Reflections on Giftedness: What I’ve Learned, and How I’ve Changed

08 Jul

Ever since a UMW classmate first presented me with the Assessment of Knowledge of Gifted Learners a year ago, I have been curious about this course. As I attempted to respond to the survey statements, I reflected back on my own experiences in gifted education, as well as the testing cycles my daughter lived through. I had fairly strong beliefs about what I thought it meant to be gifted, but I also noticed large areas of ambiguity. I really wasn’t sure how to answer a handful of survey questions; as I took the assessment one more time yesterday, I realized that I’m still not 100 percent on each and every one.

When comparing my answers on this assessment to my responses at the beginning of this term, only eight of my marks have changed. Of those eight, five (9, 16, 19, 21, and 26) simply changed from “agree” to “strongly agree.” Likewise, one of my only areas of divergence, statement 4, changed from “disagree” to “strongly disagree.” In each of these cases, my original opinions were validated by the information we learned in this course. This validation simply helped me to feel more confident responding to the statements.

The other two changes (statements 3 and 13) were also only slight; rather than “unsure,” I marked “agree.” My feelings are still not “strong” about these two statements, though, for the same reasons I mentioned in my original reflection (linked here).

I still worry that some of the things we learned this semester, such as how to recognize common characteristics of gifted students, serve to lump students together rather than highlight their individuality.  By dispelling some myths, have we perpetuated others? I am not arguing that what we’ve learned is false. After all, I do recognize these “common characteristics” in most of the gifted students I know. However, one of my biggest takeaways from this course—and pretty much all courses at UMW—is that we need to see our students as individuals and not assume that they are like their peers in the classroom—whether that classroom includes students who are labeled as gen. ed., SPED, or gifted.

Another takeaway is that giftedness can take many forms. This statement reinforces what I have long believed but rarely seen recognized in my experiences with schools. All too often, schools establish identification and programming criteria that reinforce a very limited view of giftedness. Yes, students who perform in 98th percentile on certain tests may be gifted, but students who perform in the 80th may be as well. In fact, their giftedness may have absolutely nothing to do with their academic achievement or ability, but rather be reflected in their artistic, athletic, leadership, or interpersonal skills. This is the main reason I still hold firm to a philosophy on giftedness (linked here) that is in line with that which was defined by Howard Gardner. This course has simply reinforced my earlier opinions. I believed 8 weeks ago and I still believe today that gifts and talents may take many forms, and students who are gifted in one area are just as deserving as those who are gifted in another. In fact, all of our students are deserving of an education that meets their needs, regardless of whether that education involves enrichment, acceleration, or remediation.

My final takeaway is that it will always be my job—not just the job of a resource teacher or other professional—to meet the needs of my students. In a fifth-grade classroom, I may have students who are reading on a first-grade level, as well as students who could outperform high school seniors on the SAT. Gifted programming may not be available to all students who need it; even if it is, that programming may only involve two hours of pull-out enrichment each week. It is my job, whether or not I am collaborating with a teacher for the gifted, to ensure that my students receive an appropriate education throughout the remainder of the school week. It is my job to ensure they are challenged to achieve, not bored with more of the same.

I approached this course primarily seeking answers to questions about identification. While I do now have some answers, I probably have even more new questions. But that’s okay. As long as I place my students’ needs first, I feel confident that the rest will begin to fall into place.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 8

07 Jul

I grew up in a family of highly creative people. When my parents were newlyweds, my father was a semi-professional singer and musician.  He had his own local television show and cut a couple of records. Once my brother arrived, Dad’s professional focus shifted permanently away from music and toward his job as a cost analyst for Ford Motor Company.  Meanwhile, my mother was (and still is) an extremely talented artist whose murals and portraits were sought after throughout the region. My dad continues to jam with local musicians, and my mother attends art guild meetings and competes in state art competitions. I have judged myself against them, and I’ve always felt I was lacking in the creativity department.

