Category Archives: Conference

Working with Parents to Improve High Ability Students’ Education


This week my school system is having their Annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences. I feel this Spring Conference is just as important as our Fall Conferences are, but the parent turn out is noticeably lower than in the Fall. I was reminded over the weekend that Parent Teacher Conferences shouldn’t be the only time in which both parties work together to help improve the education of their children, particularly in middle school.

Middle School can be a tough transition for many students. In the elementary classes students are given their foundations, and middle school build on that foundation. In the middle school, students learn some independence and choice. Students can choose from sports, clubs, and after school activities that interest them.

When it comes to high ability learners, we have to be keenly aware that they are in the right classroom level that matches their ability. I found a joint statement that NAGC and NMSA (National Middle School Association) wrote in order to challenge schools, parents, and councilors to make sure they are meeting the needs of these learners.

To ensure that high ability learners are getting their needs met we have to look at creative ways to met them. Here are a couple examples of accommodations:

  • Long Distance Learning: If a high ability learner needs to take high school / college classes in middle school this is a great way to solve that.
  • On-Line Classes: If you high school or district offers online classes for high school credit. High ability learners would benefit from this.
  • Subject / Grade Acceleration: Moving a high ability learner a whole grade or just in a subject.
  • Independent Studies: Allowing a high ability learner to learn a subject on their on at their own pace is a great way to met the need to challenge students. (MOOCs are great for this since they are usually sponsored by a college.)
  • Participating in School and/or community based clubs: Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Chess Clubs, Spelling and Geography Bees, Astronomy Clubs,and such: Allowing high ability learners to take part in programs listed above is a great way to met the needs of high ability learners.

All of the accommodations  listed above that would be effective and successful will only happen when parents, teachers, administrators, and councilors work together to make high ability learners challenged during school and after school. In middle school specifically, several of the accommodations listed above would work much easier the more parents and teachers talk and discuss the needs of their children.

In your middle school, what are some accommodations you have seen that have been successful? Share those in the comment sections below.


Why it is Important to go to Professional Conferences

I love going to conferences. I love presenting at conferences. If you are like me these days away from the classroom, and being able to meet new people and hear some new topics is invigorating.  Getting the chance to connect with other teachers in my field doesn’t happen very often. So I try to take advantage of it when I go to a conference with other Gifted Education teachers, advocates, and parents.

It is important to go to conferences for several reasons.

  1. To connect with other educators: Sometimes it feels like you may be along. I know for me, I am the only one doing gifted education in my school. So I don’t always get the chance to connect, and share ideas with, or collaborating with.
  2. To hear new information: Many times at conferences there are those who work with state agencies, or with high level administrators at school districts and counties. Thy will share some new information that may have a direct impact on what you do.  So hearing that information and getting the chance to ask the person who is in the know is very helpful.
  3. To buy new products: I like to talk to the venders that go to conferences. They have some great stuff. Look through their booths and buy some new materials that will benefit your students.
  4. To get some teaching ideas: I like to get new teaching ideas, curriculum ideas, and instructional strategies to help me in my classroom. I try not to do the same thing year after year. So going to conferences I can get those new ideas.

This year, I made it a point to do some of the following:

  1. Connect with as many educators as possible.
  2. Went to sessions that had the latest information
  3. Went to sessions that related to my students
  4. Looked for chances to collaborate with other teachers

Social Media has made a large conference much more manageable since many are using hashtags to communicate to its attendees. At this year’s OAGC Conference the hashtag #oagc2016 was in use. If you weren’t able to make the conference go on to Twitter and check out that hashtag. A lot of information was shared using it. I would also suggest you follow the people who posted to it. You may be able to go to a conference in the future and see that person.

Below are the two presentations I was part of. The first one is one I did with Heather Cachat about the #ohiogtchat. The second one is one I did with the the OAGC Teacher Division Committee. Check them out, and let me know what you think.

To see other presentations I have done click the “Talking Points tab above.

What conferences are you planning to go to this year? What are some goals that you are setting as you attend?


Get Informed and Make a Difference

getconnected_header_724x420_2014I was talking to a few of the pre-service teachers doing some student teaching in my building about Education, and what is Gifted Education. From those few conversations I began to reflect on what should Gifted Educators do to help them, not only survive in the classroom but thrive.

