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Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.'s Blog Posts

SELFIES – A Reflection and Evaluation of Self
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SELFIES - A reflection and evaluation of self

In this age of selfies, it is not unusual to see so many people seemingly obsessed with taking continuous photos of themselves so that they can view their image in all kinds of situations–some posed and some in the spur of the moment. As the school year ends, I also think the idea of selfies, of taking a view of oneself, is an apt way to encourage gifted young people to stop and take a “selfie” look at themselves as a form of personal assessment, a measure of the moment, and a window into their futures.

We can turn selfies into an acronym and use it to highlight some of the goals we share for our gifted students. Here at SIG, we’d like to suggest that the letters S E L F I E S remind our amazing young people to take stock of where they are now, contemplate where they’d like to be, and set goals to reach before taking the next snapshot—the next step of their life journey.

So, gifted young people, take that photo and then think about your…

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Mentoring for Gifted Students: Three Considerations
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Mentoring for Gifted Students: Three Considerations | National Society for the Gifted & Talented (NSGT)

With summer rapidly approaching, gifted students have a great opportunity to spend additional time learning about careers, fields of study, and research that intrigues them. While there are many avenues available to students to pursue their individual interests, such as attending a SIG program, forming a mentoring relationship with someone who is knowledgeable in that field  of interest is often a productive and nurturing process, much in the same way as apprenticeships have functioned throughout history.

If you are a parent or educator and are seeking to set up a mentoring experience or program, there are generally three aspects to consider in the mentorship relationship process.

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Coming to America This Summer: World Council for Gifted and Talented Children
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World Council for Gifted and Talented Children Logo

SIG has a significant percentage of students in its summer programs who hail this year from 36 other countries.  So we naturally understand that in this age of global citizenship, it is critical also to have a worldview of the common interests and beliefs concerning gifted and talented children. The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) does just that by providing worldwide advocacy for gifted children. Its mission is to focus world attention on gifted and talented children and ensure the realization of their valuable potential to the benefit of humankind.

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3 Great Reasons to Organize Gifted Parent Groups
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The advantages of gifted parent groups are numerous and significant. There are many pluses to belonging to a kindred group. Some of these are listed here.

With summer at hand, now is a good time to start thinking about organizing a group for parents of gifted, talented, and creative children, if one does not already exist in your local community. By organizing in the summer, such groups can be ready to roll into action in the fall when gifted education issues may arise with the start of a new school year. Such gifted parent groups are usually organized by parents, but educators can also form parent groups as leaders or participants.

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Developing Compassionate Empathy in Gifted Children
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Developing Compassionate Empathy in Gifted ChildrenEmpathy is a critical emotion to develop in our 21st Century as AI, robots, and other forms of technology shape our world. Though hard to measure, there are indications that the modern world is becoming increasingly empathetic. Despite how it may appear, today’s world is less violent than early civilizations that engaged in tribal warfare, indifference to others, and hostility to outsiders. Empathy builds trust along with positive connections among humans and is good for emotional health, all needed goals for our modern age.

Gifted children often exhibit empathy as they engage in positive ethical behavior and maintain high moral beliefs. As educators and parents, we have an obligation to help gifted young people nurture these beliefs and behaviors and find ways to apply their need to empathize in meaningful ways.

Daniel Goleman identified three types of empathy in his 2007 article on this topic.

Those three categories are:

  1. Cognitive empathy: a knowledge and understanding of someone’s feelings
  2. Emotional empathy: perceiving and caring about someone’s feelings
  3. Compassionate empathy: utilizing the first two types, but also taking actions of support

It is the 3rd type of empathy that I believe speaks to what we do in gifted education. Not only do we want students to feel and acknowledge empathy toward others, we also want them to apply their problem solving and critical thinking skills to positively impact situations that are causing distress for others. We need to provide opportunity to use students’ positive feelings of concern regarding people affected by local and global problems, so that they have a constructive place to put these emotions, so that they do not develop feelings of frustration, fear, or apathy, and so that they are contributors to creating a future world that will benefit others as well as themselves.

