Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top 5 Misconceptions about Gifted Students … and setting the record straight!

Many articles have been written about the misconceptions surrounding gifted students, but I want to address the top 5 which I feel are the most detrimental to the fulfillment of potential of gifted students.

#5 Gifted students don’t do the work they’re assigned. It’s a waste of my time to differentiate.

True. Gifted students often balk at work given them which they already mastered years before. Instead of using this as an excuse for not giving them meaningful and challenging work, consider first why this is happening. Expecting a gifted student to do something simply because an adult tells them to do it or because everyone else has to won’t work.  It simply won’t.

Consider this … a gifted child may learn to tell time before she even starts preschool. In kindergarten, she dutifully sits in class and listens to the teacher explain how to tell time. It’s fun. Her hand goes up every time the teacher asks, “What time does the clock say?”

Classroom Clock*

She’s proud of herself. Her classmates bestow praise on her. In first grade, she remains patient and answers questions when asked directly; but begins to notice her classmates whispering. In second grade, it’s no longer fun and she begins to wonder how many more times she’ll have to hear the explanation. She’s beginning to get annoyed with her classmates. Why can’t they get it and move on? Third grade brings with it exasperation and she notes the agitation in her teacher’s voice because she isn't paying attention. By fourth grade, she can no longer hide her boredom and begins to complain to her parents about why she has to go to school at all? And so it goes

Students are asked to do specific assignments in the expectation that they will learn from them. If they already know the material, of what value is it? For them, it becomes ‘busy work’; work without purpose. Gifted students need a good reason to do the work. As the years go by, it only gets worse.

#4 Gifted students are already where they should be.

Where might that be? Proficient? Advanced? Who is to say what is standard for the gifted student? How is intellectual growth measured for someone who has reached the ceiling on all the standardized tests they are given?

Kids go to school to learn or that’s what we tell them. But what if they aren't learning anything? And who cares? All children should end the school year at a point reflective of their time spent in the classroom showing real growth.

This is particularly difficult in the test-driven climate that prevails in so many schools today. More emphasis is mistakenly placed on closing the achievement gap rather than realizing the inherent problems of ignoring the excellence gap. In fact, most educators do not distinguish between the two.

Image courtesy of Pixabay 

It only takes a cursory view of international assessments to realize that the present system simply isn't working for countries like the U.S. Fundamental changes must be made to how education in its most basic form is perceived by those who teach and those who determine policy. Ignoring the needs of students who are identified as gifted and those who should be identified but are not because of prejudicial attitudes about the very nature of giftedness is reflected in the mediocre performance on these assessments.

#3 Gifted students are the responsibility of the gifted teacher/specialist.

In the best case scenario where a gifted resource teacher even exists, how often do gifted students see them? Unless your school has a stand-alone program, this may happen only once a week or less at the elementary level. At the secondary level, it may never happen. So … on which day of the week are they gifted?

In schools where full inclusion is in place, this may even be a non-starter. Gifted children find themselves in classrooms with teachers who have never had any instruction or professional development in gifted education in their entire careers. Priority has been given to dual-certification with special education in most undergraduate programs today; programs totally devoid of any reference to the needs of gifted students.

#2 Teachers don’t have time to work with gifted students.

Dear Mrs. Conrad,

I have 23 other students in my class to worry about. I don’t have time to work individually with your child. His grades are fine. Why are you pushing him?

Your child’s 3rd grade teacher***

The day that email arrived in my inbox, I began to understand that things were not going to be fine. And sadly, I was right. My response was less than professional and not exactly how I would advise other parents today to respond … but I do know how frustrating it can get when your child’s teacher does not see that they have needs that aren't being met.

There is a difference between not ‘having’ the time and not ‘taking’ the time. When my child began to engage in attention-seeking behaviors, teachers and administrators suddenly found time to address the situation. Unfortunately, by then it was too late.

With the emergence of technological advances in the classroom and the ubiquitous availability of global perspectives and free professional development online, finding the time is much easier than it once was to meet the needs of gifted students.

Technological Advances**

#1 It is elitist to give gifted students opportunities that other students don’t get.