  1. Classes, Webinars, and MOOCs: I would encourage teachers who teach gifted children take a few classes about Gifted Education. Even if you are a Regular Education teacher take a few classes. We all need the Credit Education Units (CEU’s) anyway to renew our certificates. There is a lot that can be gained from a class or two to give you a different perspective on gifted children and Gifted Education as a whole. If you don’t have time to do a class, there are webinars sponsored by NAGC, CEC, or SENG that can help you gain a better understanding of gifted education. Some universities off some MOOCs on Gifted Education and topics that are related to classroom management, gifted behaviors and characteristics.
  2. Use Social Media: There are a lot of people on social media that are associated with Gifted Education. Get into a Professional Learning Community (PLN), or start one yourself. Look to others for support, innovation, ideas, and information on classes, webinars, and MOOCs. Join a chat like #gtchat or #ohiogtchat to see what is going on in Gifted Education, and how you can contribute to spreading the need for Gifted Education.
  3.  Read Blogs and Watch Vlogs: To see what is going on with Gifted Education read blogs, and watch Vlogs (video blogs) . Both are a great source of help.
  4. Create a Parent / Educator Group: If you are able join a parent and educator group in your school district or in your community for support. Being a GIS can be a lonely place when you are the only one or one a few that service a large school district. If there isn’t one in your community or school district, then get with some like-minded people and start one.  Start small with chats over coffee, then add some others who mind like to join.
  5. Conferences: There are many different conferences that are offered in the Gifted Field. There are conferences for NAGC, OAGC, (and many other state conferences), SENG, and CEC. Going there will allow you meet other in the field, give you plenty of resources that will help you in the classroom.

Everyone wants to make a difference in the children they teach. They also want to make a mark in the field they teach. Being connected is a great way to do that. If you run into a teacher who is new to Gifted Education help them get connected. That way they can be informed and make a difference.


OAGC Parent Day 2015

Parent Day 2015The OAGC Parent Day 2015 is Oct. 11. I hope that you can make it. Here is a few things about the day.

  • First is the Division meeting–ALL parents welcome!
  • Stephanie Tolan will be the bulk of the afternoon. She will keynote and then we have a Q&A with her. She has been a past Keynote speaker at NAGC.
  • Then a parent/professional panel on how to be an advocate–from classroom level on up. The panel will be comprised of a professor from OU/parent, former Gifted Coordinator, Ann Sheldon (OAGC Director) and a parent or two. Angela Grimm will moderate.
  • The day will also feature one of the authors from the new Fordham book called Failing Our Brightest Kids, a look into how the US is doing too little to educate students to achieve at high levels.
A great jam-packed day and it only costs $5!!!
Parent Day is a great opportunity to network and learn from other families–and often the educational/game vendors have set up early so you can buy from them.

How many Watermelons will fill a Volkswagen?

Do you know how many watermelons it would take to fill a Volkswagen? How would you figure that out? What challenges would your students have to figure that out? How creative would your students need to be to figure that out? My students would ask why would you want to know.

While I was at Edcamp over the weekend, I participated in a session where the topic was “how do we get students to change their mindsets to take on challenges”,  and this was a very informative session. There were so many different types of teachers (high school, middle school, elementary) and each had their own view of what to do with their students when it came to challenges, and how to change their mindset to see challenges at positives not something that is a negative.

Many teachers discussed how their students face challenges. Somtimes its all about motivation when it comes to students and facing challenges. Most have students, like mine at times, who shut down when the challenges seemed to be too difficult. Most of the discussion centered on how teachers can be creative in ways they present challenges to students. Sometimes you just have to hide those challenges in a way that is presented in a fun way. Challenges has to have a real world skill application like those posed in project based learning projects. When students see some cross over from school to real life the lessons they learn from those challenges will more likely stick with them. The challenges that teachers face is creating those challenges to fit standards, and yet stretch our students to grow intellectually, and give them real life lessons.


Another session I went to that really stuck with me was “how to be creative in the world of restrictive education.” This one was very interesting to me for the fact that our school lives have aspects of things we can control and not control. We made a list of all of the things that keep us from being creative. Many we have control over; many we don’t.  (You can zoom in on the picture above to see the list.)

