My Overall thought for today:
I feel that many gifted students feel they must have some mysterious knowledge of all things, because of how they tend to be neglected in the classroom.
I have been thinking and reflecting on my teaching and knowledge of gifted children. I was inspired to write this post after reading a great blog post from Celi Trepanier. Even after so many decades of advocates advocating for gifted children, and recently the proliferation of blogs and websites about gifted children and their needs some teachers and parents don’t get gifted education. I believe this is a three prong issue. Let me elaborate.
1st Prong: College Teacher preparation of Gifted Education
I don’t think pre-service teachers coming out of college today have a lot of knowledge, skill, or experience working with gifted children. Teachers may have some seminars on what gifted is and some characteristics, but I don’t feel that it is something that is taken seriously for regular education classroom teacher programs. I believe that every teacher coming out of college should be adequately trained on what gifted is, and how to identify gifted students, and how to service these students in the regular classroom. This may take the form of classroom experience focusing on gifted students, and providing appropriate lessons for them.
I am not saying that colleges are not preparing teachers to be successful in the classroom. What I am saying is unless you are specializing in gifted education you will have a very limited knwledge in gifted education.
2nd Prong: Current Regular Classroom Teachers, and Gifted Advocates
Current classroom teachers, for several years included myself, tend to focus on those students in the middle of the pack and those at the bottom. It seems to be my experience that not many teachers focus on extending lessons for those who are gifted. It is just assumed that since they are smart, and labeled gifted they have some mysterious knowledge of all things. Therefore, they don’t need to have direct instruction or extended instruction because they get the information so fast.
Gifted students need to stretched in the regular classroom. I know regular classroom teachers have several classes, and sometimes hundreds of students, so making separate lesson plans for 1% of your student body can be a hassle. It must be done. These students could be come more of a problem because of bordem. The worst ways for regular classroom teachers to keep these students engaged after they have completed all their work early is either by giving them more of the same work, or by making them the “student teacher.” Both of these options are horrible for gifted students. They don’t want more of the same boring work, and they don’t want to be in the role of a teacher. So don’t do that! Give them work that stretch their minds, and make them struggle a little bit.
I am not saying all teachers don’t stretch their gifted students. What I am saying is there needs to to be more of an expectation of stretching gifted students than there is now. I think with some of the new teacher evaluation guidelines this is something that may help gifted students.
Gifted Advocates and GISs need to be more aware of what their gifted students in their school are going through. Listen to their concerns. Give regular classroom teachers some feedback based on the discussions you have with your gifted students. Stay in contact with parents.
Gifted Advocates and GISs can do a few things to help foster an expectation of Gifted Learning. Here is a short list that may help:
- Send staff members ideas on extension projects based on the topics they are teaching in their regular classroom through email or short dialogue whenever possible
- Ask for a few minutes a month during staff meetings to demonstrate a differentiation strategy to help benefit the gifted students in your class
- Create a podcast, where you demonstrate those differentiation strategies that work best with the gifted students you are working with, or discuss some of the characteristics and identification processes of gifted childeren
- Create a website/blog of resources where regular education teachers can access your ideas
Don’t let your gifted students flounder in bordem because of your inaction or unwillingness to push regular education teachers and administrators in your building. Your gifted students need you, even if they don’t openly say it.
3rd Prong: Parents
This is a category that I know can touch some nerves. I am the teacher of gifted students, but I am the parent of 4 gifted children. Parents need to be educated about the needs of their children. Teachers need to listen. I know I have come across as “pushy”, “insistent”, or some other derogatory type words when dealing with teachers of my children. (As a side note, my children go to the same school district that my wife and I teach in.)
Parents need to be the biggest advocate their child has. For them to be an advocate they need to separate themselves from their children. What do I mean by that? Parents need to see that their children have educational needs that may or may not be met. By attacking teachers and school districts out of passion for their children isn’t always the best solution. Parents like that at times get labeled as rabble-rousers. What I suggest to parents is to have the personality of a lawyer or prosecutor. They need to be armed with facts, data, and evidence. They need to educate themselves on differentiation strategies, and if time and participate in tweetchats, or Facebook forums to have some of the most up to date information on issues and strategies dealing with gifted education. There are several places out in cyberspace to participate in MOOCs (Massive Open On-line Course) on the themes of gifted education. Those type of parents who bring their knowledge and data to the school will be labeled an advocate.
Overall, all three prongs need to work together. Leaving gifted students behind isn’t acceptable. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Gifted students don’t have a mysterious knowledge base.