I worked in special education for 12 years. Never once did I hear complaints about our kids going on field trips or having extended computer time when the classroom teacher was overwhelmed by her regular education students. Not once. Not ever.

It is detrimental to the well-being of our children not  to provide opportunities for them to be mentally stretched whenever possible. It is widely recognized that the most effective education is an individualized one. The ‘elitist’ argument is only an excuse to deny students an appropriate education based on their needs.

Parenting gifted children is hard work! It requires you to know and understand the nuanced sentiments of educators who may not fully support your efforts to advocate for the best possible education for your child. Enabling conversation rather than stifling it will benefit your child. Being prepared with answers to the misconceptions that surround the nature of gifted students will be a step in the right direction.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

* Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
** Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
***Of course, not all teachers approach their jobs this way … but I did keep the email. So, no need to send me the ‘I can’t believe a teacher would say that’ comments.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gifted as a Global Experience

Global Experience*
“The emerging era is characterized by the collaboration innovation of many people working in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius.”  – Irving W. Berger, chairman, IBM**

Through the advent of social media, what once was a disparate group of national and regional organizations is now coalescing into a global gifted community connected by the desires and hopes of its leaders to press forward in advocacy for all gifted learners worldwide. In the process, it was realized that giftedness has no boundaries … its existence is universal and divergent at the same time. It crosses all socio-economic and ethnic lines; geographic borders; and ideological preconceptions.

Connecting Globally*

One of the most exciting developments of the 21st century has been our ability to communicate with others in our ‘tribe’ without respect to language barriers or time zones. This blog is read in over 100 countries thanks to a universal translator added at the suggestion of a friend in Vietnam. Thanks to the Internet it is available 24/7 with a connection via a computer or mobile device.

Opportunities to connect are not limited to online connections. Conferences afford members of the gifted community to on occasion join the conversation in real life via previous virtual interactions. It is an empowering experience to meet and interact with community members face to face after months and years of ‘knowing’ each other only online. Keynote addresses are always inspirational and session presentations provide a wealth of information on gifted children and gifted education.

Online Connections*

For those who may not have a nearby or readily available conference to attend, there are weekly chats on Twitter, virtual professional development sessions to build personal learning networks, Google Hangouts and webinars for parents, educators and academics. The idea of re-inventing the wheel and the feeling of isolation become distant memories in this new world of inter-connectedness. Networking has never been so accessible!

Want to know how to get started? Below I have included resources to provide you with a myriad of ways to connect to like-minded parents and educators around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the networks available to you.

In the U.S., there are several national and numerous state organizations which offer the benefits of membership and annual conferences. National conferences are available from:

 Some of the state conferences include:
(Check your state gifted organization for a conference in your area.)

Other national and international conferences include:

Do you represent or belong to an organization who values parent participation? Add your link in the comments below. Together we can further the global collaboration of the gifted community. 

* Photo courtesy: Pixabay 

** via Gifted Children Forum Malaysia 

This post is part of SENG's National Parenting Gifted Children Week.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dumbing Down America ~ An Interview with Dr. James Delisle

Dumbing Down America the War on Our Nation's Brightest Young Minds is the newest book from Dr. James R. Delisle. He recently agreed to an interview with us about the book. 

GPS: For our readers who are not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about your background in gifted education?

Dr. Delisle: I began my career in New Hampshire, as a teacher of children with intellectual and emotional disabilities way back in 1975.  Special Ed. was just emerging as the force that it is today, so it was exciting to be in on what was then a new trend in education.  My introduction to gifted children came in the form of one of my 5th graders who had been identified as "emotionally disturbed."  Try as I might to get Matt interested in schoolwork, nothing much seemed to work.  He was a bright kid--he could read, write, do math, etc.--but I was focused so much on his misbehaviors and apparent lack of interest that I never considered using his talents as a way to reach his mind and heart.  Finally, in total desperation and with my bag of educational tricks empty, I decided to stop fighting Matt and to toss the instructional ball into his court.  This kid loved the outdoors and was interested in maple sugar farming--a project that involved much of his free time outside of school--so that became the vehicle I used to reach this unreachable kid.

