amazed by the rescue of the Chilean miners last year. Imagine if their engineers just said, “Poor pitiful men, look they are stuck a couple thousand feet below ground! We just can’t get to them.” Instead, those engineers put their combined experiences, skill and resources together to rescue those workers. It took time and numerous failures but they eventually succeeded. Lives were saved, families were reunited. I’m sure there were valuable lessons learned from the experience that are now being used in the industry.

So, I applaud the efforts of all those in the field of education who try new ways to obtain funding and who look to new places (and maybe a few old places) for resources to enhance and improve our industry. Teachers and those that have any affect on the education of our children need to adopt the same attitude of those engineers in Chile. We need to be asking questions like, “What do we have that we can use or re-purpose to accomplish our goal of educating our children.”

Today’s education environment is very different from the one in the 60’s and 70’s. Educators have the constantly evolving technology and research to back up their efforts (to name only two). We have our tried and true tools of books, copiers and pencils. How can we put all our resources, experiences and skills to solve the underfunding problem in education? Our children (and our society) are relying on us to develop their gifts into talents.

Education Gifted Education

Empty playground photo by teachagiftedkid

#Giftedhubby and I were watching Independent Len’s Between the Folds together. This film had beautiful and amazing paper creations by individuals from the artistic field, movement, physics, mathematics, and science all together in one show. Afterwards, my husband and I discuss what we just saw. We ask each other questions like: Did we agree with the show’s intent, did they present their ideas well, how does affect or change the way we think about the ideas discussed, etc.

I wanted to talk about the last segment which was about a young mathematician who was home schooled. He attended college early and who received his doctorate at something 20 years old. The focus of the segment was how he solved a long stand problem about something called Cut and Fold in the paper folding world. He told the interviewer that he does things because “they are fun.” He had about four very complex hobbies one of which was paper folding.

Here’s the question that inspired me to write this blog: “Can you tell the difference between the individual who was fully encouraged to use his gifts and talents (totally educated from his/her gifts point of view) from the person who was erratically encouraged (i,e. art 45 min once a week, gifted & talented services 90 min once a week if you met them on the street? This young man was given every opportunity to build and learn based on his interests and do things that he found fun. Compare this to the gifted student who must do…the…test….strategies…just…a…certain…way or get a bad grade on a practice test assignment (which was a discussion I had with one of my past gifted parents today.)

Is there a perceived loss of talent and skill? Aside from the “Wow” we get when we learn that Mozart was 5 years old when composed his first song to play for an audience, most people (and governments) largely ignore the needs of these talented individuals. Some parents take matters in their own hands and home school their child in order to nurture them.

If there is no perceived loss of a potential talent, then no wonder our society has such as hard time funding education for those gifted with tendencies towards logical or critical thinking, creativity or leadership. What do you think?

Gifted Education giftedhubby

Last night, I watched “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with my husband. It’s been on my list since this summer when I watched him giggling at the movie as it played on his screen on our return trip from Paris. It’s takes a lot to make him giggle, especially if it’s a kids movie. After watching the movie, I now understand why he found it so amusing. The main character in the movie was an intense, focused, and creative young man named Flint. He had an understanding mother when he was young and a completely clueless father. The people in his community usually ignored him or made fun of him, even one character bullied the young man several times in the movie. Many of his inventions failed but he was determined to find a way to make food to save his city. There were several funny situations resulting from his failures that my husband could relate to.

The main character did not have any friends, except for his monkey, until he met the young female announcer, Sam. What I found fascinating about their relationship was how many times the young announcer spouted off a string of scientific terms and then apologized and rephrased what she said in simpler terms. It wasn’t until the main character asked her why she did this that the viewer finds out that she had remodeled herself from a geek to someone considered popular.

I wonder if the writers and producers of the movie realized that they were portraying two gifted individuals? Did they do research on gifted children or did they recall experiences they either had seen happening to their peers as they grew up? Were they writing from personal experience? Are any of them related to an gifted education researcher or teacher or raising their own exceptional children? Or are they clueless about the challenges of being on the high end of different?

If they truly know about the challenges of being overly intense, creative, determined, or masquerading as someone else, here is my suggestion….let’s appeal to the writers and producers of these movies to advocate for our gifted individuals at all ages. Imagine the impact that writers and producers of movies would have on funding decisions at all levels from the local school boards to the federal government. Even if funding did not increase, there would be an increase in understanding and patience with the issues that gifted children face as they grow up in today’s world.

