Tag: learning

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

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

Recently, I was asked to prepare my educational philosophy for an application. The last time I wrote down my educational philosophy was during my undergraduate degree program. Since then, I’ve focused on the education of the gifted child and taught five years. Yep, things had changed; my knowledge and experience in the classroom required me to totally ditch what I had written around 1999. What I thought would be a small project became a several hour project. Now, here’s your challenge: When was the last time you thought about your educational philosophy?

MY EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY

I am thrilled to be a lifelong learner and this enthusiasm spills over into my classroom. Teachers who work with gifted students have an exciting job! My job as an elementary educator is to learn all I can, make sense of, and organize the information for all types of learners who enter my classroom. This requires me to be an independent thinker which is exactly what I want my students to become.

At the same time, I work to challenge my students to stretch those areas where they are weak and to explore new areas. In my mind, the education of the gifted student would not be complete without respecting their differences and striving to answer their questions. My classroom is ridicule-free. Each individual student is respected for who they are and how they think. I was, and still am, a different kind of learner who would have benefitted from this understanding so extending this respect to my students is second nature to me.

I believe that standards and benchmarks are only the starting point to learning for the gifted child. I believe that a student who is getting all A’s is not being challenged enough. Failure and success are important to learning: some failure is essential to developing resilience, drive and motivation to be successful, some successes are essential in building confidence and self esteem. I understand that peer pressure has a strong influence on learning, too. Students have often heard me say that they should NEVER hide or ignore who they are and what they know to get someone like them.

I encourage the use of differentiation methods such as compacting, layering, menus, simulations and various assessments to move my students past the society-prescribed learning into critical thinking, questioning, community-service, and leadership opportunities where their gifts can benefit the world around them. I remind my students of the quote, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Holy Bible (Luke 12:48) and spoken by JF Kennedy in 1967. I guide my students to know when to listen, when to accept and when to act.

I love to provide learning experiences that engage all the learner’s senses. I love to bring the outside world into my classroom with speakers, demonstrations and links to other cultures. I’ve hosted students from France and Germany and personally learned how important it is to share and value our differences and our similarities. Additionally, providing competitive outlets such as chess, academic, and problem-solving competitions are essential to learning.

As a lifelong learner, I encourage other adults to keep learning and questioning too. We need to continue learning in this ever-changing world. Recent discoveries, technology and the wide availability of information give us the tools we need to find our answers. In doing so, we are providing an excellent model for our children.

My desire is to value, encourage and advocate for those who have been given much academically. It is important for me to attend local seminars as well as webinars available online to expand my knowledge and skills in teaching the gifted child. I also utilize Twitter as a means to follow & share my experiences with other educators worldwide. Meetups such as the one I started in 2009 (which has met twice and I plan to extend over the summer and next school year) are ways that I’m working to bring parents & teachers together to build understanding for these unique learners. With our collective efforts, the gifted learner in every pocket of the world can be encouraged to reach their full potential. There is much work to do!

Gifted Education Random 'Munchings" Uncategorized

Shareski

The question came up during a twitter conversation I had with @shareski lately. Which started me thinking about this entry because it is also a question I get frequently in casual conversations with other educators, family and friends. What motivates someone to ask that question?

One theory I have is that my friends, family and co-workers are all looking for validation for their innovative or successful thinking from an ‘expert’ on giftedness. Perhaps they are also looking for some explanation of what it means for an individual to be gifted. We’ve all seen the prodigy children who can function many years ahead of their peers. These gifted individuals are very easy to pick out in a crowd: the nine year old who plays in the local symphony, the 5 year old who understands Pascal’s Triangle, etc. Prodigy children make up only 1% of the population, highly and moderately gifted children make up about 10% of the population. How do we know they are ‘gifted?

Identifying young gifted children (which is part of my job as an elementary gifted specialist) is difficult and there is no perfect or fool proof way to do this. This explains why every school district, every private school, every state has its own definition and requirements to be identified as gifted. This comes as a surprise to many parents and educators.

Let me diverge for a second: Word of caution: if you are a parent of an already identified gifted child who considering a move, be sure to research how this will affect your child’s educational services. If you are a new parent, please please, do your research first before announcing to your child that he/she is gifted. Know that gifted child requires different learning situations. Many parents are under the assumption that gifted means special treatment or elite position. It doesn’t. Many old-timers (parents and educators) in the field of gifted education will tell you it is not an easy road to choose for your child.

Back to the question, “Does this make me gifted.” I can’t make a snap judgment on that so don’t ask me. I would need to apply some of the same testing materials, collect a portfolio of your work, chat with those around you for examples of leadership, empathy, creative thinking, logical problem solving, critical thinking (the list goes on). Then, compile and discuss the results with others in the field. You and I both don’t have time to do that.

