This school has the right idea! First Baptist Church of Lake City’s First Academy provides the structure and curriculum to students and parents just like any other school but is doing it in a different way. Providing choice. Savvy parents can use the school facilities or homeschool. Parents know what they want for their gifted children, most public school programs aren’t providing it. More and more, parents are looking into digital delivery of the content. Think of the advantages. Students learn at their own pace under the watchful eyes of a professional educator or the loving parent. The learning can happen at school or at home. Professional educators and administrators navigate the regulations and requirements for the parents. Schools need less in the way of actual classrooms. Are there other schools setting up a program with choice? I’d like to know about them.
Category: Gifted Education
After teaching a week of Camp Invention, catching up on errands and chores, and hosting our friends who are now on their way to Nigeria for a three year assignment, I have given myself the day to poke around the internet for interesting blogs and links. One such link comes from the InSuggest site which uses your Del.ici.ous username to assemble a list of sites that might be of interest. It was very simple to specify the tag you wanted to use to create a list. Using my ‘gifted’ tag, I found several sites I had seen before and a few new ones. The most useful ones had already been linked to this site on my Gifted Minds pages. One that I hadn’t seen before is the APA Center for Gifted Policy.
If you know much about Gifted Education, you are familiar with the issues surrounding NCLB and educating the gifted in today’s world. This site’s mission is to build awareness for gifted policies. I took the time to watch the Gifted Youth of 1939 World’s Fair video. located on the homepage. It is interesting to see how one man’s dream and ‘out of the box’ thinking provided opportunity and valuable learning experiences to about 30 students. The video is a good motivator for providing our educators resources to create this type of environment for our brightest students. Notable words I heard throughout the video were: “do, think ask” and “were willing to do the work.” Are we getting that message across to our children? The end of the video reveals the contribution that most of these students have given to our society. Enjoy!
I just checked the stats on my website through Google Analytics which I do periodically. One of the keyword search phrases that someone used to find information regarding gifted was, “how to make my child gifted”. Wow! That is one for the books! Just to clear the air on this one – you don’t make your child gifted after they’re born! You can expose them to lots of learning very early which many people do, but research wavers on whether this makes one smarter than their age peers or just stresses out the child.
There’s not much you can do except contribute your X’s and Y’s early on and do your best to nurture your child as they grow and develop. Without going into much detail (and knowingly without exact references), I’ve read/heard somewhere that researchers believe that the gifted brain is just wired differently. It functions more efficiently and it absorbs information at a faster rate. And it will develop if given the opportunity to.
Have you ever spent any time reading about the lives of gifted individuals who lived in the past? You will find that some came from highly affluent homes, some came from very poor settings. Some endured hardships such as child abuse, others were mentored and cared for every step of the way. The book Cradles of Eminence gives excellent examples of individuals from all walks of life. http://www.gt-cybersource.org/Record.aspx?NavID=2_0&rid=12825
I’m far from the expert on this topic but I’m pretty sure you can’t ‘make your child gifted’. Before you wish you could make them gifted, be sure to do your research on the down-sides of being gifted such as perfectionism, out of balance development(asynchronous), being under-challenged, boredom, feeling alone, just to name a few.
…..and that’s all I gotta say ’bout that…..
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* The following was an email that I sent to the co-worker at my school in regards to the video she sent me. After I wrote the email, I decided it would be a great entry for my blog. Enjoy!
Hi Mary Grace,
I wanted to let you know of the effect that the video you sent http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r43yCiKlbCo had on the children. I showed about the first 2-3 minutes of class to the students and said that I was ‘advertising for the Nat. Geo Bee. As I watched them watch the video, their faces were all smiles and they were visibly impressed. I got 4-6 more students to sign up for the Bee before the day was done.
The best thing, though, was the social/emotional talk we had after. Our discussion included points like these:
The little girl was gifted spatially, she was highly interested in the activity, she kept coming back for more and her parents let her have more.
We’re not all gifted at everything and that’s ok. Gifted kids are sometimes “out of balance”, really smart about some stuff and not so smart about others.