Maple Sugar Farming*

Within days of aligning Matt's out-of-school interests with my goals as his teacher, he began to progress, perform and take pride in his work. After two years of teaching Matt, and seeing his success when schoolwork aligned with his interests and intellect, I decided I needed to know more about teaching kids like him. So, I began a Ph.D. program in gifted child education, focusing on kids like Matt--gifted boys and girls who didn't do well in school because school didn't do well by them.  I've been in this field of study ever since, as a teacher, professor, counselor, author and dad.

Dr. Delisle with students

GPS: The use of a ‘war’ metaphor in the title of your new book seems to indicate you have very strong feelings on the subject. What inspired you to write this book at this time?

Dr. Delisle: The subtitle of my book is "The War on Our Nation's Brightest Young Minds (and What We Can Do to Fight Back)".  To be sure, those are strong words--intentionally strong, on my part.  Having worked in this field of study for 37 years, I've grown tired of the small steps and meager progress that we have made as a nation to serve our gifted children.  Gifted children have educational, intellectual and emotional needs that differ from other kids their age who are developing in more typical ways--but we ignore these needs.  If, as a nation, we really thought that gifted kids had special needs, then why haven't we included them in federal funding formulae as we do for kids with disabilities?  In 2013, the federal budget for children with disabilities was $12.9 billion.  For gifted kids?: a whopping $5 million.  If you assume that 3% of our nation's K-12 children are gifted, that comes to about 2.5 million gifted kids in America--which means they get $2 of federal money each to address their needs.  A Happy Meal costs more than that!  The use of the term "War" in my book's title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it's just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year. Indeed, it is a battle in local, state and federal educational venues to even get people to admit that gifted kids need opportunities to pursue learning at their own pace.  The budget cuts nationwide to gifted programs have been so dramatic in the past decade that it constitutes educational neglect.

"The use of the term "War" in my book's title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it's just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year."

GPS: The idea of ‘dumbing down’ has serious implications for society as a whole. What do you see as the consequences for America if this trend is not reversed?

Dr. Delisle: What happens if we don't stop dumbing down our educational options for gifted kids? We're seeing the results already: our nation's stature as an educational powerhouse is in shambles when compared to many of our international neighbors.  But more important than international test score comparisons is the personal cost paid by gifted kids who are told, in effect, that they don't need anything special to excel; that their enhanced abilities and insights are not worth our attention; that sitting in a class with kids of lesser abilities will tamp down the egos of gifted kids and make them more sympathetic to students who struggle to learn; that giftedness is a myth because "everyone is gifted in some way."  The ridiculous bias against gifted kids in our nation's schools emanates from so-called educational visionaries whose sight is hampered by the gauzy lens of professional ignorance. By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful.

"By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful."

GPS: What responsibility does the gifted community (parents, educators, organizations) bear with regard to the state of gifted education today?

Dr. Delisle: What responsibility does the gifted community have in regard to the state of gifted child education today?  Part of the reason the field of gifted child education has not progressed much in 30 years is due to the infighting that occurs in this field of study.  While some people contend that gifted children should be identified and served in gifted programs, others find the "gifted" label off-putting and want to eliminate it completely.  Silly as it sounds, we can't even agree on a common definition of giftedness or how to identify it. Some want to equate giftedness with eminence and developed talents, while others desire a more holistic approach to giftedness that encompasses social and emotional elements, not just intellectual factors. And even if, by some miracle, we could arrive at a consensus of what giftedness is, we'd still argue as to how educational services should be delivered.  The state and national organizations that promote the needs of gifted children, and the professionals who write the books and espouse their theories, would do gifted kids a big favor if they could fight less and cooperate more.

Dr. Delisle

GPS: What do you propose to change course in this war on our nation’s brightest youth?