My brother and I were both talented artists as children, doodling and sketching when we should have been listening to our teachers.  Thankfully, we were both also high achievers, so our academics didn’t suffer. But as I got older, issues with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis took me away from my sketching.  My brother is an art teacher today, but my artistic pursuits are limited.  I’m no longer a writer, I’ve neglected my photography hobby, and I scrapbook only about twice a year at annual crops. I also have piles of unfinished knitting and crocheting projects piled in the corner of my living room.

On the flip side, my husband is one of the most creative people I know. He is a producer/director for the FBI, and he worked in post production when we lived in SoCal. He’s an idea person, which is the exact opposite of how I would describe myself. For years, I’ve told myself I’m not creative. But only recently have I really stopped to think about what creativity really means. I do tend to think inside the box, but apparently that’s okay. I’ve also found that I can succeed when forced outside my comfort zone, so I’m trying to push myself more and more. I’m great at “freewheeling” and improving upon other people’s ideas, but I never really thought that counted as creativity. I’m glad I realized this before entering the classroom as a certified teacher.

The strategies we discussed in class Thursday—such as ABC or Post-It Note brainstorming—really got me excited about how we can incorporate more creative thinking into our teaching repertoire. I first heard the word “brainstorming” in my Trailblazer gifted program in fifth grade. We brainstormed constantly, even though my gen. ed. teachers never asked us to. It’s amazing how much this extra step can help us improve upon our work. I also liked the Morphological Connections activity we tackled in class. I have encountered too many teachers who are so focused on preparing for tests with drill and kill activities that they spend little time preparing their students to think creatively. I hope I won’t fall into that trap as a teacher.

Thursday’s class gave me a lot of information to ponder.  I plan to place many of these strategies into my educational “toolkit” as I prepare to enter the classroom. I’m sure my students will thank me for it!

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 7

01 Jul

I have to admit that I put off writing last week’s reflection because my memories of the class were not positive.  Unlike other group sharing activities, my experience in lesson planning with the yellow group was anything but positive.  We stumbled a bit as we tried to come up with a three-tiered lesson plan that actually made sense.  More than with the content, however, we stumbled with personalities. Eye rolling and snarky comments are never welcome in collaborative situations. If nothing else, the activity provided me with a preview of what it will be like working with upper elementary school students. I witnessed plenty of eye rolling while teaching reading remediation last school year, and I expect to see more  in my future.

It took pulling out my notes from last week to realize that there were actually a lot of positives during the class period. One slide that always grabs my attention (I’ve seen similar slides from other professors) is the one that details how much students retain from our lessons.  Dr. Houff once showed us a short video in which a master teacher had her students parrot what she was teaching, and then quickly “teach” their neighbors before moving on to the next topic. I remember thinking this technique looked very different from any I had seen before, but also realizing that it likely worked.

The Equalizer slide provided a great visual of ways in which we can modify our lessons to meet the needs of different tiers of learners. I also liked the comment, “When in doubt, teach up.” I think it is important for us to remember that students benefit from productive struggle. My daughter is used to “getting” things very quickly, so she’s been known to declare she isn’t good at something if it doesn’t come to her immediately. One of the most important things I learned from Dr. Sheckels after two semesters of math instruction (content and methods), is that the struggle is what helps us to learn.

I also liked the comment that we should all become “assessment junkies.” As teachers, we should always be assessing our students.  That doesn’t mean we should be assigning pop quizzes.  It simply means that we should constantly make note of what our kids have learned, which is why flexible grouping is such a great strategy to use.

“Differentiation” is a key word each of my professors here at UMW has emphasized. However, this particular class period offered some of the best strategies for making this concept a reality.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 6

25 Jun

During our Week 6 class meeting, we had the opportunity to work with our Task Force to begin comparing different delivery options for our final project. I have to say, before returning to graduate school, I never really enjoyed group assignments. I’ve always been one of those people who preferred to just “do it myself” in order to ensure that assignments met my standards.

