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Report from NAGC - Day 4

Greetings and apologies for not getting my Day 4 Report up sooner. After NAGC, I returned home to four nights of parent/teacher conferences, work on my garage that I'm building, giving a couple of presentations, a five-day trip over Thanksgiving, and a five-day family trip to Iowa (in addition, of course, to my job!) Needless to say, I'm working on getting caught up with myself! ;o)

Day 4 (Sunday) at NAGC was a shorter day with two early morning break-out sessions followed by a closing keynote. I didn't attend this year's closing keynote because doing so would've meant getting home at about 1:00 a.m. - and since I had to work two 12-hour days that Monday and Tuesday (parent/teacher conferences), I opted for being a little more refreshed rather than being even more wiped out.

The Sunday breakout sessions were just as wonderful as the other days. The first session I attended on Sunday was about mood and creativity. The presenter, Elizabeth Fairweather, is researching whether or not there is a connection between the two - and if so, what it might be. She's been examining high and low levels of positive and negative mood elements (contentment, surprise, fear, sadness, etc.) and if/how they affect a person's creativity. I realized, through her presentation, that I could be doing more for my students in the way of helping or encouraging them to examine their own moods and how (if at all) they affect their creativity. In particular, I think this would be important to do with my 7th - 12th grade students who work on independent, self-directed projects in my class. Some days, their progress (or lack thereof) on their projects appears to be impacted by their mood. I'm going to encourage the kids now to keep track of their moods and their progress on their projects so that they can determine for themselves which factors and moods are more advantageous (or crippling) to their creative process.

The second breakout session that I attended on Sunday was about a three-credit undergraduate introductory course on gifted & talented students at the University of Toledo. (The person giving the presentation, Jeanine Jechura, teaches the course, if I'm remembering correctly.) Our local tribal college here on the rez usually invites me to speak to the Education majors in their Exceptional Needs class. But I only get about two and half hours with them, rather than an entire semester, so my question after the presentation at NAGC was, "So how do I condense this all into two hours?" I'm well aware that in Montana, those two(-ish) hours of information about gifted students that they get from me might very well be the only exposure/information those future teachers ever get on the topic, so I feel a bit of pressure (self-imposed, I admit) to be as efficiently effective in that short time as possible. I left the NAGC session with a short list of key points and then took that list with me last week when I met with those pre-service teachers at the tribal college. Essentially I gained three overarching goals for my time with those soon-to-be teachers: 1) That they leave with some understanding of key topics/issues in gifted education (social and emotional needs, identification, creativity, school accommodations, mythology, special populations, etc.), 2) That they leave with some empathy for gifted kids and what they sometimes experience in life and in school due to being gifted, and 3) That they leave with a desire for action - to do something for the gifted students who will enter their classrooms someday. And really - I think those are three important and realistic goals for the type and length of presentation I was called upon to give because if they can leave with those three goals more or less accomplished, then they are much more likely in the future to take it upon themselves to seek out any or all of the thousands of pieces of information I didn't have time to impart to them that night.

An additional piece that I add to my presentation at the tribal college is a student panel. With parent permission, I brought in about a dozen of my students, ranging from a 1st grader to a high school junior, to talk from the kid's point of view about being gifted. That is definitely an effective way to accomplish goal #2 (empathy)! The kids (and a few of their parents who stuck around to watch and also talked a bit) really "brought to life" everything I had been talking with the pre-service teachers about during the previous two hours. And the kids appreciate having the opportunity to help future teachers develop some understanding about kids like them before they even get to a classroom.

While I missed the closing keynote at NAGC, I did attend the opening keynote with Josh Waitzkin. (Someone asked in the comments section that I talk about it - so sorry I forgot to in a previous NAGC Report post!) On one hand, I wished the three kids on the stage with him would have had more opportunity to ask Josh questions (they were part of a panel that posed questions to Josh) as well as to speak more themselves. But that aside, what most impressed me about Josh was how he has so thoroughly examined the principles that led him to success in chess and how he then transferred those principles to other areas he wanted to be about equally successful in. He seems like a highly analytical person (makes sense for a chess master!), as well as intense and relatively down-to-earth.
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Plan ahead! Next year the NAGC convention will be in Atlanta, Georgia, November 11-14.

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