Even though she was very good at what she was doing, she still needed to wiggle and dance and receive encourage from others (and she still wore diapers). She was developmentally still a 2 year old.
We also noticed that the video was on a site whose name looked Swedish or Dutch so we decided that there must be lots of kids that are gifted that live around the world.
And, lastly, they were so lucky to be at a school that lets them be gifted and kids.
So, thanks for sending the video on! You just never know where stuff like that will go!
I am in the process of trying something that is really a cross between curriculums in my classroom of 8-ish to 10-ish year old students. Our school is performing the Walt Disney version of The Jungle Book for the school wide play so I thought this was a natural jumping off point to study the classic writer, Rudyard Kipling. I remembered teaching “Tiger, Tiger” and “Mowgli’s Brother” from the Junior Great Book series while teaching in Louisiana. After a bit of rummaging in the school’s library, I located the teacher’s guides for those two stories and two other stories from The Second Jungle Book., “Letting in the Jungle” and “The Spring Running.” You can easily do a search for online text versions and even audio versions of both books.
In my mind, this looked like a perfect opportunity to put literary circles together for my 12 intermediate students using the four stories. I set up four folders with directions on how to use post-its, the Directed Notes page, a few interpretive questions, a Kipling excerpt learning experience and a creative analysis activity. I used the assignment sheet format breaking down the learning experiences, roughly, into the Bloom’s Taxonomy levels. In the usual layered assignment that I’ve done in the past, I gave the students more choices in each layer but this time, I had an ulterior motive: a grand timeline combining events all four stories together.
The students first response to my question of, “Have you ever done literary circles?” found that most were not sure what those were or if they had participated in one. After our short discussion, it appears that some had experienced a similar set up, somewhere in their past. The students in each group were chosen based on several factors 1) experience with interpretating text, 2) reading comprehension skill level 3) leadership skills 4) interest level and lastly, who was present in class that day.
The students started reading or re-reading their text looking for information to support their directed notes last Thursday. I expected a novelty response on using the post-it notes, so I cut up as many as they requested. Amazingly, one group used more notes than any other (and it was not the group that I expected.)
We are at the point where the students are ready to move to the interpretative question and exploring Kipling as a writer learning experience. (I will write down the name of the book where I obtained the activity the next time I am at school.) The students continue to be interested in the unit, which may be a direct result of the play coming down to the last week of practice before going on stage. As you can imagine, the students are making comments like, “Why did Disney write out Akela and what about Shere Khan’s lame paw and why Bagheera supports and teaches Mowgli.” They are paying careful attention to detail!
I will let you know how the unit progress. I know there will be pitfalls, gaps, strong characteristics, appealing or non-interesting learning experiences. It will be interesting to see what works well and what doesn’t.
I just read through Prufrock Press’s monthly e-newsletter. One headline addressed the affects of NCLB on the gifted student. “The law is causing many concerned parents [of gifted children] to abandon public schools … These parents are fleeing public schools not only because, as documented by a recent University of Chicago study, the act pushes teachers to ignore high-ability students through its exclusive focus on bringing students to minimum proficiency. Worse than this benign neglect, No Child forces a fundamental educational approach so inappropriate for high-ability students that it destroys their interest in learning, as school becomes an endless chain of basic lessons aimed at low-performing students.”
As I scanned through the abstract, it reminded me of a discussion I had with Dr. Palka who taught all but one of my gifted courses required for my option in Gifted Education. Our discussion took place probably 6-7 years ago. She talked about how NCLB was going to deeply affect the gifted children in the nation. She explained how the money that was set aside for educating the gifted child would be re allocated to the low and middle learners. She had been a gifted teacher for a number of years, then a director at the state level in Ohio for their gifted program before coming to SLU. I figured she knew what she was talking about.
Well, she was right. It took a few years for the effects to ‘sink’ in. The effects are printed in this study and many other articles include the recent one in Newsweek that I have already written a blog about. The effects are felt in the discussions I have with parents, educators and supporters (online and in real life).