Education Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"

I’m sharing this poem with you from the editor of the TAGT Tempo Magazine. It reminds us to look forward to the wild and crazy ride of our future thanks to those gifted and talented individuals in our world!!

Here’s to the crazy ones.
The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent.
They imagine.
They heal.
They explore.
They create.
They inspire.

They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that has never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

Education Gifted Education International Gifted and Talented Educational Issues

Hi, I’m giftedhubby. That is, I’m husband to teachagiftedkid and I will claim to be creatively gifted with some confirmation from teachagiftedkid. Much of her interest in gifted came from raising two gifted kids and putting up with the quirks of a gifted hubby.

I have volunteered to write a few blogs from my perspective on what being gifted has been like. For me, this will be fairly easy as teachagiftedkid brings home many stories and I often find myself “translating” what one of her students might be feeling.

Just to tell you a little about who I am. I’m a middle aged parent of two who has a BS from a great school and works as a scientist for a large multinational corporation. As a learner (and I am still a very active learner), I consider my giftedness as both an asset and a liability. I’m sure the assets are fairly well known so let me comment on the liabilities.

First, for me to learn something, it has to fit neatly into the things I already know. I test each fact against what I know and find a place for it on an interconnected web and it is ready for use. What this means is that Math, Science and sometimes History make a lot of sense to me and I’m good at them. Grammar, Spelling, foreign language – not so good.

Second, I get distracted easily. It can come from a misbehaving child or just from a poorly explained concept. My mind wanders. I concentrate deeply and if you don’t have my attention, there’s no learning going on.

Third, I’m quite independent. Grades didn’t motivate me but learning and really understanding totally motivated me. I was competitive in my learning with my peers but for respect not grades.

Finally, I’m different. I come up with unconventional ideas. Many don’t work. I like to think that the ones that do work pay for the ones that fail, many times over. Don’t give me the same job or the same homework as the “masses”, instead motivate me with a challenge and get out of the way.

Yeah, I know I sure didn’t get into much depth but I will write more. I’ll hit these points harder, maybe have a few personal stories, both good and bad. I’ll try and give you my perspective on growing up gifted.

Education Gifted Education giftedhubby

Steak. When you spend some time in Nebraska and Texas, you know what a good steak looks like and tastes like. I and two other gifted specialists, two first grade teachers and a fourth grade teacher sat down at a great steak restaurant in the famous Stockyards after a long day at the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented (TAGT) conference in Fort Worth. We were not disappointed (actually the first grade teacher was because she ordered catfish.)

I could go on about how we each are different and we each ordered different things from the menu selection and prove my point about how important differentiation is in our classrooms but most of you already know this.

Rather, I would like to delve into the message of how important it is for us to ‘stick’ with our profession of advocating and teaching our gifted learners. This message was thoroughly conveyed beginning with the opening session by Dr. Robyn Jackson with Mindsteps, Inc. keynote address to Dr. Jim Delisle’s closing address at the 2010 TAGT Conference in Fort Worth, TX.

Dr. Robyn Jackson’s message focused on how teachers can fall into three types of myths when it comes to working with students. She began with, “We think we know what a gifted student looks like.” She discussed the Standards Myth reminding us that standards are just that – standards. If we expect a student to clear the bar then we are expecting too little from our gifted students. As teachers, we also know that the things we most value are the things we expect from our children which is part of the Attribution Myth. I expected a tender, flavorful steak because of my experiences of living and eating beef in Texas and Nebraska. Others at the table may have had different expectations. Dr. Jackson made the point that if we are to raise our expectations, we need to first raise our values and beliefs. We may also need to realize that our values could be based on false assumptions. Hmmm, chew on that for awhile.

The last myth she expanded upon was the Pygmalion Myth. This is exemplified by the statement, “If you love something enough, they will flower; I can take anybody and make them anything.” How many teachers out there try to live this out everyday? This is very honorable but the cold hard facts are that we only work with our children 180 days of their lives (unless we get lucky and see the children more than one year.) Additionally, our expectations are focused on the object: the student. We can make a difference in the lives of the students we work with but we must face the facts that some of them come from impoverished homes or a different culture. Our effectiveness is the result of our beliefs and values. We are the object that we need to focus on. If we understand and value where are students are coming from we can be ten times more effective.

