Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Who Should Teach Gifted Education?

Is it fair to ask regular education teachers to teach gifted education? The question is both simple and complicated at the same time. The variables are as great as the number of teachers teaching.
Let’s go with the simple answer first. No. No, it is not fair. It is not fair to the teacher and it is not fair to the gifted student.
In his recent article, “Do We Know How to Teach Highly Able Learners”, Peter DeWitt states, “I often wonder if highly able learners are snubbed because teachers are unclear on how to challenge them. Given high stakes testing woes, increased responsibilities and higher class sizes, some teachers are burned out and cannot meet the needs of most gifted learners. So instead of finding something new, they give more of the same.”

I don’t wonder at all. If you’re going to teach students who have been identified as {{insert applicable word of choice for ‘gifted’}}, then you should at the very least be certified to teach gifted education. Now, before those of you who are teachers grab your mouse to send me a “who do you think you are questioning the teaching profession” email or parents poised to give me a round of applause … step away from your computers and sit down in your seats.

Here’s a reality check for everyone involved … education isn’t what it used to be. It has lost its way. It has been standardized in a world filled with children who are anything but standard. Who among you would say that your child is like everyone else’s; run of the mill? When did we forget the difference between equality and equity? Whose potential must be realized and whose potential is pushed to the side?

So … who should teach your child? If your school started hiring its teachers from the general populace … people with non-education degrees or no degree at all … there would be an uproar from the public! Why then are highly-abled children expected to be taught by someone without any background in gifted education? Why should we expect a teacher who has been trained in elementary education to be differentiating for someone who may need instruction in calculus?

It’s not easy being a teacher today. It’s especially difficult to teach in a school district with shrinking budgets, no professional development, and a lack of technology. How many parents would like to be judged and potentially punished for whether or not their children succeed or fail in life? Most teachers I know are dedicated professionals, but there are not enough hours in a day to adequately meet the needs of every single child … even with technology … in a classroom spanning 6 or more years of ability.

There are many ways to achieve an equitable education for your gifted child. Look for schools that require gifted education certification and provide a program specific to gifted children. When this is not available, research alternative education opportunities; many of which I have already written about in this blog. Should your child find themselves in a ‘full inclusion’ classroom, share information with their teacher about instructional strategies for gifted children. My blog post on the topic can be found here.

Who should teach gifted education? Hopefully, this post has made you contemplate the options and inspired you to become pro-active in advocating for an appropriate and high quality education for your child.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gagné’s Promise … Potential and Achievement

Recently, I was privileged to hear Dr. Françoys Gagné give a presentation on his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent 2.0 (DMGT) in Second Life [see here]. Although I had read many papers by Professor Gagné, nothing could replace listening to him explain it in person (virtually) and answer questions from the audience.

With all the recent discussion of talent development in the U.S., the timing of this presentation could not have been better. I was immediately struck by the different approach taken by Gagné and understood why those in other countries did not understand the resistance to talent development in the U.S. by many leading gifted education professionals.

Gifted children … our children … are more than a product to be exploited. They have feelings and needs beyond their academic abilities. As a parent, this is often seen as more important than raising the next Nobel Laureate … although a Nobel Prize in the family would be nice.

The DMGT addresses both giftedness and talent as a whole package. Fancy that! It’s always nice to see academics get it right. It is not an either/or proposition. Giftedness is the possession of natural abilities – a promise of achievement when coupled with effort. Will all children who are identified as gifted achieve? No. Is it the end of the world? No. Could a child’s achievement change the course of history? Sure. As parents, it is our role to learn about and understand giftedness so you can support and nurture your child. It is in the end, however, your child’s decision whether or not to make the effort.

Professor Gagné developed a chart [shown above] to show the process that transforms giftedness into talent via catalysts ~ environmental, intrapersonal and developmental. His model includes the top 10% of learners among age peers – he casts a wider net than many of his colleagues. This is reflected in his definition of giftedness, “Giftedness is the possession of outstanding aptitudes (natural/untrained abilities) in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual among the top 10% of age peers.”

