Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gifted as a Global Experience

Global Experience*
“The emerging era is characterized by the collaboration innovation of many people working in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius.”  – Irving W. Berger, chairman, IBM**

Through the advent of social media, what once was a disparate group of national and regional organizations is now coalescing into a global gifted community connected by the desires and hopes of its leaders to press forward in advocacy for all gifted learners worldwide. In the process, it was realized that giftedness has no boundaries … its existence is universal and divergent at the same time. It crosses all socio-economic and ethnic lines; geographic borders; and ideological preconceptions.


Connecting Globally*

One of the most exciting developments of the 21st century has been our ability to communicate with others in our ‘tribe’ without respect to language barriers or time zones. This blog is read in over 100 countries thanks to a universal translator added at the suggestion of a friend in Vietnam. Thanks to the Internet it is available 24/7 with a connection via a computer or mobile device.




Opportunities to connect are not limited to online connections. Conferences afford members of the gifted community to on occasion join the conversation in real life via previous virtual interactions. It is an empowering experience to meet and interact with community members face to face after months and years of ‘knowing’ each other only online. Keynote addresses are always inspirational and session presentations provide a wealth of information on gifted children and gifted education.


Online Connections*

For those who may not have a nearby or readily available conference to attend, there are weekly chats on Twitter, virtual professional development sessions to build personal learning networks, Google Hangouts and webinars for parents, educators and academics. The idea of re-inventing the wheel and the feeling of isolation become distant memories in this new world of inter-connectedness. Networking has never been so accessible!

Want to know how to get started? Below I have included resources to provide you with a myriad of ways to connect to like-minded parents and educators around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the networks available to you.

In the U.S., there are several national and numerous state organizations which offer the benefits of membership and annual conferences. National conferences are available from:

 Some of the state conferences include:
(Check your state gifted organization for a conference in your area.)


Other national and international conferences include:


Do you represent or belong to an organization who values parent participation? Add your link in the comments below. Together we can further the global collaboration of the gifted community. 

* Photo courtesy: Pixabay 

** via Gifted Children Forum Malaysia 

This post is part of SENG's National Parenting Gifted Children Week.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dumbing Down America ~ An Interview with Dr. James Delisle



Dumbing Down America the War on Our Nation's Brightest Young Minds is the newest book from Dr. James R. Delisle. He recently agreed to an interview with us about the book. 

GPS: For our readers who are not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about your background in gifted education?

Dr. Delisle: I began my career in New Hampshire, as a teacher of children with intellectual and emotional disabilities way back in 1975.  Special Ed. was just emerging as the force that it is today, so it was exciting to be in on what was then a new trend in education.  My introduction to gifted children came in the form of one of my 5th graders who had been identified as "emotionally disturbed."  Try as I might to get Matt interested in schoolwork, nothing much seemed to work.  He was a bright kid--he could read, write, do math, etc.--but I was focused so much on his misbehaviors and apparent lack of interest that I never considered using his talents as a way to reach his mind and heart.  Finally, in total desperation and with my bag of educational tricks empty, I decided to stop fighting Matt and to toss the instructional ball into his court.  This kid loved the outdoors and was interested in maple sugar farming--a project that involved much of his free time outside of school--so that became the vehicle I used to reach this unreachable kid.

Maple Sugar Farming*

Within days of aligning Matt's out-of-school interests with my goals as his teacher, he began to progress, perform and take pride in his work. After two years of teaching Matt, and seeing his success when schoolwork aligned with his interests and intellect, I decided I needed to know more about teaching kids like him. So, I began a Ph.D. program in gifted child education, focusing on kids like Matt--gifted boys and girls who didn't do well in school because school didn't do well by them.  I've been in this field of study ever since, as a teacher, professor, counselor, author and dad.

Dr. Delisle with students

GPS: The use of a ‘war’ metaphor in the title of your new book seems to indicate you have very strong feelings on the subject. What inspired you to write this book at this time?

Dr. Delisle: The subtitle of my book is "The War on Our Nation's Brightest Young Minds (and What We Can Do to Fight Back)".  To be sure, those are strong words--intentionally strong, on my part.  Having worked in this field of study for 37 years, I've grown tired of the small steps and meager progress that we have made as a nation to serve our gifted children.  Gifted children have educational, intellectual and emotional needs that differ from other kids their age who are developing in more typical ways--but we ignore these needs.  If, as a nation, we really thought that gifted kids had special needs, then why haven't we included them in federal funding formulae as we do for kids with disabilities?  In 2013, the federal budget for children with disabilities was $12.9 billion.  For gifted kids?: a whopping $5 million.  If you assume that 3% of our nation's K-12 children are gifted, that comes to about 2.5 million gifted kids in America--which means they get $2 of federal money each to address their needs.  A Happy Meal costs more than that!  The use of the term "War" in my book's title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it's just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year. Indeed, it is a battle in local, state and federal educational venues to even get people to admit that gifted kids need opportunities to pursue learning at their own pace.  The budget cuts nationwide to gifted programs have been so dramatic in the past decade that it constitutes educational neglect.