Time marches on, parents still look for the best place to educate their child (gifted or not). Decisions related to NCLB made 6-7 years ago will still ripple through our society for years. Remember when President Kennedy wanted the US to lead the way in Science? Those students who benefited from his objectives are now today’s parents. They are acting. They are searching for the best possible place/way to educate their child. Duh!
Interesting, isn’t it?
I once heard the analogy that visiting a classroom for a day is like looking at the tip of an ice burg just above the surface of water. I feel like have now broken the surface of the water and am peering down below in the clear blue water. I’m seeing just how much I have to learn about teaching such a wide range of individuals. The challenge now becomes one of providing quality educational experiences for at least four different levels of learners. It is a daunting challenge for a fifth year teacher and an ominous challenge for anyone without education training or background; one that should not be undertaken alone.
Luckily, there is research being done on a continual basis in the field of gifted education. Also helpful are the links to resources online, information available at public libraries and bookstores and other experienced educators. I was speaking to a parent of a profoundly gifted student the other day when I reiterated something I experience while working and living in Louisiana. Changes are not made by one individual alone. Many must group to together, all using the resources and research available to create the best environment to educate our children. Not only does this benefit the gifted, but it should also benefit ALL children. It has happened and it can happen again.
The Davidson Institute provides a monthly email highlighting what’s being done now in gifted education. The last email provided links to the gifted and talented programs in two states: Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Apparently, the Davidson Institute has found that only these two states mandate the IEP as a vehicle to provide appropriate education for the gifted child. Pennsylvania boosts a 50 year involvement in the field, and from my own experience, Louisiana has at least a 25 year involvement. The use of the Gifted IEP provides an open communication for the school and parent to meet and discuss how best to meet the needs of the child. The best educational environment is chosen for the student from what is available in the system. In the area that I taught, north of New Orleans, those choices ranged from Inclusion, Resources, Enrichment, and Self Contained.
So my blog entry went from the classroom to the gifted education in the United States. Are we just breaking the surface on this important part of educating a child? Are we ignoring the good that some states are doing because we think our ‘process’ is better? Are we actually looking at the ice burg below the surface or the distorted reflection of the burg through the surface of the water? Are we taking an honest look at how best to meet the needs of these unique children? We have to be honest with ourselves and realize how daunting the challenge is and continue to use all the resources available.
The Davidson Institute Newsletter for October 2007 is available here:
It’s been a busy 3 weeks. I’ve set up a classroom, read through pages and pages of curriculum and designed a program for students who range between 8-13 years in age. Their abilities range wildly, too. All the differentiation research that I’ve done over the past year will come in handy.
It will be some time before my next weblog entry. I need to rethink the purpose of it. Meanwhile, continue to check out the Gifted Education news and the educational sites that I will continue to add.
Most importantly, keep me posted on activities/programs designed for the gifted child in the Houston and surrounding area. These students are very deserving!
I have had many friends and acquaintances ask just what is meant by ‘gifted’ or ‘giftedness’. I’ve been impressed by the two blog entries done by Ms. Fisher through EdWeek. Her explanations are clear and precise. I hope you enjoy reading her entries. I want to quote her last post here in case you don’t have time to visit her web log. If you do have time, you can find her site by following this link: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/unwrapping_the_gifted/2007/08/its_a_learning_difference_3.html
Here is her latest post:
Posted: 22 Aug 2007 07:36 PM CDT
Wow… Thank you to everyone for such a great response to my first post on this blog (“My Yard is Gifted”). I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to get everyone talking about the issue of gifted education and – most importantly – the gifted kids in our classrooms and how to best meet their needs. While I already had many ideas for future posts before you all responded, I now have doubled my list just based on your comments/requests thus far. I shouldn’t have any trouble filling a year’s worth of blogging ;o)
In an ideal world, I would respond to each comment posted, but given that I have two jobs beyond this one and – hopefully – another life beyond “work,” it will not always be possible for me to do so. I will be able to cover many requests for information/ideas in future posts (for example: gifted programs on Indian Reservations, boredom, LD/Gifted, elitism, alternative schooling options for gifted kids, differentiation, etc.) So if you made a request (intentionally or unintentionally!) that I think many others would also be interested in reading and thinking about, stay tuned because I will do my best to get to those topics (and many others) this year.