I no longer feel that way.  Most of my peers in the K-6 program are very conscientious and detail oriented, and I truly enjoy working with them on these larger projects. An adde bonus is that these group assignments will also help prepare us for working with our colleagues once we’re in the classroom.

For that reason, I’m especially glad that our Task Forces are made up of peers within our own grade level concentration. I find that I work better with other students in the K-6 program, simply because we’ve been through all of the same courses and tend to view projects in much the same way. We’ve been introduced to the same theories and strategies, and we approach our assignments with much the same mindset.  However, what I like most about jigsaw and similar approaches is that we can also glean ideas from other groups before delving into them further within our own. I found deBono’s Six Thinking Hats to be a useful tool for dissecting the different delivery options.  I liked being able to bounce ideas off my fellow students, but I also liked the fact that we had to view each program from a variety of angles. Looking at something we consider positive, but from a negative viewpoint (or vice versa), really helps me to solidify all aspects of a concept in my mind.

After really breaking down the programs, I realized that the Trailblazer and MOVE groups I was placed in as a child actually used each of these delivery options at one point or another. As I mentioned in previous posts, I participated in a pull-out enrichment program in fifth and sixth grades (Trailblazers). Once I reached middle school, we were cluster grouped (MOVE). My language arts block was made up of just gifted students in seventh and eighth grades (mixed), and our other content courses mixed gifted with other high-acheiving students. In high school, we were both clustered and accelerated (content area only—my district did not allow grade skipping at that time). By relating what we’re learning in this course to what I experienced as a child, I’m able to better understand the options and muddle through what I believe works/worked best.

One option I had never really considered before was compacting.  In fact, I don’t believe I had heard the word used in this context. I love the idea of pre-assessing our students’ knowledge not just in order to guide our lesson planning, but also as a way to accelerate our students though the learning process. My daughter has received a 100 percent on nearly every spelling test she has taken in four years of schooling, and she hasn’t had to study in order to do so. She finds the nightly homework boring and repetitive, because she already knows how to spell and use the words. So why does she have to do it? Her self-regulation skills in regards to homework are already top notch (don’t get me started on housework, though), so the drill and practice required of most of these homework assignments is wasted time and effort.

The same is true across content areas for many students. We will have students who have mastered much more difficult concepts than we cover in class, so why not let them demonstrate their knowledge in a pretest and then accelerate them through the content into areas in which they are actually learning something new? Or at least applying higher-level skills to the content we are covering?

As I think through everything that will be expected of me as a first-year teacher, I am a bit overwhelmed by the amount of planning that will be required in order to differentiate and offer students lessons and assignments that truly meet their needs, whether that means gearing up or gearing down to their individual levels.  However, if we truly want to meet the needs of each of our students, this planning is necessary!

My Philosophy of Giftedness

14 Jun

I know an 8-year-old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  He is a rising fourth-grader, having skipped kindergarten due to his exceptional intelligence. He also receives special education services.

My daughter attended preschool with a 3-year-old boy who could reproduce any cartoon character in exact detail.  He was so quiet that it was difficult to determine whether his general intelligence matched his artistic talent.

I attended elementary school with a girl who was pitch perfect on every song she sang. She was self-confident in her abilities, performing on stage long before most children were comfortable even speaking in front of strangers.

The first of these children is classified as gifted by his school system.  The latter two were not.  However, I would argue that each of these individuals is gifted, possessing talents we would be remiss to ignore.

When I was a child, only those children who scored the highest levels on achievement tests were referred for gifted testing.  We underwent similar identification procedures to those I have witnessed in local schools; however, the overwhelming focus was on academic ability and achievement.

There were no artists referred to the program.

There were no singers.

In our school district, “gifted” meant “extremely smart.” I believe this definition is short-sighted at best. Intelligence alone does not a gifted child make. I believe exceptional ability can come in many forms, and may be exhibited by individuals far outside the stereotype. For this reason, my philosophy of giftedness most directly aligns with that of Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences. There are numerous realms in which children and/or adults can possess exceptional abilities. And they can do so with our without high IQ, ability, or achievement test scores.