"The use of the term "War" in my book's title is neither hyperbole or exaggeration; it's just an honest admission that, as a nation, we choose to disregard the needs of gifted kids who need more than $2 of support each year."



GPS: The idea of ‘dumbing down’ has serious implications for society as a whole. What do you see as the consequences for America if this trend is not reversed?

Dr. Delisle: What happens if we don't stop dumbing down our educational options for gifted kids? We're seeing the results already: our nation's stature as an educational powerhouse is in shambles when compared to many of our international neighbors.  But more important than international test score comparisons is the personal cost paid by gifted kids who are told, in effect, that they don't need anything special to excel; that their enhanced abilities and insights are not worth our attention; that sitting in a class with kids of lesser abilities will tamp down the egos of gifted kids and make them more sympathetic to students who struggle to learn; that giftedness is a myth because "everyone is gifted in some way."  The ridiculous bias against gifted kids in our nation's schools emanates from so-called educational visionaries whose sight is hampered by the gauzy lens of professional ignorance. By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful.

"By paying scant attention to the needs of gifted kids, we are squandering a resource that will make our nation less competitive, less meaningful, less respectful."


GPS: What responsibility does the gifted community (parents, educators, organizations) bear with regard to the state of gifted education today?

Dr. Delisle: What responsibility does the gifted community have in regard to the state of gifted child education today?  Part of the reason the field of gifted child education has not progressed much in 30 years is due to the infighting that occurs in this field of study.  While some people contend that gifted children should be identified and served in gifted programs, others find the "gifted" label off-putting and want to eliminate it completely.  Silly as it sounds, we can't even agree on a common definition of giftedness or how to identify it. Some want to equate giftedness with eminence and developed talents, while others desire a more holistic approach to giftedness that encompasses social and emotional elements, not just intellectual factors. And even if, by some miracle, we could arrive at a consensus of what giftedness is, we'd still argue as to how educational services should be delivered.  The state and national organizations that promote the needs of gifted children, and the professionals who write the books and espouse their theories, would do gifted kids a big favor if they could fight less and cooperate more.

Dr. Delisle

GPS: What do you propose to change course in this war on our nation’s brightest youth?

Dr. Delisle: So what do I advocate that we do to stop the dumbing down?  Here are some ideas worth considering: 

  • First, we need to provide the same legislative protection for gifted kids that we give to students with disabilities.  It should make common sense that if you are in either the top or bottom 3% of intellectual abilities compared to others your age, you will have some unique needs that demand more than the standard curriculum.                                                            
  • Second, we need to make a national financial commitment to gifted children that explores everything from effective measures of student identification to best practices in instruction, to longitudinal studies that show us what works and what doesn't. In my book, I elaborate extensively on how an outlay of $400 million over a five-year period could change the landscape for gifted children in America. This plan, developed by one of my personal heroes and one of our field's finest contributors, James J. Gallagher, would be a game changer for anyone concerned about addressing the needs of gifted kids.                      
  • A third suggestion I discuss is to take some of the absurd amount of money that we spend annually of high-stakes testing and use those funds for something that actually helps kids and teachers.  The billions of dollars and countless classroom hours spent on assessment are robbing all children, gifted or not, of precious resources that are more vital to learning.
In my book, I review other areas we need to address--for example, defining giftedness once and for all; re-establishing elementary-grade "pull-out" programs; and admitting that the promise of differentiated instruction as the primary plan for serving gifted children is an ineffective, cheap way out for schools to pay lip service to meeting gifted children's needs. Addressing these steps will not ensure a perfect world for America's gifted kids, but it'd be a fine start.  As I conclude in Dumbing Down America, saving gifted kids isn't our choice--it's our obligation.

Thank you, Dr. Delisle, for taking the time to do this interview. Dumbing Down America is available now from Amazon. Please check out the links below to Dr. Delisle's work in gifted education.

(Note: This post was cross-posted on the Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT Blog.)

Books by Dr. James R. Delisle:

Parenting Gifted Kids

(with Robert Schultz)

(with  Judy Galbraith)

A full list may be found here.

Videos with Dr. James R. Delisle:





Monday, July 7, 2014

Enriching Your Gifted Child’s Life by Building Memories

Beach at Sunset*


Much of the discussion surrounding gifted parenting often revolves around education but even for the gifted child there is a world of opportunity beyond the classroom walls. Building memories through shared experiences can be the most enriching and rewarding part of your child’s life and an undeniable boost to meeting their social and emotional needs.

Summertime and holidays are the perfect time to build memories with your child … exploring their passions, experiencing nature, spending quality time discovering each other beyond the day-to-day routines of school days and enjoying life together.