Dr. Delisle: So what do I advocate that we do to stop the dumbing down?  Here are some ideas worth considering: 

  • First, we need to provide the same legislative protection for gifted kids that we give to students with disabilities.  It should make common sense that if you are in either the top or bottom 3% of intellectual abilities compared to others your age, you will have some unique needs that demand more than the standard curriculum.                                                            
  • Second, we need to make a national financial commitment to gifted children that explores everything from effective measures of student identification to best practices in instruction, to longitudinal studies that show us what works and what doesn't. In my book, I elaborate extensively on how an outlay of $400 million over a five-year period could change the landscape for gifted children in America. This plan, developed by one of my personal heroes and one of our field's finest contributors, James J. Gallagher, would be a game changer for anyone concerned about addressing the needs of gifted kids.                      
  • A third suggestion I discuss is to take some of the absurd amount of money that we spend annually of high-stakes testing and use those funds for something that actually helps kids and teachers.  The billions of dollars and countless classroom hours spent on assessment are robbing all children, gifted or not, of precious resources that are more vital to learning.
In my book, I review other areas we need to address--for example, defining giftedness once and for all; re-establishing elementary-grade "pull-out" programs; and admitting that the promise of differentiated instruction as the primary plan for serving gifted children is an ineffective, cheap way out for schools to pay lip service to meeting gifted children's needs. Addressing these steps will not ensure a perfect world for America's gifted kids, but it'd be a fine start.  As I conclude in Dumbing Down America, saving gifted kids isn't our choice--it's our obligation.

Thank you, Dr. Delisle, for taking the time to do this interview. Dumbing Down America is available now from Amazon. Please check out the links below to Dr. Delisle's work in gifted education.

(Note: This post was cross-posted on the Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT Blog.)

Books by Dr. James R. Delisle:

Parenting Gifted Kids

(with Robert Schultz)

(with  Judy Galbraith)

A full list may be found here.

Videos with Dr. James R. Delisle:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Enriching Your Gifted Child’s Life by Building Memories

Much of the discussion surrounding gifted parenting often revolves around education but even for the gifted child there is a world of opportunity beyond the classroom walls. Building memories through shared experiences can be the most enriching and rewarding part of your child’s life and an undeniable boost to meeting their social and emotional needs.

Summertime and holidays are the perfect time to build memories with your child … exploring their passions, experiencing nature, spending quality time discovering each other beyond the day-to-day routines of school days and enjoying life together.

Dr. Dan Peters

In a recent article, Dr. Dan Peters, co-author of RaisingCreative Kids, reminds us:
Remember, summer break is an opportunity for so many different experiences -- from creating and building, doing art, going on hikes, reading, exploring new places, taking classes, day and overnight camp, family adventures and more. While it is our job as parents to plan for your child's summer, it is also important to include them in the process. After all it is their summer. You might be surprised to learn what they have in mind.

One of the beauties of making memories is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money and mostly requires only time. Yes, time is a precious commodity these days but you will never regret spending it with your child. Memories come in all shapes and sizes. They may involve an epic adventure to a faraway land or a simple backyard picnic. The important part is planning it together!

Backyard Picnic Table*

Research has shown that as we age, we remember less and less of childhood memories; especially those of our earliest years. From What’s YourEarliest Memory? we learn:
“Young children tend to forget events more rapidly than adults because they lack the strong neural processes required to bring together all the pieces of information that go into a complex autobiographical memory.” 

One way of ensuring that memories are not forgotten is to take the time to record your experiences. For younger children, this can involve creating a story. This can be accomplished through the use of diaries, journals, blogging, photos and videos.

Jon Hamilton in an article for NPR, The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade suggests:
Another powerful determinant of whether an early memory sticks is whether a child fashions it into a good story, with a time and place and a coherent sequence of events, Peterson says." Those are the kinds of memories that are going to last," she says.
Hamilton goes on to write:
And it turns out parents play a big role in what a child remembers, Peterson says. Research shows that when a parent helps a child give shape and structure and context to a memory, it's less likely to fade away.

An effective way I found to create long-lasting memories with my children was in the kitchen learning to cook favorite family recipes. Not only did we enjoy our time together but they learned to make dishes that could be recreated throughout their lives.

Children in the Kitchen**

Memories become a remembrance of us when we are gone. I can’t think of a better legacy than to have built memories with my children that they will carry with them when I am no longer around. So do something special with your child and start building those memories today!

Special thanks to Gifted Homeschoolers Forum for including this post in their July Bloghop. To view more blogs in this month's tour, please click on the logo below!

* Photos courtesy of Pixabay (Public Domain)
** Photo courtesy of morgueFile (Public Domain)