I turned 41 yesterday.  Throughout those all-too-plentiful years, especially during my career as a journalist, I had the opportunity to meet many individuals who, frankly, left me in awe. Some had a way with words; others, a way with people; and, still others, a way with the physical world around them.

Throughout much of my life, I have been surrounded by gifted individuals—my mother (artistically), my father (musically), and my brother (intellectually).  I believe this has helped me to recognize many “gifted” attributes.  As a teacher, I believe this experience will serve me well, as I always try to find the positive in every individual and experience. The students who have most challenged me have also intrigued me. I deconstruct them in my mind. “Does Desmond need extra help on this assignment? Or is he simply bored by material that’s beneath his abilities?” Regardless of the answer to those questions, Desmond deserves instruction that will meet his needs; he deserves differentiation, whether that means remediation or acceleration.

To the best of my ability, I will try to meet Desmond’s needs.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 5

11 Jun

Tonight’s activity in which we attempted to identify and create educational plans for potentially gifted students was one of the most impactful exercises I have undertaken in my many semesters at UMW.  I really do enjoy these in-class collaborations, as I always learn something from hearing my classmates’ perspectives.

I’m happy to report that the elementary team didn’t give an outright “no” to any of the applicants—we simply requested more information from several.  For each referred “student,” we were able to identify potential areas of giftedness.  That word, “potential,” was the most important takeaway for me. However, that word also brings front and center an unanswered question:  how do we avoid over-identifying students?

Shouldn’t we try to find the best in all of our students?  Shouldn’t we look for areas in which they excel as we plan our lessons?

The information we were provided in our identification simulation really wasn’t enough to definitively identify most of the individuals as gifted. After all, being good at something—or liking a particular activity—doesn’t make a person gifted. It may, however, help us to identify potential areas of giftedness. This is exactly what happened to my daughter this year, when her general education teacher noticed a budding artistic talent that even I had overlooked.

One of our additional readings this week was a speech presented by the NAGC president in 2011.  I connected with what the speaker had to say about developing potential talents rather than lumping students into the “box” that is (or was?) a gifted program. That’s the box I attended, and it’s the one I still encounter in many schools today.  I would love to see a much greater emphasis on meeting the needs of each of our students and a lesser emphasis on preparing for end-of-term tests and SOLs.

But wouldn’t we all? Is it realistic to think that will ever happen?

All of our students would benefit if it did, but predicting that benefit and proving it are two entirely different things.

In my first semester back in school after a 17-year hiatus, I took four endorsement courses through Germanna Community College. One of my professors, whom I will always remember as the first and only history instructor at any level who inspired a love of the subject in me, demonstrated this differentiation on the very first day of class. One by one, she asked each of us to introduce ourselves and share something that marked us as individuals—particularly something we were good at or aspired to. Afterward, she went over the class syllabus; when she came to the “term paper” assignment, she moved back around the room, giving each and every one of us at least two or three ideas of subjects we may want to cover—or even alternate forms of the assignment—based on the interests we had shared. Professor Llewellyn continued this practice throughout the semester, playing to all of our strengths, not just those who were strong auditory learners. She attempted to find the potential in all of us.

So, as I look toward the fall, when I will work in the classroom full-time, one of my greatest goals (besides surviving, of course), will be to look for my students’ potential. Whether that means referring students for gifted programs or simply meeting their needs as individuals in my classroom, I do not yet know. I look forward to finding out.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 4

05 Jun

I think I’m beginning to better grasp the varying theories of giftedness.  As I read about the different issues plaguing subsets of our population and learn ways to better reach these individuals, I keep thinking, “Wouldn’t all students benefit from this differentiation, not just the ‘gifted’ ones?” I think part of my hesitancy when it comes to gifted education stems from my brother’s struggles with the label, as well as my own memory of how that label prompted me behave.

