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My Yard is Gifted

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Rather than begin my blog here at Teacher with the necessaries of who I am and what I'm all about (there's plenty of time for that later), I'd like instead to kick it off with a hopefully-thought-provoking analogy. Given that the anticipation of a new school year is energizing the coming weeks, my aim with this post is simply to generate some timely thought, reflection, discussion, and questions.

Teachers are among the most amazing people I know, and as responses to Jessica's recent "Why do teachers stay" post showed, we all teach for some rather inspiring, optimistic, and altruistic reasons. Teachers are talented, curious, hard working, and very caring. Because of that, I know you are up to the challenge I offer today.

Take a moment and ponder which of your current or former students come to mind as you read the next few paragraphs:

In March of each year, I marvel at my lawn. Unlike most other yards, it remains relatively green throughout the winter (when it is not snow-covered). When spring arrives, and without any prompting from me, it rapidly grows into a lush carpet. I don’t water it. I don’t weed it. I barely manage to mow it (we all know how hectic spring is for teachers!) Yet even lacking my help, my yard is amazingly gorgeous and healthy in springtime. As others struggle to green up their lawns in spring, mine (seemingly) needs no attention.

My yard is gifted. It’s the soil… My neighborhood used to be a dairy farm and my particular lot was a holding pen. The soil beneath my yard is pretty much well-aged manure. No wonder I don’t even have to try and yet still end up with a gorgeous lawn when the snow melts!

I take it for granted, though. As the summer heat comes and I jaunt off around the country to various conferences or to visit relatives, my yard still doesn’t get watered. It still doesn’t get weeded. It still barely gets mowed. And despite the fact that its soil is second-generation manure, the neglect now clearly shows. My lawn isn’t anywhere near what it could be. It DOES need attention; it does need the nurturing I often neglect to give it because I am otherwise occupied or because I think it will be okay without my help.

It is inevitable that we teachers, at one point or another, will have students in our classrooms who somehow ended up with great soil. Academically and intellectually, they often seem to blossom all on their own. They are “where they need to be” (or, more often than not, are well beyond) according to state standards for children their age. With – let’s admit it – sometimes very little effort on the teacher’s part, they learn everything they’re supposed to learn that year, or they already knew it before the year began. They are easily overlooked because it’s a safe bet that they will test as “Proficient,” while so many others are in the danger zone.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put forth every effort to help our struggling students. Of course we should! Part of the beauty of America is that we believe in the possibilities within everyone.

And I’m not saying that there are no teachers out there who do their best by the gifted students in their classrooms. There are many, many amazing teachers who do everything they can to challenge the highly capable kids in their charge. And there are many others who want to do what’s right by them, but are at a loss as to where to begin, or are overwhelmed by all of the need in their classrooms and the requirements of their jobs.

But, to generate thought and discussion, I ask: Generally speaking, do we (as a nation, as a profession) put forth every effort to stretch the students who are already “there”? Do we take for granted the fact that some students, without much assistance from us, will be (supposedly) “just fine” academically on their own? Are they really “just fine” or “where they need to be” if we haven’t truly challenged them to stretch and grow academically and intellectually? Do they not deserve to be s t r e t c h e d also? Do they not deserve to learn and grow academically as much as possible, too? Are they really reaching their potential if we haven’t even tried to find how far their potential reaches?

Perhaps I can predict what some of you are wondering: “But where am I going to find the time to challenge those kids when I’m already swamped getting everyone else up to speed?” “But if I move that child ahead in the curriculum, then what will his teacher next year do with him?” “Isn’t it elitist to target only certain students for special learning opportunities?” “If I let her do something ‘special,’ then won’t I have to let all of the other kids do it, too?” “If they are already learning [or already know] what they’re ‘supposed’ to be learning, then why do I have to worry about them?”

This is just one post, and the topics of gifted students and gifted education are too big to cover all at once. We shall get to those concerns, those questions, those issues, too. For now, I only hope to prompt some thinking about the students with great soil, the ones whose lawns are green in winter, the ones whom we believe to be “already where they need to be.” What thoughts, questions, worries, ideas, epiphanies, and concerns do you have in regards to them?

Thank you for joining me and I look forward to interacting with everyone over the course of this year!

74 Comments

Tamara,

Your analogy is an excellent one. We do need to help students reach their highest potential. You have given me something to think about. Thank you and I look forward to reading further blogs from you.

Jennifer Selting-Bauer

This is very well written. As a former "gifted and talented" student myself, I can easily say I wish many of my teachers would have read this blog a long time ago.

Although, I'd like to point out that one thing that doesn't happen to grass, but happens to this type of students, is boredom. A lot of teachers think that "proficient" students can learn the material and teach themselves, but they don't realize that boredom often accompanies this. (Especially, from my experience and what I remember, at the high school level) When that happens you lose the interest, and ultimately the respect, of some of your students who see past what you happen to be teaching. I think this blog serves as an important reminder that all* students have needs, not just those who are having difficulties. Great job!

Tamara,

Your blog is very well written and inspiring as I begin this fall as a gifted and talented teacher. I hope I can be of assistance to help classroom teachers as they work with their high achieving students. I may be asking for advice.

Darla

Wonderful analogy! Many people are not able to relate to the issues of the gifted individual until someone writes like this. It reminds me of the caged cheetah that Hoagies' website mentions.

Gifted children and adults are frequently misunderstood. In fact, it took me about 15 years to understand my creatively gifted husband!

I look forward to reading more!

I sing praises for a teacher like you! I have three gifted children. I left my former career to become a teacher because of the things that I felt my children missed by being gifted. I have a son who finished his freshman year of college with a 1.55 GPA. He had never been stretched in our "excellent" rated school district. We heard every comment that you listed over his 13 years in public education. He was terribly unprepared for the freedom of college. He found that some classes were just as "boring" as his previous high school classes and others were challenging beyond belief. He had never been challenged and didn't know how to challenge himself to succeed. We've had a rough summer and worked a lot to try to prepare him to return to college.
My hope is that many teachers will read what you've written and not shut down or find some way to blame someone else or the system, but will remember that above all else we are there for the students. We are called to help each excel to the highest level they are capable of.

Greetings Tamara

Congratulations on a great start to your blog!

In your blog you raised the issue of how we as a nation take for granted that our most talented students will thrive on their own. I have always found that to be an interesting thought. From my youth on a ranch, I did not experience that philosophy. When it came to our best cattle and our best land, we always assessed the needs and met them to achieve the maximum from their potential.

So, what is it in our society today that causes us to shy away from taking the responsibility for developing the potential of our youth? Perhaps if we can understand that, we can begin to address the issue at a deeper level.

I just visited with a mother of two of my former students. She pointed out that my outside the box thinking and questioning at least "got" the kids thinking beyond what was just in the textbook or curriculum.

She then also pointed out (both kids are in college or graduates already!) that some environmental issues and contaminants affected elementary and high school performance. However, once those issues were addressed, confronted and changed, the children are much healthier, happier, and on their way to productive adulthood.

These same interactions with our environment affect our own performance as teachers.

The variety of giftedness and what we yet don't know about the brain are what the 21st century in education will be about.

Thank you for asking these questions!
I was bored to the point of escapism for 12 years (chronic boredom is a BAD thing!), and it kills me to see that the system has not made significant improvements in time for my bright daughters. Regarding the question of elitism, I believe the system needs to be improved for the majority of students, but it is 'gifted' kids who bear the disproportionate brunt of the damage. Thanks again for doing this!

Now that I have passed the 25 years of teaching mark, it seems so obvious to me that we should be nurturing and challenging our most gifted students as much as we possibly can. They are the scientists, statesmen, and policy makers we will be depending upon for solutions to problems from engineering (our aging and failing infrastructures) to global warming, possible pandemics, and foreign policy. Our children's and grandchildren's lives and futures may depend upon how we choose to educate our gifted students!

I am a very lucky mom, you see, my 14 year old daughter, that Doctors said I would never have. Is the joy of my life, and is in gifted. I strugled to make a B, and for her, it comes so easy.
Dec. 2004 she and I moved back to my small home town, and she has continued to excell in every thing. I miss being home when she comes in from school, from her birth to 6th grade, I was a full time mom. Now that I am working to support us, I make it a point to spend quality time with her. We often talk about the comunity, and the negative things going on in her school. How she should set the example, and not lower her standards or self image. I just wish each teacher in her school could read for themselves, and find inspiration to do the best for the students in there charge. Monday a school councler was arestd in her high school, and charged with sexual misconduct with a 16 year old boy, When released from jail, she was alowed by the school board to go back into the school to work, I am still bothered by this. So to read your words...gives me hope, that her teachers this year will make the effort to be the out standing teacher of the year! That he or she is making a impact to better the lives of the children in there care, to break the broke mentality and encourage and uplift each and every one of them, to prepare them for sucess and not to fail, after all, they are our seeds of hope for the future. Keep sowing in fertal ground, ( where is spell check when I need it?)
Thanks again, you say it so well.

Gail

What a wonderful blog from Tamara. I loved the analogy of the gifted students. Last year was my first year teaching. I taught at-risk/struggling students for the entire time. This year I am hoping to have a grade level classroom with all types of students. I appreciate being reminded of the gifted students and to be prepared for them too. They are the students who are at-risk also in their own way.

It seems clear that everyone comes to a consensus with the issue. Gifted and talented are not in a general sense taking care of. I am a special ed teacher because I believe that everyone can learn and learns differently. I believe in modification, accommodation, looking at learning styles, and interests to target instruction.I spend a lot of time diversifying because these students need to be hooked up and need to learn to go beyond what they are told they can do.
However, I have a son who is gifted. He is the rich soil where everything and anything can grow on without effort. He is in 4th grade entering fifth this year, and every year I see his state scores go down getting closer and closer to the average.It hurts and makes me angry as I know that with a little care and a little push he could reach a better potential.
What should I do as a parent? What is available for these kids? We live in NH and there are no gifted and talented programs (that I know of). Our resource is to have a tutor to come after school to challenge our son. Is it fair? Why does he need to go to school and then work some more just because he has a good soil? Can he be homeschooled by a professional teacher but then what about his social life? What about the money we need to spend because schools are overlooking his talents?
I am at both of the spectrum and I believe that we should spend as much time and resources with gifted and talented as we spend in special education.
I would be interested on hearing from people who found solutions and resources to promote their gifted children or students.
Thanks for this blog.

I'm addressing this comment to Becky Tower. The issue of gifted children not being challenged by schools is an old problem, but there are many new solutions. I am prepared for flames coming my way for mentioning this on a teacher's blog, but there are other options for educating a gifted child. Homeschooling is much more pervasive today than it was even a decade ago, and the issue of socialization is not nearly as much of a problem as it used to be. In our own situation, many attempts have been made to find appropriate accommodations within the school system for our profoundly gifted child, with little or no luck. For now, we homeschool. Our child can work 6 grade levels ahead in math if he wishes, or move ahead a grade level in spelling within a week if he demonstrates mastery of the current grade's word lists. He also has daily opportunities to spend time with friends. Homeschooling may not be the answer for us forever, but for now, it is. I keep current with gifted education trends within the school system in the hope that one day there will be a way for all schools to accommodate our brightest children. Most problems facing gifted kids are not the fault of their teachers, but of the education system, which has no way for them to progress unencumbered on their own learning path.

My apologies: the above comment should have been addressed to Veronique Legendre. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Reading this blog is so timely for me. Our high school English department has been identifying just this need, stretching and increasing the rigor for the more talented learner. We have worked very hard, as a district, to meet the needs of the learners with disabilities. Parents are helping us to address these concerns and I look forward to both the learners and their parents to contribute to this journey!

Tracking. It goes against the conventional wisdom of our time. Nevertheless, as a teacher and a parent, I truly wish school systems would revive the system of tracking students based on academic ability. I went through a public school system that used tracking, which was set up for academic reasons (to challenge kids who were ahead of the pack academically), not to "protect" well-behaved students from their unruly peers or give "honors" labels to students of pushy parents. Students were placed in the advanced class based on their grades (at least above 93) and their teachers' recommendations. Period. No one else had a say--not parents, not administrators. And the tracked classes were always open to kids who excelled academically (i.e., if you didn't get placed there the first time around, but demonstrated the ability in your regular class to make it, you could be placed in an advanced track class the next year). Moreover, students in regular classes were also considered college-bound (if not headed for the Ivies), assuming they did well in their regular classes. The kids in a system based on tracking had plenty of friends in "regular" classes, and there was no disgrace being in the class that met your needs and abilities. (In fact, students in the advanced classes probably felt a little more self-conscious.) Many teachers I speak with wonder why tracking was abandoned and worry about misleading labels of A.P. and honors being applied to classes that lack rigor and creative/intellectual challenges. You simply cannot conduct a seventh-grade math class of 30 or more students in which 15 are ready for algebra and 10 are still struggling with basic computation. Heterogeneous grouping in core academic classes does a disservice to ALL students.

we have a profoundly gifted student (IQ 180) in our family. two public school systems and one private school went far beyond the call of duty to try to fit our square peg into a round hole. consequences? boredom then behavior problem then medications. one teacher out of all his teachers and principals in those schools advocated for him--one, that's all. our very gifted children are gifted 24/7, not 3 hours a week. if they were mentally challenged they would be assigned an aide and given school work commensurate w/their abilities; but they're mentally gifted and asking for an appropriate education is seen as elitist--unlike the elite athlete or the physically or mentally challenged student, our families are expected to put up and shut up--while our students are thrown away like so much garbage and wither like that great lawn eventually will.

As a teacher of talented students in a school with a reputation only for good athletic programs, I congratulate the author of the original article on her candor. Many of my students, some also quite athletically gifted, have access to programs in college because of their academic success, and in spite of their athletic prowess. I believe we as educators, and those of you who are parents, are cheating these students out of what they deserve when we do not challenge them. Many times, in my opinion, adults do not challenge children because they are intimidated. If this is the concern, this is merely an opportunity for growth for the teacher as well as the student.

I am a gifted resource teacher with 7 others in the third largest school system in Kentucky. My specialty is the Visual and Performing Arts. Lets talk about attitudes toward the arts and artists! In a country where millions of dollars are spent on high school football and basketball teams, students who are gifted in non-cognitive areas are not only neglected but derided by school systems.

I am in the process of meeting the students who have been identified and creating situations in which I can determine and therefore nominate for identification in performing arts (drama, dance, solo music). Many of these students have been steered toward subject areas that are more "practical" and they no longer show an interest or are embarrassed to admit they love to perform unless it is the class clown.

NCLB requires highly qualified teachers which means they must be certified in the areas they teach. My purpose in going back to school to become a high school teacher was to teach Drama, my first degree. I was told that there was no such thing as certification for Drama in the state of Kentucky and that I would need to get a degree in English to teach Drama. I did that but found out no schools had acting classes in their curriculum nor were they interested in my Drama degree. Now that I am a Gifted and Talented Resource teacher and know a lot more than I did 5 years ago, I've discovered that there is certification for drama but only one college in our state that offers a program of drama education.

In any case, I am so happy to be in my present position. It will be a lot of work getting the attention of administrators but I'm on the right road and believe I'll make a difference for all the kids who are and will be identified in the performing arts.

Great post - I am going to save this...

In your future posts,I'd love to hear about how best work with GLD (gifted/learning disabled) children. How do you balance challeging them in the areas that are so interesting to them to helping them with issues that are frustrating (writing, math facts, spelling). Also, how often is ADD a factor with gifted or GLD children?

At the Science Museum yesterday we were discussing how scientists are trying to create a way to clean the water in Africa (Jane Goodall exhibit) - my son started discussion how you could create a purification system with evaporation and condensation and made me realize that will all my (and his teachers) frustration with the the day to day, we may be burying the gifted part.

Thanks for the inspiration.

I agree all children need to be challenged in shcool, if not they become complacent. One of own chldren was not challenged and as a result finds it difficult to succeed in college where he is challenged in some subjects while other subject leave him bored and disappointed.

I feel for the children who are in the middle, as I was, they are too often forgotten. These children are average and average is ok according to school standards. They don't standout on either side, not to low so scored don't go down. I often felt ignored by my teachers. When I voiced concern to a teacher I was brushed off because I was doing ok. When and why did
ok become acceptable?

I realize the dilema for teachers and understan I will face those same dilemas when I begin teaching. I hope I am able to my way so all of my students are equally challenged.

What a great blog - and I agree with many of the perceptive comments given.You might be interested in a quick look at my own blog which you will find on my site www.leading-learning.co.nz

A great and important blog. But I must say I have always hated the concept of "gifted." I do understand and accept the intent and issues around the word. It is a trigger for the important discussion you raise. If teaching were less focused on common denominator standards and making us all alike, then one's efforts could be spent on teaching each child and nudging along their potential. At root, the soil would be richly maintained for all, but each different flower, weed, and stone would get some of the attention most useful to it. The fact that we can talk about a group called "gifted" not being taught effectively tells me we are not educating but simply administrating. A kind of feeding of the same fodder to all the hungary regardless of their dietary needs. After 35 years teaching, I am 2 years retired because I could no longer take the formulaic planning of at least 10 people on the "team" necessary to every decision made. It precluded most of my attempts to provide an original and stimulating environment (strongly based on standards) but tailored to the students I taught. I believe if a classroom is active, vigorous, and passionate, then a lawn can grow where all kinds of weeds and flowers can flourish. I don't think the idea of "gifted" means much outside the classroom. "Gifted" happens there because we grade kids like eggs and parents talk about my "bright" child not because their kids aren't bright but because parents personal, deep caring. The more that teachers care for each child and dare act upon it, the sooner the public school system will provide an effective "gifted" program.

Wonderful analogy! It is a great reminder for many teachers that we have a diversity of students in our rooms. Lower achieving students must be addressed because of their low achievement scores. Over-burdened, over-worked teachers have to focus on "putting the fires out" in their rooms in the short amount of time they have each day. Some school systems are even going so far as to link student scores to each individual teacher performance...wouldn't you in the same situation focus on the low achieving students that will pull your overall class performance down? Everyone only has so much time in a day. Even in the private sector supervisors/employers spend much more time and energy on the employees who are not performing then on those who competently do their jobs. We need to spend funds on developing good gifted programs with specialized teachers not only working with the students, but working with the classroom teachers for the benefit of these gifted students.

Thanks, Tamara! I love your analogy, and can't wait to hear more of your ideas - I'll be watching your blog!

Hello,

Nice try (not unique)- maybe in your school district located on an Indian reservation everything is good
But on mainland all is about $$: no money- no gifted education
'No one left behind' - right.
Also it is not just about money: probably there is not need in educated ( in case of gifted - very educated) citizens
Somehow reminds me Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell..

------------------------
My 2 cents..:

..."we all teach for some rather inspiring, optimistic, and altruistic reasons. Teachers are talented, curious, hard working, and very caring."
Hmm....
Unfortunately, not all - > about how many teachers you can tell: yes, it is the Teacher (from word to teach - not just be in class room).
If you had at least 1 you are very lucky.
Usually, it is very difficult to find the One Teacher (in private\public schools)
---


Thanks for trying: keep trying

Tom

While I truly believe that your analogy is right on par, I think one key variable has been ignored in both your comments and those who responded, and that is, "Are the teachers qualified to teach and stretch those who are truly gifted students?" As a district administrator and parent of two gifted children, I've found that not only are our children often overlooked, but also, teachers are not prepared to deal with them. To piggyback on your analogy, our nation's public educational system is focused more on the cultivation and not the pruning - and sadly, that's all that we do. Funding from NCLB is geared solely on "failing" schools. Not to say that this is not necessary, however, the concentration on low performance gives the impression of rewarding failure, rather than achievement. The notion of "highly qualified teachers" is a joke. The entire system is flawed, when even colleges and universities are receiving kick backs for providing so- called accelerated learning opportunities, and defacto ill-prepared educators. In this age of "highly qualified", there are many gifted students who are labeled troublemakers because they are bored in class, or they ask criticial questions that teachers are either uncomfortable or unqualified to answer. Rather than a ordeal for teacher and student, these instances could provide the ideal teachable moment of mutual discovery, cooperative learning, between teacher and student. Sadly, this is usually not the case. I could go on about the other barriers that we place on our children- like using limited measures to even identify our gifted students-but I think I've said enough for now.

I think reading the exemplary academic work of their peers can both reassure and inspire gifted students. That is why I have published 770 history research papers by high school students from 35 countries since 1987 in The Concord Review [www.tcr.org]

Thank you for bringing this blog of grass to the forefront. In "Leaves of Grass" Walt Whitman wrote:

"Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling,
Give me juicy autumnal fruit ripe and red from the orchard,
Give me a field where the unmow'd grass grows,...
Give me a perfect child..."

As Whitman implies with his imagery, every child is "perfect" in the eyes of nature. Mowed or unmowed, each leaf contributes to the field. Newton Baker's post makes the case, "At root, the soil would be richly maintained for all, but each different flower, weed, and stone would get some of the attention most useful to it." This rings true from my experience in classrooms where every child is "gifted and talented" when nourished by competent and caring teachers. If labeling, rather than describing, continues to be the trend in education, then all children should don the "gifted and talented" tag, all should receive an education which will allows them to flourish in their uniqueness, and all, whether they sprout strong and green, or weak and brown, should be considered perfect gifts.

Tamara-

As Mom to four PG kids, I guess I'm up to my knees in manure! :) Coincidentally, we also live on old cattle grazing land. I can't say I have had a lot of luck with gardening, as the deer eat all my best efforts, but the weeds (I mean wildflowers) are spectacular!

Thanks for your great piece! I really hope that readers will take your message to heart and think about what they can do for their high ability students. I dream of a future in which every kid has work appropriate to their own unique pace and level, in each and every subject. For now, this means homeschooling for my family.

What a wonderful start to your blog; timely, as well. I will become certified to teach in my state within a few months and one of the reasons I chose to do this was because I wanted to be one of the teachers who can make a difference. Being the parent of a gifted child (and yes, these kids ARE different!) I learned firsthand what it means to my son to have a great teacher and a disinterested teacher. Too many people believe that if a child is "so bright" they will simply learn everything on their own. Forgotten are the facts that kids can become bored, if not stimulated; kids can learn that they don't have to work hard or be challenged, then when they are, they don't know what to do. We forget that we're raising and teaching the next generation -- what will happen when we have failed them?
As for the argument against labels (which I hear so often)--labels don't have to be the enemy, labels help us to understand things. Each child has their own learning style and learning needs; by refusing to recognize similarities within given populations we are cheating these learners out of the best learning experience which we have to offer.

Regarding the "elitist" label. Is it elitist to give gifted and talented kids the time and attention required to give them the challenges they need to push themselves? I would suggest we ask it another way: what are we currently teaching that bright kid?

From my own experience as both a teacher and a "gifted" student, I can tell you: what we are teaching them is that, if they are born with these gifts, they don't have to work as hard as "ordinary" people. They don't have to learn how to work hard, to persevere, to struggle through adversity and frustration. We teach them that for them, life is easy.

It is our current system that is elitist. To some extent, we make these kids into the elitists we (yes, even we teachers) accuse them of being, because we tell them in our actions and our assignments that they really are "better" than everyone else. This is exactly why so many of us cringe from the "gifted" label - because it has connotations of rank and value - and yet, we treat these students as if they were "better", by demonstrating to them (and all their fellow students) that smart people don't have to work hard.

The solution is clear - push each student to work up to the level of their abilities, whatever those abilities are.

Varied things that came to mind after reading Fisher's posting:
I just completed a graduate course looking at addressing the needs of Gifted At-risk students and realized that we are still back in the 70s and 80s with a lot of the "gifted" issues.
I was eating with a friend after a concert for the 4th of July and we were talking about the fact that so many are seeing at-risk students in terms of their deficits instead of their abilities and how, in our area, we have many students who are very "gifted" or "talented" chess players, musicians, artists, etc., but seem to be producing few National Merit Scholars.
My friend has been in charge of a music program that had 5 middle school bands all making the state honor band list (out of 10 middle schools)with bands that are representative ethnically and socio-economically with the district. He was contacted by a district to come present to their staff about how to recruit at-risk students into their programs and turned them down because he said he could not get his head around how to recruit these students any differently than any others!
I have taught or "counseled" too many very able learners who did not meet their potential (yet) to in ANY way agree with the favorite statement: "Those bright kids will succeed anyway, they don't need (should not have) special services/programming/opportunities."
Get this--our district funds a chess program for hundreds of thousands of dollars (a good thing) but is considering no longer budgeting 200,000 for elementary science kit replenishment services while being concerned that science is our lowest scoring area on state assessments--go figure.
What I am trying to get to is that we need to challenge our students in many directions based on their unique abilities while helping them survive in the sea of academic accountability (NCLB). It is so hard to maintain the effort to address individual needs when the pressure is on meeting minimum expectations.
Thanks to beginner of the blog and all of the thoughtful postings. I applaud all of the folks here who are working hard to support ALL students--keep advocating for them and being there for them.

I agree with Tom who posted: " Also it is not just about money: probably there is not need in educated ( in case of gifted - very educated) citizens
Somehow reminds me Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.."

Guess what would happen if education was truly exciting and stimulating, not only for those with a high IQ but for every student! Brains would grow, kids would wonder, ponder and question! Do you think the powerful and wealthy would be comfortable with that?

That's why this No Child Left Behind curriculum turns out to be so hideous. There's no more time for genuine interaction between students or with their teachers.

It's appalling that in kindergarten kids are now subjected to this:
See www.adihome.org and click on video clips under the Support Services button.
Kids are trained to sit still and conditioned how to read. They no longer get to play indoors or out! Their comments and questions go ignored because teachers have to follow a schedule.
If you think up till now gifted kids were at risk you can see how much worse it will become!
Parents should give serious thought to homeschooling. If I had to do it over again, that's what I would have done with both my kids. My gifted daughter dropped out before the end of 10th grade when she was almost 16. She did not pick up education again until 20, starting at a community college and transferring credits to a four year college. Now at 23 she will graduate Summa Cum Laude for her B.A. in Philosophy.
She indeed has managed to do it all by herself with unconditional love and support from us, her parents, but at what horrendous cost? Her academic self-esteem was completely shot. She was punished for not doing homework that was useless and uninteresting to her. She still scored A's on assessments, but failed classes because of the weighted homework grades! Schooling for her, really was a total waste and damaging too!

To clarify my original point regarding the danger of labels in lieu of in-depth descriptions, imagine the limiting nature of knowing that you have not been identified as "gifted and talented"? The best teachers already acknowledge the differences in their students and do the best they can to eradicate prejudice and diminutive terminology. As educators, it is our job to inspire. The child who is not officially labeled "gifted and talented" is led to believe that he or she must be "ordinary and dull" or worse, "stupid and untalented." This is certainly not inspiring.

If the majority of students are not considered "gifted and talented" then we are being inhumane in notifying them of this. So, I propose that we don't alter our attempts to educate accordingly, we should simply stop using limiting labels. If we must continue to use labels, how about calling "gifted and talented" students "advanced" or "accelerated" or something similar? Those terms are not necessarily exclusive or elitist and in fact, my inspire other students to work harder. Aren't all of our students "gifted and talented" in their own way? How can we, in good conscience, lead them to believe anything but that?

On a personal note, my daughter was labeled "gifted and talented," but I'm doing my best to teach her that her fellow classmates and friends are also gifted and talented. It's not easy to accomplish this task, but I'm relentless. In an inclusive classroom and an interconnected world, it's important that the potential of bright minds, dull minds, all minds be nurtured, not squelched by imposed titles. After all, isn't it the character of our children that matters most?

Thank you for such a wonderful analogy. I hope we also continue to nurture the undiscovered talent as well, the lush grass that has fallen into the cracks of our sidewalks and that has been trodden over.

I was so excited to see this blog! I am about to begin my FIRST year teaching Spanish at the high school level. As a pre-service teacher, I was lucky to have the opportunity to conduct educational research during the summer with gifted students. After working with a mentor who had great passion for this students, I firmly believe that working to challenge gifted students is just as important as working to meet the needs of special needs students. In fact I kind of wish we just called all students who weren't on the "normal" track special needs, because that is just what they have!

I never understood differentiation until I had a passion for challenging gifted students. Suddenly once I worked with these students and saw what they were capable of, I saw the injustice of not providing quality, challenging learning experiences for them.

Although I have very little experience thus far, I have to say that in general teachers breathe a sigh of relief when they encounter a gifted student, assuming he will teach himself, or they see a ready-made tutor, able to help bring lesser-able peers up to speed. I think our schools put gifted kids on the sidelines and that it's a big reason for why we are losing a competitive edge globally. Our brightest minds are growing bored and losing motivation.

I hope to strive to serve all students, at all levels, with innovative and differentiated curriculum in this, my first year of teaching, and in all of the years to come.

Thanks, Tamara, for posting this blog. As it appears that you work on a reservation in NE Montana, I wonder if you have any thoughts on teaching gifted students in a rural setting or on identifying rural/ Native American gifted students? If you work in a smaller school, is it still possible to ability group? Are there other effective ways to serve these students?

I have been sitting in parent conferences this week explaining to parents how I meet the needs of the "gifted" student in my class. I have heard the comment from students saying, "I'm bored!" To avoid this I encourage all students to do standards-based enrichment projects once they are done with the regular classwork. They write a proposal telling me their idea for a project, the subject standard it covers, and include a 4-point rubric for grading the project. I have time each Friday for oral presentations where students present their project to the class. The student has extended their learning in their area of interest above and beyond the regular curriculum offerings, but even better, they are now sharing with others the value of what they have learned. This opportunity is open to all students in the class and I have seen them produce amazing work!

I also offer challenge work as an option to all students. I don't think the average child should be excluded from the chance to stretch themselves, nor should the gifted child be forced to.

I do ask my students to tell how they think in order to find an answer, because not everyone thinks the way a gifted student does, but everyone can benefit from understanding their way of thinking. In the real world, the gifted will usually have to explain their ideas to others to gain understanding from all.

Comment for Lisa Davis:

You wrote:
"To avoid this I encourage all students to do standards-based enrichment projects once they are done with the regular classwork."

Sounds like regular situation in regular public school: where 1 -2 Gifted among 10-15 students in class :

it is idea -> gifted kids are bored to do regular classwork (they probably could do it 2 years ago)...


"Are the teachers qualified to teach and stretch those who are truly gifted students?"
Posted by: Sonya | August 16, 2007 12:35 PM

Are you Lisa Davis qualified to teach and stretch those who are truly gifted students?

Do you think "gifted" children are gifted and do need not regular classwork?

Do you really like gifted children in your class?
==================
BTW:
Talent development and gifted education
Certificate program
http://www.education.umn.edu/SPS/programs/certificates/Talent.html

=====================
Thank you,

Tom

***This is regarding Lisa's post, parts of which are quoted below:

I have been sitting in parent conferences this week explaining to parents how I meet the needs of the "gifted" student in my class.

***I find it interesting that you put quotation marks around the word "gifted." Perhaps I'm entirely wrong, but you appear to be one of the many teachers who basically believes that "gifted" equals "pushy parent." In some cases -- and we all know this -- it does. However, in some cases "special education" also equals "pushy parent." That doesn't mean that we as teachers should not bend over backwards to give the student the benefit of the doubt.


I have heard the comment from students saying, "I'm bored!" To avoid this I encourage all students to do standards-based enrichment projects once they are done with the regular classwork.

***So in other words, they get MORE work as a "reward" for doing all of the regular classwork, much of which (depending on the child) may be years below their capabilities.

**Seriously, if I were gifted and in your class, I'd surely be gifted enough to know that I was basically being punished for being so. Being given the dubious prize of "enrichment" work on top of the other classwork is *hardly* appropriate accomodation by anyone's definition. If a child were learning-disabled, surely you would not give her material appropriate to her needs only AFTER she had finished the regular classwork. Or would you?


They write a proposal telling me their idea for a project, the subject standard it covers, and include a 4-point rubric for grading the project.

***Honestly, I hear this and I think, "Bureaucratic hoops." I'm only surprised that you don't have them get it notarized first. How unfortunate that you take this tack.

I also offer challenge work as an option to all students. I don't think the average child should be excluded from the chance to stretch themselves, nor should the gifted child be forced to.

***How about giving the gifted child the opportunity to pre-test out of the regular material and then IN PLACE OF IT, do the "challenge" material? Again, your approach is the academic equivalent of, "They can't have any dessert until they've finished all their vegetables." You're seeing "challenge" material as dessert, a reward.

***IT ISN'T. It is the very stuff of the meal itself, the main course. With all sincerity, Lisa, I hope you re-think your approach to gifted students in your class; I genuinely do. Please be aware that very many of them are going to see what you offer as punishment, including the oral presentation bit, and are going to be successfully dissuaded from engaging in anything over and above the bare minimum. If you actually do care about gifted students enough to accomodate, I think it will require a significant shift in your thinking about whether "gifted" education is only a dessert or a reward for good behavior.

Donna Hoffman,
I am interested in your journey with the drama. The blog here represented so many issues I have to face. I am a multi-grade teacher in a one room school house in rural SE Montana. I have two who are gifted-4th. I am required to be able to do much more than the basic elementary teacher so I appreciate the struggles and successess documented.

OK I may be "labeled" in a negative way for my comments but here they are.
I teach middle school science. Although we are considered to be the "hardest" subject we have all types of students in our classes - from ESL, Learning support and disabled, Emotional Support, Gifted, autistic and even those unlabled such as low IQ or the dreaded AVERAGE. All of our classes, except Math, are heterogeneous and they are working on making math mixed as well. Prior to this I worked with at risk students in HS who were on the verge of dropping out.
In middle school students are trying to find out who they are - and it is a complicated process. They label themselves and each other daily. They know who is smart and who isn't. When the school imposes labels these only provide students with an excuse to work down to the label assigned to them. One of the problems is these labels all bring negative images - Gifted students are independent or elite; LS students are stupid or behavior problems, low income = not home support, low achievement, etc. These mis- interpretations are not just by teachers and administrators, but by parents and students as well. My own daughter has an IEP (since 2nd grade) and it took us years to get her past the "label" and her feelings of "being stupid" before she began to make honor roll in HS (She is attending college to become a Nurse!)
I have worked with students at all ranges and have found the greatest success is when they disregard the label (or lack of if they are only "average" or just "stupid")and just be themselves. I have seen too many students look bored or act out in class because they aren't challenged or appreciated. LS students have often been given so many accommidations they don't think they can do it and GS students often come in with the attitude they are already too smart to bother with the work - they are actually challenged in my room and fail to succeed since they haven't picked up basic study skills and habits. To see the joy of success on any student's face when they have achieved academic success (which may only be a C but the 1st passing grade they got!)is priceless. I have spoken to students in many of these categories and 1 thing I found interesting is too often the LS students felt stupid or dumb because teachers assumed they needed "watered down" tests etc. and gifted students felt the way teachers met their "giftedness" was to just give them more work. I agree Gifted is an often over looked group of students but at least they are acknowledged. Which is more than can be said of the average or just low IQ student. IEP's in my district are too often written for the parents and not the student.
In the grass analogy you look at the lawn as a whole - in my classroom I am trying to meet the needs of each blade of grass. And unlike a lawn, where the grass is generally the same stock, each blade or student in my room is different, with different learning styles and needs. I teach all my students to the best of their ability.I ask each of them to work hard and I set the bar high so they do have to reach. Yes, the bar height varies for each child and yes I am sure I am not meeting the needs of all my students due to time constraints - I see them for 45 minutes each day and I have 140 students to attend to. But I do this inspite of whatever label they come to me with. In my room we are all Gifted and we all have needs.
In addition to the academics we are also social workers dealing with the fall out of social/peer pressures, home situations (lots of affluent neglect in my district) and other non academic issues that impact on the learning of these students.
Also, as a regular classroom teacher I required to attend LS IEP meetings but not GS IEP's - I find this interesting that my input is valued by one LS group but not the other. Perhaps if we were included in these discussions about appropriate modifications for GS students their needs might be better addressed in the classroom.
Sorry so long - just my thoughts. Label me however you choose. As I tell my students I don't have to accept it as a limitation of my abilities, or define myself by it.

As I read everyone's comments, there are a few ideas which seem very important and poignant. The two most striking are the fact that as teachers, we’ve come to think that NCLB somehow removes the professionalism from our job, and the fact that “gifted and talented” whether labeled or not is present in students and must be addressed.

I had to laugh when Tom brought up Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, since I’ve been thinking about that in terms of education since, well 1984. NCLB certainly could pose as a secret plot to “dumb down” our citizens to create a situation conducive to mind control. Case in point, look at what atrocities we are currently willing to accept politically as a nation. One important thing teachers need to remind themselves of daily is that they are the professional in their own classroom. NCLB cannot be used as an excuse to abandon use of good professional judgment as to what constitutes adequate education. Teaching has always been about building relationships. If the teacher knows the student, he/she will address the “need” of that student, even if the need is for the student to be academically challenged in an appropriate manner which takes them above and beyond the “standards”.

Years ago, I got my master’s degree in gifted & talented education. Since then, I have drastically changed my view of what it means to be gifted. All our students (including teacher as student) have some moment they shine; it is important to remember that fact when speaking of our students. I’m not trying to say there is not a need for GT education, but rather I’m saying the techniques I used with GT students to teach them to think more efficiently I now try to use with all students. Don’t we all need to improve our thinking skills? Of course, there are varying results, just as there are varying levels of understanding from the students.

Real education must be tailored. There is no such truth as “one size fits all” in educatio

Failing Our Geniuses
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007 By JOHN CLOUD

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1653653-1,00.html

Dear Ms. Fisher,
I felt compelled to respond to your question—although after 17 years of teaching—this is my first time commenting on any blog.

Do we put forth the effort to stretch the (gifted) students who are already “there” (academically and intellectually)?

For me, the real focus of our attention (as teachers) must be “stretching” our students to esteem one another for their uniqueness—gifted and non-gifted. Children naturally begin to establish their own (and others) worth on innumerable conditions; beauty, wealth, charisma, intellect, athletic ability, etc…This phenomenon can occur in a homogeneous gifted class as much as a heterogeneous setting. Nevertheless, it is the teacher who holds a key in this crucial development by how they model what it means to value every human being. When this is established, students can recognize that additional time, effort and resources devoted to one child does not mean a rejection of another. In fact, a wise teacher can establish a community environment in which students sense a responsibility towards one another and encourage advancement in all.

Enhancing academic and intellectual development is our job. But, when we do not emphasize the need for personal connectedness, accountability, and compassion for one another, we’ve missed the mark.

A gift given is best enjoyed when shared. A “gifted” student is one who has been made aware that they have a “gift” to give to others. It is vital that the nurturing of such an attitude occur in tandem with any additional academic and intellectual cultivation.

"The greatest gift is a portion of thyself."

--Ralph W. Emerson

Thanks for reminding all of us of the tremendous task and opportunity we have as teachers to be sure that all of our students, in all of their various modes of giftedness are nurtured.

I have a son who is now in his early thirties, but who is searching to find his niche. He was reading at age 3 and when he went to school, teachers refuesd to take into account that he no
longer needed to draw a line from the "b" to the "ball"., etc. He had no need to study the content he was being"taught" and by the time he reached 4th grade the lack of challenge had all but ruined his desire for school.

Of course, we kept him challenged at home, but that did not seem to be enough and he began to really dislike school. While he remains very talented and reads voraciously, he has not been able to accept the idea of "school" as a viable option for him.

I always warn parents whose children are in the same situation to keep a close watch on whether or not school is challending emough for their children. I was a young parnet and unaware of options for my child and regret it to this day.

I agree that we MUST pay closer attention to the lack of interest many districts, and therefore some teachers, have for Gifted Education and gifted students. I teach gifted students in a gifted and high ability school. There is no option to ignore their abilities, but some teachers don't understand the need to STRETCH these children as far as possible. Unstretched minds mean that their potential is never reached, and the students therefore never experience success with their own talents and abilities. We must push for more funding in gifted education or we will be paying for it later!!

Tamara:

Thank you for your thoughts. I am currently teaching in a district and a school that seem to have lost the idea that we have gifted students in our classrooms. I find teaching my gifted students to be very rewarding and also a lot of hard work, but to me it's why I am a teacher. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

I apologize for the length of my post but this is my passion! By way of "credentials", I've taught gifted students in every grade K-8; coordinated district and county-wide gifted programs; have a masters degree in Special Ed with a concentration in Gifted Education; and now consult full time helping districts improve their gifted programs and training K-12 teachers to differentiate instruction so that ALL students ~ from strugglers to gifted ~ experience both success and challenge daily. Parenthetically, I was in gifted programs as a student and am the mother of a gifted child, now grown.

In fairness to classroom teachers, their feet are being held to the fire by NCLB, School Improvement, etc. to ensure that all students reach a minimum proficiency. Getting NEARLY all our students to that point is fairly readily achievable with good materials, training, teaching, and support. Getting ALL students there is a Herculean task that takes a tremendous amount of instructional time and energy. Many teachers feel they have no time left for grade-level students, let alone those whose capacity is far beyond.

This is compounded by the lack of coursework in teacher preparation or credentialing programs on gifted learners and strategies to address their needs; by the fact that the progress of students beyond minimum standards is not even addressed in legislation/requirements/accountability, etc.; and by our cultural confusion between the all-American concept of "equality" with sameness, resulting in resistance in many quarters to recognizing or valuing giftedness.

I also tire of hearing that "all children are gifted." We need a new term for the phenomena. What they mean is that all children are special [of course! but substitute the phrase "hearing impaired" for "gifted" and who many would say the term applies to ALL children?] and all of us have strengths and weaknesses. Granted, but no matter how I try I will never be Serena Williams on the tennis court, Yoyo Ma on the cello, or Heidi Klum in the mirror. And just how well would Yoyo Ma perform if he had played only with his school orchestra, spending no more time than his classmates on practice, more challenging music, and focused instruction from an accomplished teacher?

For those 1-in-1000 or rarer students who are 3 or more standard deviations above the mean, grade-skipping, telescoping courses so that content is learned more quickly but not skipped, home-schooling with tutors, and/or early entrance into college are possible approaches. For the majority of gifted learners, differentiation and compacting hold great promise; along with opportunities for co-enrollment in middle-school and high school courses, then high school and college coursework for acceleration in areas of expertise. Differentiation and compacting enable students to test out of what they already know and to learn new content at a faster pace, freeing time to satisfy their curiosity, ensure challenge, learn independently, and explore a topic either more deeply or tangentially. The trick is giving teachers ways to do this that are "teacher-friendly"... requiring a minimum of additional planning or follow-up time, paper work, or cost. I've spent years developing such approaches and have been gratified by the willingness of teachers to adopt them in the schools and districts where I've consulted.

Certainly teachers are not teaching for the money or status! What fuels them is when a student who didn't "get it" catches on, and when students who do "get it" catch fire! Given the proper training and support to differentiate and compact, the gratification of increased success and enthusiasm on the part of their students keeps them going.

My credentials are in education. I spent 25 years +/- in the military, did a significant amount of research in learning, training methods, conducted field studies/trials when the draft ended and the Army had to rely on volunteers, taught at the University Level for six years, etc, etc, etc.
Many of the lessons learned in the military 25-30 years ago are now being "discovered" in education. We must open our minds to the world, both of education and industry. Continuing education must be up to date and meaningful.
49 BLOG comments and no one mentioned Differentiation. Only a few spoke of "learning styles".....are we in the dark ages because we won't look for the enlightenment switch?
Parents, there are excellent how to books about confronting the system, parenting a gifted student, and self guides to the student as well.
There are gifted programs available from major colleges and universities on the internet.
Exposing your children to a wide variety of jobs,taking them to the late night store while its being stocked, visit (even from outside the gates) construction sites, industries, hospitals, nursing homes, get their mind in gear. If they show interest in a field, arrange some time with a person in that field for them to tralk with.
Remember when you point a finger at: the government, the school board, principal, teacher, student, YOU HAVE THREE FINGERS POINTING BACK AT YOURSELF!
I am excited by this BLOG, will probably upset many of you with my comments, (so be it), and look foward to future offerings.
Me? I am an advocate in my community for Gifted and Talented Students as well as Special Needs Students, as a non salaried volunteer.

Bill,


Can you please clarify "Differentiation" - what did you mean?
How is deep you knowledge of gifted education?
---
You wrote:
"Many of the lessons learned in the military 25-30 years ago are now being "discovered" in education."

We are talking about gifted education but military "boot camp"
I do not remember (my service time: 28 years ago) any Drill sergeants\officers with high IQ (I think they had 50 or less).
So, do you believe the lesson: "This my rifle -this my gun" good for gifted kids education?
Please specify what lessons are yuo talking about?

Thanks,
Eugene


This is my first post in any blog, so please excuse any newbie mistakes.

I am fortunate to live in a school district with a very good gifted and talented program. I would like to describe it because this type of program has not been discussed here or in other blogs I have read. It is called the Rapid Learner (“RL”) program. It is a form of tracking, although I doubt the administrators would use that word. Also, it is offered in a large district with chronic financial and declining enrollment problems.

After the first grade, the top sixty students in the district are identified by a combination of test scores, teacher recommendations, and grades. These sixty students are then separated into three groups of twenty and sent to the three neighborhood schools which have both the RL program and the standard curriculum for the neighborhood children who did not qualify for the RL program. School assignment is largely by parental choice on a first come, first served basis. There is no difference in the RL curriculum between the schools.

The RL students have five classrooms located together, one for each grade (2nd - 6th). Lunch and recess are the same as neighborhood children, which tends to minimize “us v. them” feelings. The curriculum for the RL students is accelerated and broadened to include subjects not taught in the standard curriculum (e.g., Spanish). For second grade, the curriculum is advance one to two years, depending on the subject. The RL teachers have years of experience teaching gifted students and most are trained in gifted education.

One benefit is that the RL students advance the same age and intellectual peers, rather than older, less gifted children as happens with grade skipping.

Even RL classes have some of the problems described in other posts, e.g. boredom, acting out, and disengagement. Not all RL students are equal in all subjects, but unfortunately there is no practical differentiation for the more advanced students. Differentiation for math in my son’s class was limited to work sheets with different problems, but the same level as the class.

All in all, the RL program does a very good job addressing the needs of the district’s gifted students.

What a rich conversation! Just discovered this blog, and all entries are well worth reading. Is anyone familiar with the author Daniel Pink? His business book, "A Whole New Mind" overviews six "essential aptitudes" he perceives as needed for success in today's global society. As a former G/T teacher and present school administrator, the "tools, tips, and hands-on exercises" detailed in this book strike me as a wonderful resource for working with ALL kids, but especially our bright, underchallenged students.

Won't it be wonderful if we can move education to a place where terms like "competent reader", "confident writer", and "enthused problem solver" can replace "high test scorer" in our faculty room conversations?

Hope this blog continues! Thanks, Tamara, for inviting us in...

Tamara,

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments.

I'd like to point out one way in which your analogy about your yard does not work. You mention that by the end of the summer your yard is lookiing a little ragged and shows the effects of your benign neglect, but by the next springtime, it is green and full of promise yet again.

This does not happen with our bright and able students. The effects of educational neglect and lack of challenge are cumulative. Our most capable students learn at an early age that they are able to earn high grades with little effort and are woefully unprepared when they meet academic challenges later in their educational careers. Unlike your lawn, they do not automatically "bloom" again at the start of a new school year.

EVERY student needs to be challenged to the limits of their ability!

This discussion gives me hope!

Regarding tracking, labels, and elitism, consider this: age discrimination is against the law - except for schools. Schools are explicitly exempt from the age non-discrimination law! Nearly all students are tracked according to age. I suggest we track according to READINESS. Gifted and advanced students, as well as highly motivated students will be ready for greater challenge at an earlier age - if we teach them to wait, they learn to, get this, WAIT. One of my 6 year old daughters decided she didn't want to read book number 3 in the decoder series after she had finished books 1 and 2, she wanted to try the very last book in the series. She suprised me with how little support she needed, and she was so excited that one of her favorite phrases now is "I want to challenge myself...". HER KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS CHIDED ME FOR ALLOWING HER TO DO THIS!!! The flip side of the readiness model is that students who need more support to achieve readiness just get it. Par for the course, no IEP or LD labels needed.

Sonya raised a question regarding whether teachers are qualified to teach G/T students - I would extend the question to whether teachers and administrators are qualified to IDENTIFY G/T students. Again, track according to readiness, and the question becomes moot. I find it insanely frustrating that so many teachers and administrators don't seem to understand the long-term consequenses of failure to identify and provide APPROPRIATE educational opportunities under the current school model.

Finally, I will offer a tip for parents that has been working well for me and my kids: question of the day. Schools, especially under NCLB, spend WAY to much time and effort teaching children to answer questions, when learning is all about ASKING them. Think about Einstein's famous "thought experiment" that ultimately changed the way we know our world - it was a child's question! I began urging my daughters to ask questions, no matter how small or big. At first they asked things like when we would go to Chucky Cheese, but they quickly moved on to asking whether parents and children have the same germs (except when they have a cold), how batteries and gas make things move, and why their friends say 500 + 500 = "ten hundred" but Daddy says 500 + 500 = "one thousand". Gravity is a favorite topic - who invented it? Why is it called gravity? Why does a balloon (helium, of course) float up when gravity should pull it down? When I showed them what a number line is, I started from zero on the left and moved up the integers along the right. My other 6-year old daughter asked if negative zero was on the other side, left of zero. How proud can a mama be?!? I answer the questions when I can, look up answers when I can't and DELIGHT in the questions that have no answer - yet!

When more attention was given to children with special needs, teachers learned how to support the individual needs of all children. In the same way, increased emphasis on gifted education can mean more emphasis on nuturing individual abilities and clear thinking for all children. In view of the pressures from NCLB, it is difficult for a teacher to find time to attend to individual strengths, curiosity, joyful learning, and analytical thought. District support for gifted children, well planned, can spill over to the so called average child.

Also, I know this blog is not aimed toward specific information, but if you find yourself in a school system which doesn't value higher level learning, check out the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University (JHU-CTY). This long established program can support your family and your child with a community that values exploration and thought, K-12, alumni/ae too. Thus it can change your child's life..

Thank you for blogging on this important issue! I was lucky enough to be in a gifted program starting in the 1st grade that challenged us at our level; if I hadn't been allowed to work ahead of grade level on Math, I really think I would have lost interest. When I went through certification to become a Math teacher I heard a lot of "Well, shouldn't everyone have access to the rigorous curriculum?" In high school we had "open" honors English where anyone could sign up, and the quality in some of the classes was appalling. I applaud any teacher who goes out of their way to challenge that gifted student in their class--I know teachers have way too many other things to do to meet the needs of even their regular students--and really believe that special gifted-only classes are the most fair way to address gifted students. It's unfair to teachers to ask them to develop a special curriculum for a small subset of their class, yet it's unfair to the gifted students to leave them unchallenged. Gifted students have the potential to some of our most celebrated leaders, scientists and artists, but will only reach that potential if they are academically nourished.

Eugene, et al, Differentiation is a sytematic approach to the notiopn that all kids are different. They are different in their needs, learning styles, have multi background influences (and parents).....It was formulated by research into the needs of gifted and talented students, but alas, it was found to be beneficial to students at all levels. Gardner's multi-intelligence theories are woven through out. One of the hands on publishers on the topic is at www.ascd.org, to include lesson plans, guides, yes this is differentiation, hehehe....
The Army you did not appreciate (I call it ordership directed) was in deep do do when the draft ended. They developed a Center for Leadership Studies at Ft Ord CA in the 70's.
An example of a lesson: You will spend 80% of your time working with 20% of your students. Conversely, you will spend 20% of your time working with the remaining 80% of your students. Is this fair, no, is it real, yes. You can bank on the 80/20 rule. This is a business model. Educators are amazed by it. The Army got this from Management 101, so if the Army can learn from other disciplines, why can't education.
My gifted credentials? In Kentucky it is an endorsement requiring a specific 18 Graduate Hours. I had previously been given conditional certification based on being an instructor in Leadership and Management Developement. I have the additional graduate hours in KY for endorsement.
Again, I am looking foward to further comments and interchange at this site. Thanks!

Wow! This world of technology is very invigorating and establishes a community of which I am delighted to consider myself a participant. I am a lifelong educator, specializing in Gifted Education for over a quarter of a century. The debates brought forth here are those experts in this field have argued for many years. One central theme throughout is that we cannot neglect the needs of kids, all kids, any kids to LEARN and GROW. I am sending the URL to this blog to many colleagues, teachers and administrators who (still) do not understand what I do, why I am so passionate about this under-served population or what the students entrusted to my care need.

I, too, am a state and national level "grass roots" advocate, Tamara. I invite you and others to read more about GT in NJ at www.njagc.org and to read a recent "Pocket Manual for Advocates" (pdf download) at www.brightword.com My all time favorite "everything you want to know about gifted education" web site is www.hoagiesgifted.org For those interested in the definitions, the strategies, the success stories please continue to read and learn (and read and post here!)

To those who still think everyone is gifted, I offer the statistics of standard deviations as quantitative proof, but I also offer a visit to a class (my class) of gifted students as eye opening confirmation that gifted children have special educational needs that must be met.Everyone has talents, but gifted is the degree of difference from the norm.

My favorite poster in my classroom is student made and reads "My gifted class is like home to me." Gifted children need time to be together, to challenge each other and themselves, to be comfortable enough to give the "off the wall" answer, to take in as much information as quickly and deeply as they can, and to give back to the world that which they can and need to contribute. These are the rights often denied to gifted students forced to "do time" in classes that focus on remediation and will not instruct or pace at a challenge level.

Our greatest deficiency in preparing teachers is not equipping them with the tools to truly differentiate to meet all students' needs. These include the TIME to prepare and access to data for "prescriptive teaching", multi-level resources and materials, SMALL class sizes, and the authority to teach creatively (from the heart, not the NCLB rules.)

I look forward to following the dialog here. Thanks, Tamara, for starting the ball rolling! Sorry for the lengthy post.

"To those who still think everyone is gifted, I offer the statistics of standard deviations as quantitative proof". I hate labels. They are meant to ensure that "profoundly gifted" students receive - at best - services that are appropriate for the "moderately gifted", while "moderately gifted" students get nothing.
I also offer three challenges:

1) "Differentiation ..... was formulated by research into the needs of gifted and talented students, but alas, it was found to be beneficial to students at all levels." (from Bill Stull, above)

2) There was a classic study (Terman, perhaps?) in which "moderately gifted" students were incorrectly identified as "profoundly gifted" and put into a challenging environment meant for the latter. They were found to thrive in that environment, yet when the error was recognized, out with the moderate and in with the profound.

3) The "statistics of standard deviations" may well be quantitative, but not proof. When they are used as proof, indeed as labels, everyone loses. IQ scores are test scores, and test scores -even IQ scores- can increase when the subject is appropriately nurtured or decrease when the subject is neglected. While this variation may be less than a STD, it can make the difference between a student receiving more or less appropriate educational opportunities. I fully expect to get flamed for this one.

I lied, here's a fourth:
4) To demonstrate the previous bullet, the Superintendent of my school district stated during a Board of Ed meeting not too long ago that the "truly gifted and talented make up 5% of the population". He even muttered something about expanding that to 10% which I couldn't scribble fast enough, so we'll stick with 5%. The county's guidelines indicate a cutoff of 130, which is 2 STD's above the mean. While 5% is outside of 2 STD's of the mean, this includes BOTH tails of the normal distribution - only HALF of that is above the mean. So by design, half the "truly gifted and talented" are identified as such. Further, the Weschler tests are used to make this determination, despite evidence that the Stanford-Binet LM is a more appropriate tool.

One more that's been rattling me for years - any insight would be appreciated! The best functional definition I can find of IQ has to do with potential, or even predicted, achievement. So what does it mean when actual achievement scores are as much as 2 STD's above the IQ score?

To Cheryl: I'd say the kiddo's was a hard worker with a good memory. Last year almost 17% of our 6th graders scored 95%ile or above on the MAP test. Obviously all of those kids were not gifted, maybe the achievement tests are easy. Just brainstorming here. N.

Thanks for the thoughts Nancy. Turns out Nobel physicist Richard Feynman would not have qualified for G/T programming in my county. His composite IQ score was only 125.

I know this blog is now a couple of weeks old and most of the discussion has stopped, but I felt compelled to comment.

I have a daughter in 7th grade and a daughter in 5th grade. They are both in the gifted program. My experience with their regular classroom teachers has been phenomenal. They have put forth amazing efforts to ensure that my kids learn (and think). The gifted teachers have also made this effort. This may be because as a parent it is my responsibility to make sure my kids are challenged. I ask the teachers to concentrate on leadership and communication skills as well as academic areas they need work in or pushed in. We take on extra projects at home so that they have to think somewhere other than school. Teachers should be the desert. Parents should be the main course, especially with gifted kids. Yes, I believe as a parent my attitude is unique, but then so are my kids...

Sorry, I got on my soap box and missed some of the points I wanted to make. Tamara, I am with you, but the job should not be left just to teachers.

Have a good school year.

As we think further into what gifted means, we need to go beyond science technology, and math classes. There are leadership traits,creativity, and compassion that manifest at higher levels in the sensitivity that accompanies many of these children that needs to be nurtured as well.

Tamara,
This blog is as heartening to me as the many considered comments posted to it. Thank you!
I believe that one of the steps that most strongly needs to be taken, both by educators and administrators, is to consider the input of gifted students in designing their educational experience. It's true, students often don't always do what is best for them. Teachers need to be the architects of much classroom content and activity. Giving gifted, and all students, a voice in their education can only help them to feel valued and empowered to ask for what they need, even if all suggestions aren't put into practice.

Teaching middle school gifted students for the first time has offered me insight into some of the issues you are discussing. I would love to see how some of the teachers manage their classroom. I have Gifted Reading and want to do more in the way of differentiation in the classroom.

GT is one of the qualifying categories for receiving special education services. In other words, special education includes services to students who are GT. Also relevant to note: Atypical development is a characteristic of students who are GT, as well as a characteristic of students with learning disabilities and emotional disorders.

Thanks for your insightful post (and the others that have followed it so far)! It raises so many important points. I've subscribed to your blog feed and I'll be looking forward to more from you in the months to come.

Boy, am I tired of seeing posters whining about "labels" and "all kids are gifted." Those people clearly never had to sit in prison for six hours every day of their childhood, pretend to be stupid, and take physical and emotional abuse from their peers for being wierdos, while the teachers stood by and let it happen because they secretly agreed that these kids made them feel uncomfortable. This happened to me, to my husband, and to all three of our children. The system hasn't gotten any better in the last 50 years, and it happens at public, private, and magnet schools. To this day both my husband and I feel that we have seriously underachieved our potential due to the induced comas we spent our K-12 years in. Both of us just wasted our time at the Ivy League school our no-effort GPAs and 1300-1400 SAT scores got us admitted to. Since we were both so used to goofing off and turning in last-minute, hastily dashed-off assignments, and quitting as soon as we had sufficient "product" to get the necessary grade, we learned virtually nothing in school, and we both joke about majoring in psychopharmacology and minoring in human anatomy. Our daughter, who is scary smart, graduated in the bottom half of her high school class, because she never had to work hard to master anything--even though she had a GIEP--so she decided to just stop working at all. And don't try to slip in that "enrichment" stuff. Gifted students don't need "enrichment" when they have already mastered the content! They need more challenging, more advanced content, and they need to be able to work with their peers, i.e. others who can understand their "wierd" way of thinking and offer them comparable intellectual feedback. Kids don't want to teach (tutor) what they already know to their classmates, they want to learn new stuff, and they don't always want to be the smartest kid in the class. And as for the "elitist" charge, I always stressed with my kids that "smart is as smart does," and I think they are some of the most egalitarian people you'll ever meet. But denying reality--that some students are smarter, faster, more advanced than most--is teaching a human being to embrace lies over truth, a lesson I will not tolerate for my family. We finally moved to a school district that uses tracking, and our sons are actually being challenged in school, and have risen to the challenge, actually learning way more about certain subjects than I know (a first!). (Yes, I know how conceited that sounds -- if you're not a gifted parent of a gifted child, you wouldn't understand, if you are, then you do.) So what's the district doing? Gradually eliminating the tracks, so that "all students can be offered challenging content that meets state standards," which are BELOW our kids' ability! Luckily for them, they will graduate before the tracking system is completely eliminated, but what about all the other gifted kids to come? If we could have afforded to lose my income and our health care benefits, I would have home-schooled all of them, but that's not an option, and it certainly isn't a realistic solution to the systemic problem. It's like telling all those unresponsive teachers and administrators, "Never mind, you've ignored us, so we'll go away and you won't have to worry about taking care of our kids' special needs." So now that I've vented decades worth of frustrations, what's the solution?

Thanks

I am a parent of a six year old little lady that has just tested into the gifted program. I am at odds with removing her from a school in which I am familiar and somewhat friendly with the administration. I feel very comfortable expressing any concerns about my child's academic progress or even at times teacher placement. My fear is that I will lose this if I place her in the gifted program because she will have to change schools. After reading this, however, I believe it is in my best interest to take the chance on the gifted program.
Thanks for this confirmation!

I went to a workshop recently with Sandra Kaplan of USC - detailing her work on "depth and complexity" as the differentiation for gifted students. EXCELLENT! It still has me thinking about the meanings, her icons for different aspects of the work, and the application in non-gifted settings as well.
here's a link I just found:
http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~skaplan/

I have a son who is not challenged and bored in class. Although he has a terrefic teacher there is so much she can do with all her other responsibilities. I am trying to start an after school club within the school for kids with top 20% scores in Grade 2 and 3. The school principal tells me that they do not hav eany extra funds to hire someone. I am willing to Volunteer my time and get this started untrained though I am. My thought is to start out by reading classics together like a book club , bring in some reading aloud etc. Perhaps incorporate poetry reading too. Has anyone done anything like this or any experience or ideas how I could format these sessions. Is there a way to present is more attractively to the principal and try to get funding. Or just start ! any ideas would help:-)
PS: Could you copy me a reply.

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