Here are a few ways that students can develop compassionate empathy.

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Be Positive: Create!
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Be Positive: Create!Here at SIG, we’ve been highlighting creativity recently, due not only to the fact that we value creativity, seek to enhance it in our programs and students, and recognize its importance in our eligibility, but also because this month we recognize the work of Dr. Bonnie Cramond, our 2018 recipient of our Person of SIGnificance award, for her career in developing creativity in education. (You can view her recent webinar on infusing creativity into curriculum here.)

I think we can all agree that being able to think creatively and solve problems creatively is a great asset to have. In fact, Costa and Kallick list it in their 16 Habits of Mind. The Habits of Mind are 16 problem-solving, life-related skills necessary to operate effectively. The 16 habits promote strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity, and craftsmanship. Key to this habits concept is the idea that using these skills in life helps us to produce positive outcomes.

The authors present the habit associated with creativity as:

Habit #11: Creating, Imagining, Innovating: Think about how something might be done differently from the “norm”; Propose new ideas; Strive for originality; Consider novel suggestions others might make.

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Living Creatively: Torrance’s 7 Rules to Follow
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Living Creatively: Torrance’s 7 Rules to FollowRecently here at SIG, we’ve had some parents ask us to provide them with information about areas in which we feel their children need to improve. While I understand a parent’s need to make sure they are providing everything their child needs and desire to help them to be the best they can be, I am also concerned that we do a disservice when we place too much focus on what folks don’t do well, as that takes away from our focus on what they do best. At SIG, we want students to discover interests that resonate with them, and then to pursue those topics, or issues, or skills with intensity, to fuel that passion. I believe this passionate pursuit is where we find true happiness, as well as significant productivity and innovative contribution within fields of study.

I can’t help but be reminded of E. Paul Torrance’s Manifesto for Children. Torrance, a pioneer researcher in creativity, created this manifesto, based on the findings of his research, to help guide us in what to do and what not to do, if we want to embrace our creativity to its fullest and let go of those things that prevent us from doing that.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Manifesto, here are Torrance’s 7 tenets:

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The Question CARD: 6 Ways to Stimulate Thinking in 4 Easy Steps
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The Question CARD: 6 Ways to Stimulate Thinking in 4 Easy Steps | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT) | Summer Institute for the GiftedIn education, we often speak about the importance of asking good questions. Questioning is instrumental in assisting the teacher in determining what a student knows, as well as what a student doesn’t know—two pieces of information that are critical in knowing what is needed in the next phase of instruction to keep the student in a meaningful flow of learning.

In gifted education, we emphasize that questions should be used to challenge the student’s thinking, to help the student make new connections and apply information in useful ways, and to practice good problem-solving skills, among other things. 

We can also practice asking good questions as adults and in our personal relationships. Here is an easy way to remember some of the various kinds of questions you can practice in your everyday life. Just think of holding the question CARD. Each letter of the acronym represents a clue to asking varied types of questions, such as the ones listed below.

C is for Compare.

Ask the person you are talking with to compare one thing with another. What emotional experience is similar to the feeling of having to give a speech for you? How does a bird’s flight compare with an airplane’s? What characteristics are similar among heroes?

A is for… many things!

Apply, Argue, and Analyze, to name a few.

  • Apply – What can you do with solar energy in impoverished countries? How can you use your knowledge of income and expenses in financial management to handle pollution policies? How can understanding fears and phobias affect your personal decisions in life?
  • Argue – How can what you know about human diseases help you argue for or against medical treatments? How might your knowledge of cryptology help you support concerns about privacy?
  • Analyze -What are the important factors in good teamwork? What would be the most important first steps in ending human rights abuses in a selected country? How can one country’s foreign policy affect other countries around the world?

R is for Relate.