I remember very clearly making an extremely rude comment to another student in seventh grade. I and three of my “gifted” classmates had been chosen for SAT testing through Duke TIP. When another student asked why we were meeting with the guidance counselor, I responded, “It’s only for the smart kids.”  Wow. Twenty-some years later, I’m still so ashamed of that comment. How arrogant, and how completely wrong.

I’ve mentioned my daughter in other blog posts, and she’s another reason I hesitate with this word. I know she is gifted. I know how many of those gifted characteristics match her personality. I know that four teachers have referred her for testing, three for general intellectual and one for visual arts. And I know that she is now classified as gifted in visual arts when, in reality, I don’t believe this is her true (or, at least, primary) form of giftedness. However, I also know how rude one gifted student was when she told my daughter that she obviously wasn’t smart enough to get in (painful flashback there!).

Thankfully, I had already taught my daughter a bit about what giftedness really means. She proceeded to explain to her classmate that being classified as gifted didn’t make the other girl better, only different. Thankfully, a playground brawl did not ensue.

For this week’s readings, several passages stood out as particularly important in my own personal life. The chapter on gifted males mentioned several ideas that reminded me of my brother as he struggled to reconcile the gifted label with his own athleticism, as well as his perceived ostracism from the pack.

On an even more personal note, the additional reading about visual spatial learners (“I Think in Pictures, You Teach in Words: The Gifted Visual Spatial Learner,” by L. Sword) made me actually say out loud, “Yep, that is totally me.” I was lucky in that I also fared well in other cognitive areas. However, I still have to “see” everything in order to fully understand it. When we’re learning a new strategy game (we’re huge board game geeks here in the Melville household), I have to read the directions myself (and view all of the pictures and diagrams) rather than simply listening to my husband’s explanation. Things are just clearer that way.

Even when we’re traveling, I see the world around me almost as a map that I’m peering down on. I always know which direction I should be headed, and will argue tooth and nail with my husband when I “know” he’s going the wrong way. And when it comes to these types of arguments, I always win.

Since I worked in an urban school district this year—in a school that my daughter also attends—I am particularly interested in giftedness in minority populations.  In fact, my daughter is a minority, Asian, who happens to live with two whiter-than-white (ginger, really) parents. I want to foster whatever gifts and talents my students present and avoid stereotyping kids based on their backgrounds, skin color, or socioeconomic status. The readings this week, as well as our classroom discussions, helped cement in my mind ways in which I can do so.

I always look forward to seeing what the next week will bring as we delve further into the realms of gifted education. Next week’s topic of identification is one of the areas that most interests me, so I’m curious to see how the readings and discussions sway my current views.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week 3

02 Jun

Many of my friends warned me that this course involved a great deal of reading.  Lucky for me, I enjoy to read.  Even luckier, my literacy professors have drilled into me techniques for teaching students to interact with their texts, make connections, and reflect on their reading. I’ve been taking copious notes on each of our assigned chapters since before our first class meeting.  I have written way too much to include in a blog post, but these notes have helped me to synthesize the readings, and a few details really grabbed my attention.

1. There are many philosophies and definitions for giftedness, and they often do not agree.

2. Different school districts use different means to measure giftedness, meaning “gifted” students who move may suddenly no longer be recognized as gifted.

3. Because different schools/districts/states do not agree on what “gifted” means, it is difficult to make comparisons.

The reason these details grabbed my attention is because I was hoping to find more answers to what it means to be “gifted,” not be confronted with the same frustrations that already plagued me!  Our jigsaw discussions during our third week of class really solidified for me how variable the concept of giftedness can be.

When I was tested for the program back in the 80s, we took IQ and creativity tests.  I remember being intimidated as I sat alone in a trailer with a psychiatrist whom I had never previously met, looking at ink blots and wondering what in the world I was doing. My daughter, who is deathly afraid of strangers, had a similar experience when she was interviewed and tested by a psychiatrist and a counselor with the Stanford 10, the WJ III, the OLSAT 8, and the Torrence tests.  That’s a lot of tests and codes for a little girl who is scared of failing and even more scared of strangers—especially ones who are not very friendly.