This model acknowledges the existence of ‘giftedness’ and ‘talent’ as aptitudes and competencies while defining three shared characteristics. As both are human abilities, they target those who are different from the norm, and that difference exists due to outstanding behaviors.

The DMGT covers many bases included in other models. It represents a child-friendly approach to understanding giftedness. The columns on the model are detailed and straight-forward. Gifted Education is a field of many different approaches and it is hoped that the reader will be helped to better understand them with information presented in this blog.

Being able to hear Gagné explain his model was priceless. If you would like to join me at the next Virtual Conference in Second Life, please take a moment to visit this website to find out how. Hope to see you there! 

Further Reading:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Raising Awareness - One Chat at a Time

It is with great pleasure to once again this year participate in New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. This spring, I took over the reins of Global #gtchat on Twitter and as I was pondering this decision, I was reminded of why I write and tweet … to raise awareness of the needs of gifted children and adults. My mind immediately came back to this very special week … a week when the global gifted community focuses on New Zealand and all the marvelous work you do on behalf of our community.

Global #gtchat on Twitter was the brainchild of Deborah Mersino and made its debut in January, 2010. For the next two years, chat served as a twice weekly meeting place for parents, teachers, and professionals involved in the gifted community.

In January of this year, Deborah announced that she had taken a position as a senior marketing director with ISTE; an international company supporting technology in education. It was an incredible opportunity to extend her influence in the realm of educating the next generation of 21st century learners.

After a two month hiatus, Global #gtchat returned to Twitter thanks to the generous support of the Texas Association for Gifted and Talented (TAGT); the largest state gifted association in the U.S. The TAGT staff is now providing technical support, a dedicated page on their website, an advisory panel to provide feedback to the moderator, a transcript of weekly chats and a poll for participants to decide weekly topics. TAGT embraced a simple philosophy when the organization assumed the lead role in facilitating the continuation of #gtchat ~ to provide a continuous source of open communication and collaboration for the entire gifted community without self-promotion.

Why is Global #gtchat on Twitter so important and why should you get involved? One … it’s easy to participate (instructions are available at ) and it doesn’t take a lot of technical expertise. Two … the rest of the gifted community listens to what is being said as evidenced by conversations on other social media platforms and blogs. Add in the fact that it is the fastest way to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network) and to find a community of like-minded individuals; and you’ve found the perfect tool for becoming a well-informed parent and teacher of gifted children.

Let me illustrate what #gtchat has meant to me and why I accepted the position of moderator. Over the 2 ½ years that I participated in chat under the leadership of Deborah Mersino, I developed an incredible PLN that spans the globe, made friends within the gifted community from parents to internationally known academics as well as leaders in gifted advocacy, and gained insights into the nature of giftedness previously unknown to me.

Professionally, I have gained more knowledge from engaging in Twitter chats and researching links made available during these chats than I ever did in a traditional classroom. Although a longtime advocate for gifted children locally, I saw my influence grow to help many other parents advocate for their own children. It was #gtchat that inspired me to start this blog where I could share what I had learned.

What will you find at the weekly chats (check here for your local time)? A wide range of topics, such as creativity, developing peer networks for your child, motivation, instructional strategies, differentiation, identification, critical thinking, perfectionism, gifted assessments, adult giftedness, and asynchronous development are discussed each week at 4AM & 11AM on Saturdays (Auckland/Wellington). Guest experts are invited to participate in chats; most recently from Gifted Homeschoolers Forum and GT Voice. If you are unable to attend, a weekly transcript of the chat is provided.  

None of this … none … would have been possible without my involvement in #gtchat. It has opened up a world of opportunities to share and learn that I would not have thought possible only a few short years ago. In today’s world, it is rare that an individual can make a difference; but, by becoming a part of a group of people with a single purpose ~ to advocate for the appropriate education and support of gifted children ~ to quote Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!”