But first, it’s pretty clear that I need to cover that loaded word “gifted!”
When it comes to “labeling” some kids as “gifted,” a variety of emotions, viewpoints, past baggage, interpretations, and misinterpretations get stirred up. Just reading everyone’s comments to my first post can give a pretty good picture of this variety. Having been in the field of gifted education for many years now, I’ve seen and heard it all. So, for the sake of clarifying just what I mean when I use that term here (and of course to get y’all thinking!), this post is dedicated to semantics.
The term “gifted” has been in use in the education field since Leta Hollingworth wrote “Gifted Children: Their Nature and Nurture” in 1926. Prior to that, it was a term used in a somewhat similar context by Francis Galton in 1869. Over the years, it has become the word we most commonly use to refer to those individuals who are, in some way, markedly different (advanced) in their abilities in a particular area. Maybe it’s not the best word to use (due to the misinterpretations and angst that come with it), but, like it or not, that is the term that has risen to the surface. Some schools do use alternative terms, like “highly capable,” “advanced,” “accelerated,” or “high ability” (among others). But really, even with those, the same issues still exist. (Some people object to “high ability,” for example, because they say it implies that other kids are “low ability.”) Whatever the term used is, we’re all referring to an individual with a rare set of abilities. [“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare] I don’t have any problems using the term “gifted” because of the context in which I (and most in my field) use it and think of it. Knowing that I’m venturing into potentially hostile territory, I hope to outline my thinking on the term here…
“Gifted” does not equal “special.” Yet that is how many people interpret and use the term. [i.e. “all kids are gifted”] Every child ever born (and not born) is special. Every child brought into our world has something special to offer the world. Even after billions and billions of people have stepped foot on Earth, we each remain unique from one another (amazing, isn’t it?!). Specialness is inherent in our humanness. Let’s marvel in and celebrate the specialness of every child and of each other. [Yes, I know “specialness” is not really word, but it fits what I mean and I like to invent words :o) ]
When I, and others, use the term “gifted,” we are not trying to imply that some children are more special than others are. We are not saying that “my students” or “my children” are “more special than yours.” They’re not more special. Everyone is special in his or her own way. All children are special.
But giftedness is not specialness.
And all children are not gifted. Beyond my specialness argument, perhaps this will help:
Are all children tall? Are all children short? Are all children hearing impaired? [thanks for the example, Jill Carroll] Are all children blind? Are all children athletic? Are all children musical? Are all children artistic? Are all children brown-eyed? Are all children ten-fingered?
Are all children marvelous? Are all children beautiful? Are all children amazing? Are all children special? Are all children inspiring? Are all children unique? Are all children full of potential and possibilities?
Yes. Of course!
The term “gifted” as used in the field of gifted education belongs in the same group as the terms in the first set of questions. We do not mean, intend, or use it in the context that would place it as belonging with the second group of questions.
Perhaps this underlies the misinterpretation that has haunted the word for all these years. Perhaps we in the field haven’t done a good enough job of clarifying to which group the word belongs.
“Gifted” belongs in the first set because it is the term used to acknowledge that there are some among us who are markedly different intellectually. Are there some among us who are significantly taller than the rest of us? Are there some among us who are significantly shorter than the rest of us? Are there some among us who are markedly more athletic, markedly more musical, markedly more artistic than the rest of us? We can relatively easily acknowledge that yes, there are. But when it comes to acknowledging that some among us are markedly different intellectually, we stammer and “well, but” and hedge. Because we’re still stuck on “special.” [There’s a great post here (“Failing Our Geniuses”) that talks about our struggle with egalitarianism and giftedness.]