For our jigsaw activity, I served in the group that investigated Howard Gardner. His thoughts on multiple intelligences really struck a chord with me, because I believe many people have too narrow a view of what gifted means.  As a kid, I was told that being gifted meant being “super smart,” but I no longer believe this is the case.  I believe there are many forms of giftedness, and a high IQ score should not create an immediate label of gifted.  As I look back on my own experiences in school, most of my friends in the gifted program have gone on to be teachers (which is wonderful), but many more students who were never given the opportunities of acceleration or enrichment were just as deserving of that label, and have been immensely successful in their careers.

The jigsaw activity gave me some much-needed perspective on how different theorists view giftedness.  I enjoyed participating in the discussion in which my classmates and I made connections between what we had read and what others shared with us. I’m eager to see where our next class session leads.

Preconceived Notions about Gifted Learners

02 Jun

Disclaimer:  I have responded to this same survey for at least four of my UMW friends in previous semesters. I’m 99 percent confident that my answers were different each time I completed it. I wanted to get that out, front and center, because now I’m going to explain that I still don’t feel strongly about many of my answers.

I answered either a 1 or 2 in the overwhelming majority of the survey statements, so I’ll initially gloss over those and move on to the sections where my responses diverged.  I put 3s on three of the statements:  13. The demand for products or meeting deadlines may inhibit the development of a gifted child’s ability to integrate new ideas; 16. Commonly used sequences of learning might be inappropriate for, and may be limiting to gifted learners; and 3. To maintain intelligence, it must be nurtured if giftedness is to occur. Because of the words “may” and “might,” I probably should have put a 2 on a couple of statements.  However, the reason I chose “not sure” is because I prefer to look at each student as an individual.  While these products, deadlines, or sequences of learning may inhibit the development of some children’s abilities, they may not do so for others.  I’m speaking from experience here.  On the issue of “maintaining intelligence,” I also am not certain I agree with most theorists.  I do believe that nurturing talents will help to develop giftedness, but I’m not certain intelligence will be lost without this nurturing.  There are simply too many amazingly talented individuals who have forged their own way in life, without much support from family, friends, or society, for me to believe this is always the case.

The only two statements that earned a “disagree” from me were: 4. Intelligence is a more important factor than other qualities such as experience, motivation, and creativity when determining whether or not a child is gifted; and 5. We seldom find very highly gifted children or the exceptionally gifted children we could call geniuses; therefore, we know comparatively little about them.  I’m a bit conflicted on these statements, and I probably should have placed 3s next to them.  The reason I say this is because I don’t really agree with the way some schools identify gifted students.

As I mentioned in my introductory piece before our first class, I work with a Girl Scout troop in which over half of the students have been identified as gifted.  Each of these girls is smart, and each exhibits strong leadership characteristics.  Not to brag, but they remind me of me at their age.  However, I’m not sure that all of these girls (or I, for that matter) really fit the term “gifted.” The overwhelming majority of the students at this urban school who have been identified as gifted are white females from fairly affluent families. Their families are all very supportive of education and very involved with their children’s academic lives.  The girls attend summer camps and participate in a number of after-school activities.  They succeed in school and outside of it.  But does that make them more “gifted” than an African American or Hispanic student with a lower socioeconomic status and fewer extracurricular options?  To me, the answer is “not necessarily.”  Instead, it simply means they’ve had more opportunities to develop their intelligence.  That’s a shame, but it’s my truth.

The remainder of the statements earned 1s and 2s from me.  I won’t belabor this post by explaining each and every one of them, but I do believe many of the comments were aimed and dispelling some of the stereotypes we have about gifted students and programs. Overall, I think it is important that we look at our students as individuals rather than as labels.  If we do so, we will have many more opportunities to meet their needs and help them to succeed both academically and beyond the classroom.