Did you do something you were quite proud of? Do you feel you are unique in some way in some field? Do others look to you for ideas? Did this come from original thinking (nature) or from years of training and understanding in the field (nurturing)? Further, can you be gifted at a specific moment or about a specific thing and not in another? (The answer is “yes” and if you need some real life examples of this let me know.) You just demonstrated some characteristics of giftedness.

It really doesn’t matter if you are identified as gifted by someone else or not. It doesn’t matter if you are an inventor that creates something that changes the world or you just did something quite clever. What does matter is that you get the education that fits your need. Why put a 4th grader who is fully capable doing 7th grade math in the same classroom as those learning 4th grade math? A program that builds itself around age-level peers and academic-level peers equally is ideal for our gifted learners.

To wrap this entry up, when you are grown, make it a point to use your skills and abilities to better the world around you. Thanks @shareski for the diversion and distraction and the spark to write this.

Gifted Education

I’m am fascinated with what children know and do in other countries. One incident left a lasting impression on me regarding two girls about 10-12 years old. Several of us jumped into the dingy to go ashore after anchoring for the evening in a beautiful little harbor south of Angra des Reis in Brazil. We went in to check out the bar and restaurant. My husband, Dave, and Diane decided to stay on the Empty Nest.

It is fairly common that the locals come out to each boat to drop off menus or offer to help. As our small group made our way back to the boat, we saw there was a small, wooden colorful canoe tied in front of the Empty Nest. Turns out there were two girls on board talking with Diane, who had the most linguistic skills with Portuguese out of all of us. It appeared to be an animated discussion. We arrived just as the girls were climbing into their canoe, which almost turned over, the bigger girl righting it quickly and expertly. They’ve done this before. Both started paddling on with no preamble or discussion to the next boat in their harbor.

Dave and Diane recounted their time on our boat with us. The girls (or their mothers) had made single strands of beads with a small handmade stuffed dolphin or star about every 3 inches and they were selling them to the visitors in their harbor. Diane said she tried to negotiate the price of their work but the girls wouldn’t budge. Dave told us that the girls were actually quite animated and fun to deal with. By the time they left, they had sold six of their creations at their set price.

Two strong messages came out of this exchange for me as a teacher: children are capable of much more than we think. These girls functioned in their environment with ease, no one telling them what to do, no testing to standards, no adult looking over their shoulder. The second message that I got from this exchange is how the girls stuck to their original objective. Even though both girls were probably illiterate, they knew what their work was worth. They were not willing to take any less for it but at the same time, they made the exchange friendly. Everyone was happy as the girls left for their next business deal.

Several times during our trip, we saw children selling things on the side of the road. Two memorable times were at a construction site on the road and in the historical neighborhood of Rio. One child was selling a local popcorn like snack, the other was selling beer to our open jeep tour stuck on the road because of a local parade. These children are doing what they have to do to survive. Many, many more around the world are doing the same. Our children sit in classrooms feasting on whatever the state says they must learn to be successful. Then they go home to feast on the internet, tv and music. We, as a culture, need to insure that our children can function expertly in whatever situation they find themselves in. Real-life situations and real-life problems are much more effective teachers than any worksheet or test.

Random 'Munchings"

All you educators will enjoy this site and its sense of humor.

Weapons of Math Destruction Comics

This comic has particular links to the state of gifted education in the US.

Imagine, you as an adult, sitting in a workshop where the instructor is slowing down the delivery of information to a snail’s pace so everyone can keep up. What do you do? Start flipping around in the book, draw, write notes to your neighbor, pull out your cell phone, go to the bathroom, etc. You have been taught over time just how far to go with your off-task behavior in a public situation.

Now, imagine you are ten years old!

It’s critical that we meet the needs of the identified gifted in our midst before they develop coping behaviors that have to be untaught later in their academic life. In my last position in a private school just for gifted, I needed more than half the school year to correct my students off-task behaviors before I could truly teach them. Alternatively, these students needed to trust that I would provide them with active, engaging learning situations. Both are a gradual processes.

This comic highlights that when we try to “level” the learning in the classroom, we loose our brightest minds. Our goal is to meet the academic and social needs every student under our care or offer alternative situations where they can receive help or acceleration. Leveling needs to take on the new meaning of “every student is learning to the level of their needs”.

Recently, I listened to Hillary Clinton during her nomination to be our next Secretary of State talk about everyone reaching their potential in our nation. Does she truly know what that means?

Gifted Education Uncategorized