As teachers, we need to face the “brutal facts” that our students deal with every day, our less than desirable job situation, and our nation’s misplaced priorities. Period. Then we need to have “unwavering faith that no matter what we will succeed.” Those in the field of gifted research and education know that obstacles are a part of their work. All of us understand how important it is to be there for our gifted learners. In my short six years of educating and 20 some years of parenting gifted children, I get the most satisfaction when a former student says or writes to me on Facebook, “The best times I had in 4th grade was being in your class” or “you let me talk about.”

Dr. Jackson pointed out that “we must hold on to our principles but we can change our strategies and techniques.” That statement was the springboard into all the break out sessions of the conference. I attended sessions on techniques ranging from the IIM Research method, using depth & complexity icons, Texas Performance Standards projects, using technology tools and social media with my students. All very good strategies and techniques for opening up the ceiling of learning and publishing options for the work our students create.

The closing keynote by Dr. Delisle was also inspiring. He never fails to deliver thought provoking messages which always include writings from the students he has worked with over the years. He said, “gifted students cannot be identified by using simplistic tools” because the definition of a gifted student is too complex and varied. Just look to the hundreds of definitions of giftedness around the world! Settling upon one definition may be what the field of gifted education needs in order to speed up its growth but it may be akin to setting a standard. We’ve already discussed the dangers of having a standard when it comes to a gifted learner. However, Dr. Delisle did point out that the definition that has had the most longevity is the one written 65 years ago by Annemarie Roeper: “Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.”

When the steak is given to a chef who understands its flavors, textures, and processes a wonderful meal is born. When a gifted student is in the masterful hands of a well-trained teacher of the gifted, students succeed beyond all invisibly set boundaries. “Gifted students are not harmed in the on-level classroom, they simply don’t grow.” “Gifted students must be grouped together in order to learn.” Personally, I feel that our gifted students need both time with their age peers, time with their academic peers and time with an understanding adult. Striking that balance is the fine art of knowing the needs of the student (…and raising your beliefs and values which in turn raise your expectations). It’s time for many teachers to “be brave and look at the other side of the desk.” (All quotations are Jim Delisle’s.)

I know that our world appreciates the inventions and ingenuity from our gifted children who grow into gifted adults just like some people appreciate when a steak is cooked to perfection. Our call as educators is to look at each student that crosses our path and determine, “What’s best for the child?” It’s time to recognize that each student comes to us with a variety of needs and skills. We must work to provide for those needs, regardless of their intellectual ability. We must provide the best learning situations that will bring out the best in each student. It could mean putting a 9 year old with a 12 year old based on his/her intellectual skill or putting the 12 year old with the 9 year old but always putting them with a highly skilled teacher.

I hope I have encouraged you to order or cook up a good steak tonight and mull over how you can advocate for our gifted learners. If not you, then who?

Education Gifted Education

My Most Moderately Gifted Royal Daughter (my new nickname for her BTW) sent me the notes from a talk she attended at UNESCO in Paris on Nov 4. She states (and I agree) “I think it’s good for teachers in the US to be in the know about how US education is viewed on the international scene…..” How many teachers in our nation even think of themselves as a necessary link in our society beyond our country’s borders? We must think about how our students will function in the world rather than in our backyard. We need to ask the question daily: What do we need to do to today prepare our students for 2030 and beyond? Simple things like deciding that an elementary student can miss a day of school to participate in a region-wide chess tournament or providing the technical tools necessary to connect a classroom to one on the other side of the world.

Here are the notes from the talk. There is a link to the entire speech at the end of this post.

The Vision of Education Reform in the United States of America
with Mr. Getachew Engida, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO
Mr. Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Mr. Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Education
on Thursday, 4 November 2010, 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m.


“Teachers are unsung heroes…Teachers are underpaid, and great teachers are immensely underpaid.”

“What can the U.S. learn from other nations?”

“States have become ‘compliance factories’ to federal-level educational initiatives. It is time to give them a more creative role again.”

“The best way to build consensus is to get teachers’ opinions on reform.”

“Expanding educational attainment and achievements around the world together is the only way forward.” -Secretary Duncan

Mr. Duncan was introduced at the start of the program. He is currently U.S. Secretary of Education under the Obama administration. He has held numerous posts including as superintendant of Chicago public schools, and has also played professional basketball (he was also team captain of the Harvard basketball team).

