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Report from NAGC - Day 2

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Has it really been just two full days that I've been here?! It already feels like a week! (That's a good thing - it's just intense!) I'm typing at a table in a restaurant with some friends from other states because they peer pressured me into staying out later with them rather than going back to my room to write. I so love re-connecting with everyone here and meeting great new faces, too.

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My day in a nutshell:

1) I learned some great tips about approaching legislators about gifted education issues from a former gifted specialist who is now a member of the Missouri legislature. Here's a sampling:
* Condense your information into about three simple and compelling talking points.
* If they can't read it in 90 seconds, it won't be read. (one sheet of paper with points bolded)
* Build relationships - find something you have in common to initially connect with them on.
* They need to like you and see you as influential.
* Connect with the decision makers and those who represent you.
* Focus on services for gifted children, not programs (because the purpose of programs is often misunderstood)
(Thank you, Sarah Lampe!)

2) Spent some time shopping in the Exhibit Hall...

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3) Marveled at origami created with paper plates...

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4) Learned about executive functioning processes in the brain...

5) Learned about American Mensa via lunch conversation...

6) Gathered ideas for a student of mine who is building a Rube Goldberg contraption. (One of the presentations focused on strategies for teaching thinking skills, simple machines, and engineering & physics principles to kids via the building of Rube Goldberg contraptions.)

7) Pondered what gifted kids really mean when they say something is "fun" ...

8) Attended a couple different receptions (face-to-face social and professional networking!)

9) Discussed the state of gifted education in Montana with a handful of other Montana GT specialists (there are only a handful of us anywhere...)

10) Talked with a doctoral student about her dissertation and shared ideas...

11) Had a photo op with four of my classmates from UConn -- the first time all five of us have been together at the same time since 2003.

12) And in the last session I attended this afternoon, I watched a really fired up presenter, Susan Rakow, give a feed-it-to-them-straight presentation about all those things in gifted education we all know deep down but rarely are gutsy enough to actually say (especially to people outside of gifted education). Her top 10 list of "things you can't say in gifted education" included "anti-intellectualism is the norm in the U.S." and "all children are NOT gifted." I found myself jotting down lots of gems she was saying, such as "giftedness is real and we need to stop apologizing for it" and "the glorification of stupidity." She talked about this "placation polka" we dance in order to soothe people's feelings or not step on any toes. And she said, "well sure, we retard them [gifted kids] for five years" in response to the common misperception that "the other kids will catch up."

Although my style is not quite so feed-it-to-them-straight, I think she's right that we have elephants in the room and don't confront or acknowledge important realities in our field. What do you see as the "things we can't say in gifted education"?

5 Comments

In our school we barely use the word gifted because the hackles all go up and you inevitably hear "they're not really gifted are they".

I can't even count the number of times I've said (in my head, or to other gifted resource teachers)

"Of COURSE it evens out by third grade. We don't teach them for 3 years!"

If we ignored the needs of the lowest acheiving students until they were in third grade, we would have lawyers and advocates breaking down our doors!

All through the latter half of elementary school and middle school, you couldn't tell about a half a dozen parents that their children didn't belong in the G/T level math class. This is because they were all girls, and the particular class they were in was already more than 75% boys. All the girls were obviously struggling in the class, but nobody wanted to be non-pc and acknowledge that these bright young ladies couldn't handle the heavily accelerated pace of the class.
On the other hand, these girls were clearly outclassing about half the boys from their math class in their G/T English classes. But we couldn't talk about that either. In this instance, it was the boys who were suffering and not getting the additional support.
In short, we couldn't seem to acknowledge that even gifted kids have their weaknesses. They have to be super-students in all subjects.

Sometimes we can't say, "they need a different learning environment." Some kids cannot thrive in a specific classroom, or even a specific school. When can we actively encourage parents who want to homeschool to help them with the resources that we have? When can we point them to the private or charter school down the road and wish them well, not in secret, but because we know that it is best for them? Exceptionally gifted kids, those that are three grade levels above or more, truly have no hope in the area that I live in. I know they are rare, but I wish they could be helped in a more profound way.

I had a great time at lunch with you, too, Tamara!

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  • Lessa Scherrer/Princess Mom: I had a great time at lunch with you, too, read more
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