Reflections on Giftedness, Week One

16 May

Several of my friends in the M.Ed. program checked EDCI 540 off of their course lists in past semesters. They warned me—both while they were enrolled in the course and when they learned I was taking it this summer—that the course was a “ton” of work. Yes, some actually used the word “ton.” That’s okay, because I have been looking forward to exploring the concept of giftedness since I first entered the graduate program.

When I was placed in the “Trailblazers” gifted program in elementary school, I really had no idea what the word meant. There was no “talented” designation attached to the moniker at that time. We were just “gifted.” My older brother had also been identified and labeled as gifted in fifth grade, and I seem to recall my parents explaining to us that Trailerblazers (and its middle- and high-school counterpart, M.O.V.E.) was a program for super-smart kids.

In my elementary years, twice each week, I and three or four of my classmates rode the middle-school bus to a cottage where we met with students from the other two elementary schools for the Trailblazers program. We spent about an hour each day completing our regular schoolwork, and the rest of the time tackling enrichment activities such as writing poetry, completing difficult logic problems, or preparing whole units of study on countries of our choice.

I loved this program. Apparently, my brother did not. That darn label seemed to get in the way for him, and contributed to a depression that still plagues him to this day.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and you’ll find me confronted with another gifted program, this one in my daughter’s lower elementary school. In kindergarten, L’s teacher approached me about referring her for GT. “Sure,” I said. “I enjoyed my program, so why not?”

L went through a series of four tests and two interviews, in addition to the parent and teacher surveys and portfolio review, only to learn she hadn’t been identified as gifted. She’d hit four of seven criteria, but five were required for identification.

A number of L’s friends had also been tested, but only one made it in. Parents of the others decided to retest, and each was accepted right away. We opted not to go that route, because the only items she didn’t “pass” (L’s word) were the standardized and creativity tests. Really, who wants to take more tests?

Each of the ensuing years, L was again referred for the program. In second grade, she decided to test. Unfortunately, due to bullying from her teacher, we moved L to another classroom the week before spring break. The school tested her two days after the move, and her standardized test scores were five points too low. She again hit each of the other criteria—the ones based on interviews, portfolio, and parent and teacher surveys—but the numbers just weren’t there. She was crushed. After careful consideration, L said she had no desire to test for the program again.

Then something strange happened. L graduated to upper elementary, and her third-grade teacher referred her for the gifted visual arts program at her new school. She loves art, so she decided to go for it. She was disheartened to learn that one of the tests was the same creativity test she had “failed” (again, L’s word) the other two times. The day of the test, she was given the same squiggles as before, and she modified them in pretty much the same way. The only difference was that this time she “passed.” Had she scored high enough on this same test the other two times she took it, L would have been identified as gifted for the general intellectual program at her school. Instead, she is now in gifted visual arts. She says she doesn’t really care—she’d prefer the art enrichment anyway, and students can only attend one program—but she still would like the label. It’s funny how her concept of the gifted label completely contradicts that of my older brother.

Now, I’ve explained this long scenario for one reason only:  before I begin teaching, I want to truly understand what theorists believe about gifted education. I want to “get” the referral and testing procedures, and I want to be able to prepare my students for the implications of both making it in and not making it in. I’ve seen one family member crushed by being labeled as gifted, and another disheartened by not wearing that label.

As we reviewed the course requirements, we touched on many of the areas that most concern me. I like the idea of delving more deeply into an area of our choice in the annotated bibliography assignment, and I hope to address a topic that is of particular importance to me: labeling. I also love the idea of analyzing a gifted character from a movie. I’ve seen about half of the movies provided on the suggested list, and would love the opportunity to watch one again with this new focus. In fact, each of the assignments we discussed during our first class meeting appeals to me. I agree with my aforementioned friends that this class will require a great deal of research, analysis, and reflection, but I also believe the assignments will provide me with much-needed input into how I can meet the needs of my future students.

Let the fun begin!


Brooke's Blog

Think outside, no box required.