Giftedness is a learning difference. “Gifted,” as used in the field of gifted education, does not mean “having a gift.” Rather, it means that there’s a significant learning difference present in that individual. Everyone has gifts – that something special we each can offer the world – but not everyone learns as a gifted child learns. [Those of you who are really into this will tell me that that’s technically what Galton meant – having a gift – and that giftedness is the presence of a gift, and I do see that point, but for the sake of those who are still stuck on special, can you see the distinction I’m trying to lay out for them? Thank you :o) ]
For those who need a specific example: All children can learn their multiplication tables. Most learn them around third grade and master them by 4th or 5th or 6th grade (hopefully!) But it is the gifted child, who at age 3 or 4 or 5, intuitively develops an understanding of multiples and “discovers” (or figures out) multiplication all on her own. All children can learn to read. Most learn their letters in Kindergarten and begin reading simple books in 1st grade, progressing from there. But it is the gifted child, who at age 3 or 4 or 5, somehow just begins reading without having ever really been “taught” how to do so.
(Disclaimer: Those examples do not apply to all gifted children all of the time! I use them here to help make my point.)
“Gifted” is the term we use to refer to those children whose learning is dramatically different. Yes, if you get right down to it, we all do learn a bit differently from each other, gifted or not (“learning styles,” if you will). But we’re talking here about the significant differences that set these kids apart. They can learn two (or more!) years’ worth of Math in one year. They can read as well as children eight years older than they are. They have built their own science laboratories in the basements of their homes. They use words most adults have to look up in the dictionary. They can spell words most adults have never even heard of! These kids are out there… possibly in your classroom… And they ARE different! The word we use to refer to them just happens to be “gifted.”
[Another side note for those of you who are really into this: I know “giftedness” is more complex than just being a learning difference. But stick with me! I can’t write the whole book in one post ;o) Hopefully, through the course of this year, the complexities will become more apparent for those who are coming here to learn them.]
A final note: I think it’s VERY important that we have this discussion with our kids, too… the gifted ones and the non-gifted ones. And certainly with all of the special ones ;o) As a matter of fact, I discuss this very issue with my students beginning when they are very young. [I tell them, “You know how some kids go to work with Mrs. Zupinsky? And other kids go to work with Mr. Holt? Well, those teachers know special ways to teach and help those kids because they learn differently. And it’s the same here. You learn differently (usually faster), and I know special ways to help and to challenge kids who learn like that.” (The discussion evolves as they get older).] They WANT to talk about this. “Why am I in here?” “What does gifted mean?” They sense the elitism [will cover that topic in more depth in a future post] that many seem to assign to the term “gifted”… this term that has been applied to them. The perspective outlined in this post is a refreshing one for them. It helps them to accept and explain themselves. It helps them to realize that “gifted” isn’t elitism or “more special,” it’s just a different way of learning, it’s just a piece of who they are.”
Here are some blogs containing viewpoints about the recent article about educating our gifted students. Please take the time to read through the comments at the end of the article as well and make some comments of your own on how you would suggest the system be ‘fixed’.
These are just two blogs that I have recently come across in my travels. If you know of more, please feel free to send their web address on to me.
I have a teaching job for the fall. I have one full week and a weekend to prepare to teach two classes totaling 27 students between the ages 7 and 13. Since it is at a school which serves the gifted population, the regular grading schematic doesn’t quite apply. I’m excited, yet fully aware of the amount of work I must do during the next week to prepare for their first day of school on Aug. 27, 2007. I appreciate the administration and board for thinking that I am ‘up to the task’ and a husband who is cheering me on. Here goes!
I have invited Zen to be a contributing writer to my Incitement 2007 – Young Writers’ Page. Zen is a homeschooled gifted 14 year old that comes to the site through a mailing list designed just for families who are homeschooling in the Houston area. Please take a moment to visit her first posting. I expect that she will be submitting creative writing in the near future.
If you are interested in ‘infusing your creative thoughts into the world’ and you are a young writer, email me at email@example.com about your intentions.