The presentation was organized to shed light on the following question: How can we provide the same opportunities to those living in economic disadvantaged or isolated areas in the U.S.? This is essential for maximizing education’s role in sustainable development. The U.S. education system, especially at the university level, is a major role model for other nations. However, there are numerous problems, at local, national and international levels, that need to be addressed through reform. A few numbers to shed light on these challenges:

The current drop out rate is around 25% in 2009 for K-12 → Crime
Over 90% of incarcerated individuals are high school drop outs → Wasted potential
The percentage of American adults who are college graduates is only around 42% → U.S. ranked only 9th in the world
Around half of Ph.D. students at U.S. universities are foreign-born, and a majority of them do not return home after graduation → Brain drain

The Secretary highlighted the U.S.’s role in rebuilding Haitian schools as well as those ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. He also spoke of the particular importance of girls’ education and integration into the work force for eliminating poverty and increasing human development in the U.S. Mr. Duncan also elaborated upon President Obama’s intentions for education reform. In addition to those mentioned above, they include:

Improving teacher evaluation and respect for teachers; enhancing their career trajectories;

Expanding high performance schools’ policies and practices to all schools;

To redress problems relating to financing higher education, including banks taking advantage of low-income university students who carry great debt upon graduation

Improving teacher evaluation and respect for teachers; enhancing their career trajectories;

Expanding high performance schools’ policies and practices to all schools;

To redress problems relating to financing higher education, including banks taking advantage of low-income university students who carry great debt upon graduation

Speaking more directly to the UNESCO audience, the Secretary’s modesty regarding the U.S.’s challenges and his openness to learn lessons from other nations’ education systems (especially from success stories in Singapore, Finland and South Korea) was well received by Member States.
Mr. Duncan highlighted a number of concerns about the status quo of education in the U.S. First, a cycle of failure can be seen in the lowest performing five percent of schools (around 2,000) which produce around half of the nation’s drop outs. Capacities must be expanded to in “drop out factories”. More should be done to reach out to minorities, especially in light of the fact that a large majority of drop outs are of Latino and African American origin.

The Secretary offered a number of solutions as he closed his presentation. First, children must be better engaged. This means providing for more extra curricular activities, a child-by-child approach, and increasing the number mentors/counsellors available to schoolchildren. Secondly, technology and media such as Skype and Facebook should be used to create cross-cultural dialogues between classrooms in the U.S. and foreign countries.

Resistance to implementing reform does not only come from teachers. Many obstacles are the fault of bureaucratic practices at higher levels as well as conflicting interests among parents, teachers, principals, and policy-makers. To garner support among teachers for implementing reform, Mr. Duncan stated that increasing teacher salaries is not enough. Teacher training and the career ladder/trajectories could be changed. Instead of having to wait until age 55 to finally earn a decent salary, why not create incentives for young teachers to perform with excellence—and then reward them with salary increases. More incentives like Teach for America could be explored to improve respect for the teaching career. Actively recruiting teachers from the top third of college graduates would elevate the profession and enhance its competitiveness.

More important, teachers should be given more of a voice in the reform debate. Currently, teacher ambassadors are called upon to provide input and critiques into national reform. This should be pursued and expanded to state and local levels.

During the Q&A session following Mr. Duncan’s speech, audience members were keen on finding more about how to prevent juvenile violence; what the Department of Education is doing to teach tolerance of cultural and socioeconomic diversity in the classroom; where more information about technology in education could be found; what his thoughts were on standardizing European universities; and what the U.S. was doing to alleviate the ‘brain drain’ problem.

Here is the full text of his speech.

Education International Gifted and Talented Educational Issues Random 'Munchings"

Some of you make think that this post is part of a master plan to get you to do something with those old photographs. Hardly. Actually, I try to read the magazine Shutterbug. I say, try, because it can get pretty technical. However, I just finished an article titled, “Prints are Precious: Or, in Praise of the Shoebox” (Shutterbug, June 2010) I’ve written before about photography. I really like some of the points that the author, Frances E Schultz has written so I wanted to share them with you.

“Going through the picture box. Real, original prints are a direct link with the past in a way that an electronic image can never be.” This is so true. This past summer we have the lovely opportunity to go through stacks of black and white photos taken as early as 1890 in an old house in Granville. This was a special experience and we thank Vincent and Germain for sharing their family photos with us.

