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Reforming Education: It’s Personal for Gifted Folks

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reforming gifted education for gifted students blog postWe’ve all known or been that someone. You know, the reformed reformer — the person who quit smoking and is now obnoxiously anti-smoking, or the person who has given up gluten and can’t stop talking about the benefits of such, or the person who has found religion and is now preaching to everyone who will listen. Sometimes we may be annoyed by these newly-found states of bliss thrown in our faces; however, we can’t help but feel happy for them in their conversion ecstasy.

In my line of work, which is gifted education, the best adult conversions I have witnessed have been teachers who have embraced new ways to teach that engage them as much as the students. I have had teachers say to me that once they have gotten over their obstacles, and opened their eyes and minds to exciting and interactive ways to teach, that they could never go back to rote teaching and learning again—much like their students also feel, I would imagine!

Rather than direct instruction with single correct responses and back and forth singsong exchanges between teachers and students, these reformed educators have discovered that it’s is much more fun, fulfilling,  and worthwhile to present students with problems, issues, and concerns that they can grapple with through complex questioning and discovery. They can now ponder and research individualized projects of their interest to manifest new understandings in personal ways through their products. Time flies; teachers and students are motivated and engaged; learning abounds for everyone.

If you are an educator with gifted and talented students in your classes, who hasn’t converted yet, consider how you might transition to the “other side.” What obstacles are you facing that you can overcome? What convincing do you need to lead you to a new type of euphoric teaching? Whose help do you need to get you there? Think about it and make a plan of action. You’ll be glad you did for your sake, as well as for those gifted students who will be very appreciative.

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

2 responses to “Reforming Education: It’s Personal for Gifted Folks”

  1. Bryan Thomas says:

    Hello Dr. Swicord,

    I really appreciate your post, and definitely agree with what you have mentioned. I, too think that teachers that are in the classroom of specialized students should be teachers with a specialized skill set to instruct these students with some different strategies. However, in addition to the academics that need to be provided to the students; what about the social development of the students, and their families? In some cases these students can be looked as outcasts by their peers. What happens if they cannot keep up with peers or properly adjust to the learning curve? There may be parents that have other children, and they have to assure to their other children that they are smart too. Are there any family supports for matters such as this? Standardized testing is a major topic in education, whether you have opted in to National or State testing, the gifted students are expected to do exceedingly well. How do you prepare for that when the curricula of gifted and talented courses (as you mentioned above) may not, in a lot of cases, do not align to the content covered within the assessments?

    • Barbara Swicord, Ed.D. says:

      Bryan,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I’m so glad you mentioned the social and emotional aspects of giftedness as that is such an important part of what we do here at SIG. Many of my blog posts and newsletter articles deal with this component. It’s very important to us that our students are happy, lead fulfilling lives, and have a positive feeling about themselves. We build experiences into our programs that encourage positivity, healthy peer interactions, and acceptance. That’s one reason it’s so important for gifted students to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals, so that they appreciate that there are others who are very similar to them. Another aspect of a positive self-esteem that we emphasize is focusing on personal goals and growth, and not being overly concerned with how you compare to others, either in your family or your academic group. For this reason we have students create a personal objective to work on during their time with us.

      Standardized testing can be a concern to educational leaders who need to show growth and skill attainment on a group level. Gifted students tend to perform well on most core curriculum standardized tests as they pick up and retain information easily, and they can do that in the course of studying a wide variety of topics of interest to them.

      For additional family support, possible avenues include local area psychologists, school guidance counselors, religious and spiritual leaders of access to the families, and gifted program coordinators who might have other local avenues of support for their students. In addition to national organizations like ours that focus on the broad needs of gifted children, if you are looking for specific emotional support or related topics of interest, you might reach out to Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) or places like the Summit Center in California. Many other such organization exist within smaller communities, as well. I hope this information is helpful. Please keep reading and thinking about these important issues regarding gifted children as we all work to build a fantastic present and future for them.

      All the best,
      Dr. Swicord

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