I enrolled my two children in a gifted program (daughter as a 1st grader, son as a 5th grader). As a parent, I saw their scores but had no information to compare it to. I just thought they were pretty smart. Then I received training as a gifted teacher when my daughter was in junior high and that’s where I learned that my own children were at the moderately gifted level. When I got a gifted teaching job, I reviewed all my students files to find that most of them were also at the moderately gifted level.
From my experience, I would imagine that most gifted programs in a public school situation are at that level. If my children tested higher, I would’ve never known as a parent. However, I was totally keyed into their social and emotional issues. Were they happy, were they making friends, did they want to go to school, etc., etc. Having gifted children is not all about academic challenge – raising well balanced, inquisitive, independent learners who can function in society is. Raising children who can rise above difficult circumstances, learn to adapt and use their experience to help others through difficult times is also important. If you haven’t had the chance to look at this website, please do: http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/cradles.htm Not every gifted individual throughout history had a perfect childhood! After I read the book, I gave myself breathing room to let my children struggle (some) without feeling guilty. Maybe it will do the same for you.
It’s common knowledge with those in the field of educating the gifted, that the No Child Left Behind laws have been a detriment to educating this unique population. NCLB is great at meeting the needs of those at, just below or just above the standards laid out but those very low or very high are ‘left behind’. I was glad to see that our researchers are looking into this perception to see if it can stand up under scrutiny. The short article has links to the actual 41 page study. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/NCLB-ActII/2007/07/bubble_kids_benefit.html
Gifted and High Achievers in the same ‘gifted’ classroom? My husband had a discussion today with a coworker. Most of his coworkers know that I’m a certified teacher with training in teaching gifted. Sometimes this brings up interesting discussions at his work. Today’s discussion was with a single mom who had been doing her research. She said the school officials wanted to put her daughter in a gifted class at the age of 7 or 8 years old but the daughter had not tested gifted – she was a ‘high achiever’.
What the coworker discovered was that high achieving students do quite well with the gifted student up to about grade 5. Then a wide gap in processing and thinking becomes noticeable to the students. The high achiever losses confidence at about this age for a number of reasons but to add the fact that ‘you used to be smart’ when compared to others in an ‘elite’ class can do some serious damage to a young person’s academic confidence. It becomes even more complex if the parent has talked up having their child in a gifted program.
My husband’s coworker really feels strongly that there should be classes for the high achievers but she felt that clumping them with the gifted may not be the answer. There are several school districts in the area that have adopted this strategy. Through my professional training, I was encouraged to locate and read research from both sides of an issue before making a decision regarding the education of any child. I would hope that these school districts have done their research.
I’m always impressed with parents who spend the time really digging through the complex issues of rearing a gifted child or any child for that matter. We all want to do our best for our children. I’ve listed several great sites on my “For Gifted Minds: Parents & Teachers” link to start researching the difference between a high achieving student (which the world truly needs) and the gifted child (which the world truly needs) and begin educating them appropriately.
Since I have been having such a hard time finding the ‘perfect’ job here in the Houston area, I’ve started to kick around the idea of going back to college for a Ph.D. in gifted education studies of some sort. I could begin to develop some ties with the academic area, strengthen and deepen my research skills and knowledge of the gifted and have a flexible schedule. The bad side would be the lack of any major income, tons of bookwork and some travel. Any suggestions, info about pursuing this level of degree. How much work would a Ph.D. be?
This entry is in response to Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented’s quest to support the gifted homeschooling parent. Thanks to Tracy Weinberg, Deputy Director of TAGT for asking what their organization could do to improve the academic situation of the gifted child in Texas.
“I have only been in the state of Texas and a member of the TAGT association for one year. So my suggestions come from that viewpoint.
First, I would find an accurate number of families who educated their gifted children in settings other than the public school systems. I would survey them to see the specific reasons (academically and socially) for their choice. I would also have them build the ideal educational environment (no limits on resources) for their child. This would force the parents to begin thinking about objectives or goals to meeting their child’s academic needs, rather than wallowing in the present lack of services.