“Old pictures are important – and the only thing that stands between new pictures and old pictures is time. Keep a new picture long enough, and it becomes an old picture. Never mind a life measured in teaspoons. For the last 120 years or more, our lives have been measured in photographs.” Never is this more true than when I pull out our wedding album from 1982. The event was so real and vibrant to us then. Now, they are ‘old photographs.’ Still special, still full of meaning and memories.

“Pictures don’t need to be “good” to be precious.”

“But as long as the picture exists only on a hard drive, or a mobile phone chip, or in cyberspace, it doesn’t really exist. You can’t come across it when you are moving a house, or searching through a closet looking for something else. Yes, you might invite your great-niece or an aged parent or even an old friend’s child, to look through a CD but really, what does it mean? It’s just another picture on a screen, another picture in what Clive James called the haunted fish tank. Are you, or they, or anyone else, going to do a web search for it? Not often, if at all.”

“A picture, a print, a Precious Object, is different: it retains the power to bring tears to our eyes.”

Last quote from the article that I found most endearing is this:

“Print your pictures, and make plenty of copies, and remember what George Bernard Shaw said: the camera is like the codfish that lays a million eggs in order that one may survive, though I suspect that with photographs, the odds are quite a bit better than that. At least they are probably better with real, physical prints. With electronic images, it’s probably not even one in a billion. Take your chances.”

I say, print those precious photographs. Get them in a shoebox or even better, get them in an album that your great, great, great grandchild can one day pick up and flip through. Imagine them pointing to a photograph of you when you were in your 20’s and making comments like, “look at those funny glasses” or “I can’t believe they rode on things like that” or “who would ever eat that.” It their way (and our way) of linking us to our past. And that is precious!

Fun Stuff Random 'Munchings"

I take part in the #gtchat conversations on Twitter as often as I can. Deborah Mersino at Ingeniosus is doing a wonderful job bringing up and orchestrating topics that affect gifted children and their parents worldwide. It was here that I realized that gifted educators and parents of gifted children fight the same social, cultural and economic battles as we do here in Houston when it comes to advocating for quality gifted programs.

This week on #gtchat, we discussed 2E students (students who are identified as gifted learners & have other challenges such as ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, OCD & a myriad of others). One topic we discussed was administrators & teachers need information about 2E children and they need to hear about the personal experiences that parents have raising Twice-Exceptional (2E) children. Letters like this one shared by Denvelori can go a long way in building an understanding of the 2E child. As a teacher, I needed a letter like this the first year I had Dylan in my 4th grade gifted class.

Dylan, I and his mother worked through his issues as best we could (about 8 years ago) using the tools we had at hand (which were virtually non-existent). His mother was frustrated with the public education system’s ability to meet her child’s needs at the time. Now I understand why: teachers & administrators had little knowledge with educating a 2E child. If I was armed with the recent 2E research and a personal letter about how Dylan operates it would have boosted my ability to relate to his outbursts and his intense focus on a topic we discussed 30 minutes ago. I would have more patience with him each time he forgot his lunchbox in the cafeteria and included activities to encourage him to use his strengths to remember it next time. (Thank you Katie!) One thing we did have success with was a discreet sign between him and I for when he was talking too loudly. Dylan taught me much more than he will ever know.

I hope this entry & letter above encourages you to be upbeat and positive when you meet or communicate with your child’s teacher and administrators. Provide them with as much appropriate information as they will take in and be understanding about the demands on their time. Be insistent but friendly. Work towards building understanding that 2E children are intelligent and sensitive individuals struggling to meet your expectations.

Here are some suggested sources for more information on 2E children provided by @cybraryman1 on 2E children (scroll down towards the bottom right) and @Leslinks from Ireland in her recent entry.

Gifted Education

I was recently asked by a Twitter pal @Incipi if I had a recommended book list for gifted issues. I don’t yet but that could be another good summer professional project. Meanwhile, visit SENG’s website or Hoagie’s Gifted for for some great recommendations.

Right now, I’m reading Social-Emotional Curriculum with Gifted & Talented Students by VanTassel-Baska, Cross & Olenchak. I was sitting next to my daughter on the plane back from Washington DC when I came across some questions in the book (pg. 177) that I thought I would ask her. She was in a gifted program from 1st grade through 12th grade (now 23 yrs old and beginning her career).