This conversation was very informative for me just because I found that I am not the only one who struggles to understand creativity. We had a debate about  creativity being something your are born with, or being born with the ability to be creative. We looked at creativity on the teacher side,and the student side. Some quoted from Carol Dweck’s book Mind set, which I haven’t read yet, but on Amazon, here is the book synopsis:

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea–the power of our mindset.

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals–personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

(The discussion of talent also created a debate. We talked about how talent and creativity aren’t necessarily the same thing, or exclusive of each other. We had to develop a working definition of not only creativity but also talent.)

We found that as teachers most of what we face everyday in some form can be influenced by us to either be a hinderance or a stepping stone. It’s all about mindset. No matter what you are faced with you will have to chose if it is an obstacle or stepping stone. Once you do that you will find you don’t have too many obstacles that will hinder your creativity.

One aspect we focused on was social media to help with getting over many of the aspects we listed on the white board. Some of the best resources teachers can use is Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook,and Instagram. I know personally and professionally, social media has given me many different ideas and resources to help me create my units for gifted students.

So to sum things up, what is hindering your creativity? What do you have influence on? What are those aspects that you don’t have influence on, but can make as an asset for your creativity? Remember, this kind of thinking isn’t that “sexy” or “edgy” retrospective thing, but it can change how you view things about your creativity, and that will benefit your students.

So go out there and fill that Volkswagen with watermelons.

My First Edcamp: Awesome!

This past weekend I had the chance to go to Edcampcolumbus (#edcampcbus). It was awesome. I came to the Edcamp not knowing what to really expect, but sometimes you have to try new things to grow as a teacher, professional, and as a continual student. I can tell you this…I will continue to find edcamps and attend, and I will bring as many of my colleagues with me as I can.  I learned so much from the discussions, and from the conversations I was having on twitter while the edcamp was going on. Edcamp Columbus   Just another site

I read a great blog about the Vibe  Jacki Prati got while she was EdcampColumbus this past weekend. I have to agree with her. The vibe you get while at Edcamp so much different than at a traditional conference. It starts off with everyone having a voice in the topics that will be chosen. It is suggested that if you don’t like the session you are in, then move to another. The phrase I heard more than once was be in control of your learning

There is a few things that made a huge impression on me.

1. The input of all participates to decide the sessions topics. When the big board was up,  participants were encouraged to add topics sessions that were interested in discussing. I have to tell you it was hard to choose. There were a lot of good choices, but I loved the sessions I chose.

2. The sessions I sat in on and participated in were fast moving. The participants in these sessions would bounce off each other. There was no real facilitator for most of the sessions, because of that no one know where the road of the session will go until we are finished.

3. I learned about so many resources and books. I found that I really need to add to my library when it comes to education. Here is just a few:

When I left Edcamp on Saturday, I had so many emotions, but Jacki said it best when she wrote in her blog:

when you’re there, you’re inspired, empowered and engaged in a way that doesn’t compare to “normal” PD.  It’s almost as if EdCamp is a mindset; a state of being in which you are free from “the system” as you know it and are able to envision education for what it’s really all about—STUDENTS!  What a concept!

If there is an edcamp near you, I would encourage you to go. It is like no other professional development you ever get. Here is a list that may help you find one. I hope that I see you there.

My First Edcamp

On Saturday March 1, 2014 I will be attending my first Edcamp. This Edcamp is in Columbus, Ohio. I have to tell you I am a bit on the excited side. I have never been to an Edcamp. I have tried to go a few times, but I haven’t been able to. So this time, I am really going.  I will post my experiences here when I get back from the Edcamp.

Edcamp Columbus   Just another site


I don’t know what to exactly anticipate with this camp. I have seen some people of twitter talking about their experiences. It all seems to be awesome. From tweets I have read teachers leave the Edcamp excited to get back in to the classroom with some of the new stuff they learned and implement it. I hope it is the same with me.

It also seems that just about every state has one, or more. If you are interested check out the links below.

So,why should you go to an Edcamp? Well, let me tell you why I am going.

  • To network with teachers from my state and from other states
  • To get new ideas for my classroom
  • Its FREE! Its on a Saturday! I don’t have to worry about school
  • To get new ideas on teaching
  • What technologies people are using in their classroom
  • For the experience

If you have a desire to check on out near you, do it. There really isn’t anything you can lose other than a good portion of a Saturday. Maybe I will see you there.