I liked the commitment that Tempo stated in the last issue (Spring 2007) about providing a parent’s perspective in future publications. The article entitled, “A Parent’s Perspective….Enrichment Opportunities” is a good start but more articles that specifically address the issues that the gifted parent deals with are necessary. To find that out, you would need to survey those parents to see just what caused them to move their child out of the public school system. Specifically.
I like how you phrased “we need parents of gifted students to politely and persuasively demand….” That is so critical. In St. Tammany Parish were I raised my two gifted children then taught there for 3 years, parents played a critical role in improving the education for their gifted children. We volunteered in schools alongside our teachers and administrators to improve the environment for all children, not just our own gifted child. In the process, everyone benefited. The gifted program has been in existence for over 15 years, today it is strong but it must be protected from budget cuts on a constant basis.
Teachers are also critical to the process of change. Teachers of the gifted are extremely busy working to provide the best academic challenges for the unique population. If I were working full time, I wouldn’t have time to write this email….
I think the grand majority of Texas parents of the gifted just aren’t aware of the successful programs out there. When I came here I truly thought that all school districts provided the type of program that St. Tammany Parish did. Perhaps more case scenarios are necessary for both the parent and the principals.”
You would think that with a state as big as Texas, and a community as expansive as Houston and my ability to be dual located at any one time would give me a big enough net to find the perfect job — but it doesn’t. I’ve joined a number of listservs in and outside of Texas for both the gifted teacher and the homeschooling parent of the gifted child and have come to determine that if you have lived all your life in Texas you are quite happy with what they have to offer for your gifted child (maybe not entirely true for the profoundly gifted.) If you have experienced some of the other educational situations outside of the state, you’re not. My options are still quite limited. I have my application in for a GT Specialist with an ISD nearby, have interviewed for a gifted teaching position in a different ISD, and have substituted at a small private school designed to teach the gifted population that may or may not have a teaching position open in the fall. None of these situations come close to the all day, all subjects fully supported program for 4th-6th graders team taught with another qualified gifted teacher that I had in Louisiana in a public school. Last year about this time before our move, I warned my former principal about the bad news. She and the entire staff at the school would have to move to Houston. I said this in a jokingly and complimentary way. Little did I know…..
Last night, during a pretty busy storm, I got to thinking about what the ideal gifted school would look like. I’m sure there are schools out there that do some or all of this or have found that one or two of the ideas just simply don’t work in real life. In any case, these are just my ‘mind munchings’ on the matter (in no particular order).
- Students would work 1/2 of the time on academic issue related to standardized testing, the other 1/2 of the time on topics, projects, research that interested them.
- Teachers would work in the area of their speciality or passion and not be asked to teach anything else, i.e. a teacher highly interested and skilled with working with ADHD gifted children would do just that. A teacher with a passion for teaching Language Arts would do just that for any and all grade levels.
- Teachers are specially trained or knowledgeable about issues such as autism, Augbergers, profoundly gifted, ADHD, etc. Mechanisms are in place in the program that show that these special needs are being met or dealt with in the classroom curriculum and activity.
- Programs are divided by the type of gifted child. Example: the introverted, highly focused child versus the kinesthetically driven, constantly moving child, the overachiever or perfectionist, the dual exceptional child. Their teacher would be highly skilled on how to motivate that particular type of gifted student.
- Active informational programs for the parents in active programs dealing with the issues their particular child has or is experiencing at the time.
- A smooth integration of new gifted students to the program. Pair up the child with a buddy, provide a place for the student to ‘digest’ his or her new surroundings. Scaffold the social experience until the child is comfortable in the new school situation.
- Provide an active place of learning and also provide a place for reflection and thinking. Encourage each student to do both during the day. Students need time to reflect on their learning. Also provide plenty of time for independent play or social play to explore new found knowledge or extend social skills.
- Portfolios for each student. A culminating portfolio of all the students best work over the course of the time they are attending the school. Student projects, assignments, tests, writings plus scores on various standardized testing and a discussion on the student’s strengths and weaknesses from the teacher, parent and child point of view. Some of the folder can be confidential, some can be for student view. The portfolios would be documentation of the student progress and thinking.
- Field trips are sorted by topic, not by grade level. They are mapped out for the entire school year. Students are required to attend one field trip in related to each discipline: Math, Science, Fine Arts, Language Arts, History, Social Studies, then they are encouraged to attend as many field trips in their field of interest as financially possible. This approach would round the individual, yet encourage their passions. Make sure that each trip is fully described so the parent and student can choose the ones that best suit their interest and needs at the time. Interest drives their choice.
- Give the student more control over their own learning. Use brain based motivational ideas rather than extrinsic motivation to empower the student to move ahead in their learning. Allow for more choice within a set of guidelines.
- Have a way that students can show and share their products resulting from their own interests outside of the classroom. Encourage other students to view and discuss these products. Value the student work and creativity, share it with others.
- Provide interactive websites that are playful yet educational. Students need choices and guidance in choosing sites that have educational and play value.
- Provide a safe playground. Have students track incidents of accidents and what they can do to reduce those accidents. Extend this type of real-life learning to other areas of concern within the school environment. Teacher should bring into the classroom as much real-life learning as possible.
I have just watched the Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne on the Documentary Channel. http://www.thelegacyofrosinalhevinne.com/ If you ever have the chance to see this documentary, it is particulary good. The program is fantastic for teachers of the gifted. She taught some of the most gifted and talented individuals during her time at the Julliard School of Music. I’d like to tease you a few quotes from the program to entice you. I’ve italicized a response to each quote and how it might relate to teaching the gifted child.
“She can do so much for a student and get so much out of a student through inspiration.” Van Cliburn Inspiring a gifted student to do more is not easy. I have found that inspiration comes only after a solid, trusting relationship has been established. The student must respect your knowledge on the subject(s) that interested him or her. A teacher may want to become versed in technology for this reason. I won over a particulary difficult gifted student because I could teach him things about technology that he could use.
“She had an uncanny ability to suit the way she was teaching to what she thought the student would absorb and react to the best.” John Williams This is differentiation in its purest form. Thinking continuously about the needs, levels and abilities of each student was ongoing as I planned curriculum. I asked questions like, “How can I provide challenge for this child and/or for fundamental knowledge in another child within the same lesson? How can I keep this student interested and that student challenged but not so challenged that they grow disinterested or discouraged.”
“She was not a dictator, she was just so severe in the demand that the person really do the ‘completest’ (sic) development that was possible and in that demand, she was very specific.” James Levine Setting high expectations, moving the student to higher and higher levels, encouraging them to wrestle through difficulties….students need to fail at times because that is when their learning becomes personal and valuable. Many gifted students are very hard on themselves when they fail. They know they are smart, they have been told they are smart. It’s important that teachers of the gifted to assure the student that failing is as important as succeeding. In fact, more learning occurs after failing because alternatives and options surface. Masterful teachers know just when to ‘stage’ failure to elicit the most learning for their students.
“She used so many forms of psychology….sometimes it would stimulate you to make it work.” Van Cliburn Every teacher does this on a daily basis. Here Van Cliburn was relating an instance where Rosina told him that a piece was too difficult for him. He set out to prove her wrong. Motivating a gifted child requires he/she has numerous ways to encourage and motivate the gifted learner that are intrinsic in value. Extrinsic motivations will have limited usefulness and value as the gifted student moves through the grades.
“If you convince me your way is right I accept it, and I leave it alone, it is only when I think you don’t know what you want that I move in.” Rosina Lhevinne The gifted child just may have a new of different way to solve problems and are eager to share their insight to anyone standing nearby. Teachers of the average learner might misunderstand the motivation for the gifted child, who just can’t reign their excitement, as trying to take over the class or undermine the teacher’s ability or authority.
” ….beautiful balance between inputing into the student what you are and what the student can absorb …..” James Levine I’m reminded of this frequently. As teachers, we should remember that not everyone in the classroom will like our unit on lighthouses which we feel so passionate about or fall in love with the novel under study for the next six weeks. We have to strike the balance between who we are as teachers and who our students are.