1)Why am I in the gifted program?
2)What do I hope the program can do for me?
3)What do I hope to achieve in the program?
4)What would I have to do to attain my goals?
5)What are some possible problems I may face in the program?
6)What perceptions do people have of me as a student who is gifted?

I have asked my 2nd grade gifted students the first question this past school year. Their answer was the same as Amber’s: “because I took a test.” This answer indicates that the educators and parents haven’t addressed the child’s learning differences in the classroom and it is also the beginning of the elitism issue that gifted programs struggle with.

Because of the answer to the first question, the next three questions in the list had no substance or value so we skipped to questions 5 & 6 (which is quite sad). Because adults have ‘picked’ a student to take a test we’ve set up this idea that that one particular student is special somehow. When one is special there are no problems with being in the gifted program, right? This was not the answer I heard from Amber nor the answer I’ve heard from my students or other adults. Issues with bullying, ostracizing, additional work, mislead expectations, identity, etc, all begin to crop up. Let’s not forget the benefits of being in a gifted program: challenging & stimulating work, interesting discussions, academic opportunities, friendships with other like minded individuals, etc. How many parents and educators have you run into who understand that being identified gifted is not ‘all a bed of roses’? Many just know that being in a gifted program is the ultimate thing to do without really researching the program to see how it meets the needs of the child. This is why I truly respect those parents who ask questions about our program!

Ask any child who has been in a gifted program or has been identified as gifted and they will tell you just what other people think of them! Phrases like ‘you’re weird’, ‘smarty pants’, ‘you’re gifted, how come you don’t know that?’, ‘that’s easy for you, your gifted’ – they have heard them all. It takes a very mature child to accept those phrases and still be able to focus on the good experiences that being in a gifted program has to offer to them.

Bear with me a moment: An article recently swirling around in the #gtchat, #gifted on twitter has drawn attention: “The Pitfalls in Identifying a Gifted Child”. I took the time to read through the 40+ comments and drew this conclusion.

If we identify gifted children then we MUST support them.

Many of the issues and problems in the comments are a result of adults missing the purpose of a gifted program! The point is not one of elitism or status, it is one of meeting the needs of a child. Say, your child is reading & understanding the newspaper at seven years of age. Teaching them the sound of letters in the classroom is pointless and will result in behavior issues and social-emotional issues, period. Do you think this has not reality? Read
Raisin’ Brains. Additionally, I watched a 6 year old debate with a college professor who was discussing Pascal’s Triangle during a workshop at a gifted conference. Asking him to use manipulatives to understand how to add would be a waste of his time and your time! Most children are not this ‘gifted’ and need less differentiation at home and at school. These are extreme cases to make my point.

Teachers and educators: support these children (and their parents) wherever they are academically, understand the purpose of a gifted program, explain the program to all your students if this is necessary. You would do no less for every student in your classroom regardless of their ability!

Gifted Education

I’ve been thinking about my summer professional development projects since I recently visited Clif’sNotes. At the end of the every school year while I’m clearing off my desk, taking down my bulletin boards (and this year preparing to move to a new classroom), I think about the projects I could do over the summer to make the next year more successful and productive. This was my first year in the position as a GT Specialist in a public school district NW of Houston and because of this, I have plenty of good ideas. I’m keeping the list to only three so here they are:

Further develop a social-emotional curriculum for 1st – 4th graders. I know these students now; I know the environment of the school and can make this curriculum very specific to their needs.

Create a presentation on differentiation in the gifted classroom for the teachers at my school based on a book I picked up at the TAGT conference back in December. Goal: to make differentiation succinct and easy to implement in the classrooms at my school.

Create a curriculum loosely based on the problems presented in the Continental Math League program and couple them with appropriate math games. Goal: to keep kids excited about problem solving and give them lots of opportunities to practice before the math meets.

There are obstacles in the way to accomplishing these three goals. 1) I am doing an inordinate amount of travel this summer. I have four trips out of the state and one trip out of the country 2) enjoy social media online (Twitter & Facebook) that can easily eat up time 3) have no organized place to lay things out and keep them out while I work on them, however, this is easily solved if I set up the backroom. 4) And I’m moving my classroom. This is good and bad. Good: get to organize materials from previous GT Specialist into a usable format for me. Bad: because it takes time and energy.

I’m usually pretty good about accomplishing my goals when I write them down. I’m also counting on my Twitter PLN can help to hold me accountable. What are your professional goals for the summer? How can I help hold you accountable?

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings"