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Gateway to Gifted

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St. Louis, here we come!

This year's national conference (i.e. NAGC) will take place in St. Louis, Missouri, November 4-8, 2009. In addition to the 260+ regular conference breakout sessions (on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), there will once again be Wednesday Academies, Thursday Action Labs, and Thursday Board Institutes, plus some great general sessions and mini-keynotes. One general session in particular that I'm curious to hear is a presentation by Josh Waitzkin, author of "The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance." Josh is an eight-time national chess champion and is also the person (then boy) whom "Searching for Bobby Fischer" was based on. I am intrigued to hear about his life story from his own voice and to ponder his theories on reaching "optimal performance."

I won't be able to be there on Wednesday, but if I was, I'd be curious to attend "Taking Middle School Gifted Students to Higher Ground" or "Tools and Strategies for Promoting Literacy and New Literacies for Young Gifted Students."

And I'm still debating what to sign up for on Thursday. "The Advocacy Journey: Finding Success for the Gifted Student" would certainly apply, as advocacy is a big piece of what I do as a Gifted Education Specialist (and also as President of our state organization, Montana AGATE). "Making Sense of Underachievement: A Counselor’s Perspective" catches my attention because it's an important topic and I know someone who attended the same session by the same presenter (Jean Sunde Peterson) at Edufest this summer and raved about it. Having great options to pick from is at least a good problem to have! ;o)

For all the parents out there, consider attending the convention's Parent Day on Saturday, November 7th. It looks to be a nearly 12-hour day chock full of opportunities to interact with other parents of gifted kids, learn about oodles of topics of interest to parents, and hear from keynoter Howard Gardner. You can even register for Parent Day for a special parent rate!

Want to get organized and plan your conference session selections before you hop on the plane? Use the awesome "itinerary planner" to build your own conference schedule. (FYI - If you are already an NAGC member but haven't logged into their system before, your username for logging into the Learning Center - where you can access the itinerary planner - is your email address and your password is your NAGC membership number. If you are not already an NAGC member, you can create a login account for free.) I love using the itinerary planner because I know that once my plane lands I will have very little time to read through the BOOK that is the conference schedule to figure out which sessions I want to attend. (Just as an interesting idea to toss out to y'all, I always bring the book/schedule back to show my students so they can see where I was and can read about some of the "classes" I took. They're usually rather impressed by all the topics and that 3,000 teachers get together each fall to learn about better ways to reach them as advanced learners.)

And bring some pocket change! The Exhibit Hall is so magnetic and will draw you in!

Friday night will be an evening of Network Events, each one sponsored by one of NAGC's fourteen Networks (essentially, they are special-interest sub-groups, like "Creativity" and "Research & Evaluation" and "Early Childhood"). Apparently the Creativity Network's Event, "Creativity Night," is a lot of fun. And I got quite a chuckle out of the Computers & Technology Network's title for their Event this year: "Speed Geeking," an interactive “speed date” of 5-minute presentations about educational uses of some of the best free technology resources.

I'm excited to be heading to St. Louis once again. The only other time I've been there was back in college when a friend and I went there for the National Collegiate Honors Council conference. It was October of 1993, the year of the floods, and I still recall how squishy the ground under the arch was, soaked with water even weeks after the Mississippi's unusually-wide summer flood line had receded. I may take advantage of the opportunity to go up the arch again. What an architectural marvel! The cars looked like ants from way up there... And St. Louis being the town where the Lewis & Clark expedition began lends the city some additional fascination for me. (Signs of Lewis & Clark are just about everywhere here in Montana!)

What do you appreciate most about attending the national convention? I love being able to interact with so many other people who do what I do. I love having access to so many great learning opportunities (i.e. all the sessions). I love the energy, the hundred new ideas I come back with (although my crazy "to do" list usually only allows implementation of about three!), the chance to see old friends, the continuous debate of ideas and exchange of theories. But I think most of all, I love coming home and seeing my students and letting them know that thousands and thousands of people are "on the job" of helping to improve understanding of gifted kids and methods for reaching them as learners. They feel less alone in being gifted when I let them know that I'm less alone in being a Gifted Specialist.

Okay, I'm off to officially register for the NAGC convention now... Consider doing the same! It's always interesting and worthwhile. You can register online or via snail mail. Oh, and if you register by Sept. 18th, your registration fee is $25 cheaper...

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I can't wait! This will be my first year attending/presenting.

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