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

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

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

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

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.

SPEAKER QUOTES AND PORTRAIT

“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).

MAIN DISCUSSION POINTS
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 OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S ENGAGEMENTS, PRIORITIES & CONCERNS
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.

PROPOSED ACTIONS
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.

Q&A: WHAT SPARKED UNESCO’S CURIOSITY?
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"