Teaching Gifted children is the best job. Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges. Working in an urban school district teaching Gifted children can be a challenge. I know that different programs have different characteristics, and come in different forms. In my district, I teach in a pull out classroom once a week with grades 3-8. Most of my children are gifted in creative thinking.
For several years, my numbers have been pretty strong. That’s not the case this year. Most of my students are in 3rd or 4th grade before they move into the middle schools (we have 3, and I teach at only 1 middle school). This year my middle school numbers have dropped significantly. I have to assume this drop in attendance to these factors:
1. My students don’t want to miss several periods of class, because they will have to make the work up later.
2. My students don’t want to be labeled.
3. Some students have told me that it isn’t cool to be too smart.
4. My students don’t want to be singled out to leave their class to be pulled into another.
So the question that I have posed myself, and to others is this: How do I keep Gifted Children in my Program? After some conversations with others I came up with a few suggestions that I am implementing in my Program.
1. Make it exciting and challenging: One of the things that I have been working on is choosing activities and units that are exciting. They create an atmosphere of unexpectedness. When my students come to my class they look forward to something that is new and something that they don’t get in their regular classroom. I try to challenge my students in a different ways so that they have their needs met. I try to choose units that are difficult, but manageable. I take in consideration of their skill level and try to push them beyond it. The units that I choose are integrated with different subjects and activities, and with some technology.
2. Make the program something the students can’t wait to get to: I know that I have chosen the right units when my students can’t wait to come back to class. I try to do small group activities, some hands-on activities, and individual activities to meet the needs of the learning styles of students. When you are teaching to their learning styles they get excited about the topic we are studying, because they are understanding it.
3. Give your program an image that Regular Education Teachers can see as a viable learning situation: One thing that I struggle with is to show the teaching staff that I don’t just play around and do some interesting activities. I am teaching my students new skills, and challenging them in a different way, to meet their intellectual and creative needs. When that’s happening, you are going to have a great experience with education. It just comes out. That’s been an experience of mine. So I have been trying to show off some of the projects that my students have done. I also invite staff to come in and talk to the students (in the elementary they are bussed to me in one building), so they can see and hear first hand wht my students are doing.
4. Connect with Parents, Staff, and students effectively: This year I began to start a website and a blog that I can use to help me communicate with parents. I know that not all parents in my urban district don’t have access to a computer, so I send home paper notes to those students so they can still be informed. I also have an email base that I started with all of my parents who have email and update them with that when needed. Parents are an important part of a successful program.
I think that there are many different things that can help students succeed, and stay in Gifted Programs. Look at your program, and see where you can improve it. I hope that you are keeping students in your class, because if you are you are definitely doing something right.