How does brain plasticity make you think of overall health? How might surveillance be linked to personal and institutional safety? How do statistics relate to future predictions?

D is for Describe.

How might you describe utopia? What colors, shapes, and lines do you see in your imagined landscape painting? How might you design the colors, layout, and interest elements of this room so that it has a calming quality?

These are just a few examples of ways CARD can help you expand the questions you ask to engage people around you in thoughtful interactions. At SIG, questioning is paramount in our courses as we encourage students to approach new knowledge in ways that are meaningful, personal, and authentic to them. A few examples from our curriculum might be:

1. Compare: How might you compare the philosophy of Plato to your own beliefs?

2. Apply: How might you apply what you know about the circulatory system to solutions for heart disease?

Argue: How might you defend your creative method of solving a math problem to the way someone else did it?

Analyze: How might you analyze ocean clean-up efforts in the past to discern the most productive course of action in the next 10 years?

3. Relate: How might the nautilus shell provide food for thought as you design a hurricane proof home?

4. Describe: Describe in detail the prototype you envision for your invention.

These questions are just a few fun examples. Thinking of interesting questions is not only fun, it’s an easy and challenging way to make sure that we are feeding young gifted and creative minds in ways that keep them engaged with their world and feed their intense needs to think broadly and meaningfully.

Liminal Moments for Positive Change
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Liminal Moments for Positive ChangeThe transition from the school year to summer brings to my mind the idea of liminal moments, a place in time where one thing transitions to another. In other words, one thing is no longer and the next thing is not yet, so, in this example, no longer school year and not yet something. We face many other liminal moments in our lives as well—from school to career, from one career to the other, from single to couple, just to note a few.

The word liminal comes from a Latin root that means threshold. A threshold is a boundary, think doorway, that marks a point of transition between one thing and another. As educators and parents, we can and should encourage our gifted, talented, and creative students to use such thresholds in their liminal moments to embrace the idea of positive change. How might we enhance the experience of those liminal moments to pivot into a different approach to the change that will naturally occur and make it an intensely positive transition?

Three steps that are critical to establishing positive change in liminal moments might be summarized this way:

First, we would encourage students to get in touch with a knowledge of the things they don’t know. What is missing in your information and understanding of any area of your life or studies? What questions remain unanswered that tickle your brain? What emotions seem to be struggling for attention that have been ignored? What skills or talents are lurking in the background of your consciousness that you think should be pursued? The responses you generate from these questions may lead you into a decision to try something new and unexpected in your journey to create positive change.

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What Does Giftedness Mean?
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What is Giftedness? | National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)Parents often contact us wondering if their child is gifted. It’s easy to understand a parent’s uncertainty in this regard, especially if they have no other children to compare with. Here is some information that might be helpful to parents and teachers who need a little more information about identifying gifted, talented, and creative children.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Education defined  this way: “Children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment.”

This definition is broad and comprehensive and often used by school districts. It speaks of talent, which includes all areas of a child’s life—academic, artistic, athletic, and social. Most schools limit their definition and their programs to academic elements, but it is important to remember that students can be advanced in many areas of performance, accomplishment, or aptitude.

It is not enough to just have the talent or skill; students must be using that ability at remarkably high levels. This definition recognizes that not all very talented students have the potential to achieve at high levels; some have the ability to do so but have not had the opportunity or circumstance. These students may be underachievers. This definition is a comparative one; these students achieve or have the potential to achieve at levels significantly above their peers.

While gifted students can be as different from each other as they are alike, there are some characteristics of gifted students that may be considered typical:

  • Learns easily
  • Is motivated to pursue personal interests
  • Has good communication skills
  • Has a well-developed memory
  • Displays curiosity and creativity
  • Has an advanced ability to deal with symbol systems
  • Has intense and advanced interests beyond age group
  • Demonstrates advanced reasoning and problem-solving ability
  • Shows social perceptiveness
  • Displays leadership abilities
  • Has sophisticated sense of humor beyond chronological years

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