Dr. Dan Peters


In a recent article, Dr. Dan Peters, co-author of RaisingCreative Kids, reminds us:
Remember, summer break is an opportunity for so many different experiences -- from creating and building, doing art, going on hikes, reading, exploring new places, taking classes, day and overnight camp, family adventures and more. While it is our job as parents to plan for your child's summer, it is also important to include them in the process. After all it is their summer. You might be surprised to learn what they have in mind.

One of the beauties of making memories is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money and mostly requires only time. Yes, time is a precious commodity these days but you will never regret spending it with your child. Memories come in all shapes and sizes. They may involve an epic adventure to a faraway land or a simple backyard picnic. The important part is planning it together!

Backyard Picnic Table*


Research has shown that as we age, we remember less and less of childhood memories; especially those of our earliest years. From What’s YourEarliest Memory? we learn:
“Young children tend to forget events more rapidly than adults because they lack the strong neural processes required to bring together all the pieces of information that go into a complex autobiographical memory.” 

One way of ensuring that memories are not forgotten is to take the time to record your experiences. For younger children, this can involve creating a story. This can be accomplished through the use of diaries, journals, blogging, photos and videos.


Jon Hamilton in an article for NPR, The Forgotten Childhood: Why Early Memories Fade suggests:
Another powerful determinant of whether an early memory sticks is whether a child fashions it into a good story, with a time and place and a coherent sequence of events, Peterson says." Those are the kinds of memories that are going to last," she says.
  
Hamilton goes on to write:
And it turns out parents play a big role in what a child remembers, Peterson says. Research shows that when a parent helps a child give shape and structure and context to a memory, it's less likely to fade away.


An effective way I found to create long-lasting memories with my children was in the kitchen learning to cook favorite family recipes. Not only did we enjoy our time together but they learned to make dishes that could be recreated throughout their lives.

Children in the Kitchen**


Memories become a remembrance of us when we are gone. I can’t think of a better legacy than to have built memories with my children that they will carry with them when I am no longer around. So do something special with your child and start building those memories today!



Special thanks to Gifted Homeschoolers Forum for including this post in their July Bloghop. To view more blogs in this month's tour, please click on the logo below!





* Photos courtesy of Pixabay (Public Domain)
** Photo courtesy of morgueFile (Public Domain)






Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Gifted Family – Transforming Chaos into Calm



Welcome to readers of the 2014 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. This is a cross-post of an article I wrote for Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented found here.

When I asked Jen Merrill, author of If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? and the popular Jen Merrill Head Shotblog Laughing at Chaos, to co-moderate this week's #gtchat on Twitter; she seemed to think that we might be attempting to discuss the impossible. Her exact words were "And then we'll be discussing the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch!"

If you've raised gifted kids, family life can often seem chaotic and not just because of the kids! The parents' intensity plays a greater role than many of us like to admit. The term 'multiple personalities' takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the members of a gifted family. Attempting to bring calm to a world of chaos when you aren't sure who is in charge can prove difficult.
Undaunted ... we went ahead with the chat and were pleasantly surprised not only to see many new faces, but several folks we had not seen in years. It seems that chaos rules in many households where 'apples haven't fallen far from the tree' and now reside under one roof! And participants had a lot to say ... nearly 600 tweets in one hour ... about a tweet every 6 seconds! A list of the questions posed at this week's chat may be found here. A full transcript is at Storify.
Our first question addressed the issue of how asynchrony, when developmental levels of gifted children collide, affects family life in terms of sibling relationships and extended family. One of the first responses, "How does it NOT affect all of life?" from Mona Chicks, set the tone for most of the chat.
Life is indeed chaotic in the gifted family and most participants agreed, 'calm' is a refuge rarely achieved. As Jen noted, "It's hard to plan when you don't know what age/behavior will appear. Extended family may only see one 'age' or only see the kid outside his comfort zone. I think asynchrony causes the most pain with extended family that doesn't 'get it.' Sometimes [you get] judgement when you most need acceptance." Amy Harrington added, "Asynchrony is pervasive with no off switch. It is all consuming and mixed in with Overexcitabilities [OEs] can be entirely overwhelming at times."
We next considered, "What strategies can parents use to calm their own emotional intensities while dealing with their child’s OEs?" Pamela Price of Red, White and Grew, recommended that "Honestly? They need to IDENTIFY their own intensities and seek separate support for them, including their own counselor." Angie French from TeachaGiftedKid added, "You must take care of yourself so you can be the best caretaker of the ones you love." Susanne Thomas, new Online Education Director at Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, had some sage advice for the group, "Finding your tribe. Hands down. Anyone that 'gets' it even in concept needs to be cultivated and cherished."
Additional questions included dealt with:
  • the added pressures that parents face as mediators for their child when behaviors don't match cultural norms
  • how discrepancies in a child'd development affect educational options
  • what effect gifted parenting has on marital relationships and increased financial burdens due to such things as homeschooling and/or early college entrance
Our final question of the chat was meant to allow participants to express some of the unexpected joys they had experienced with their gifted child. Jen shared a recent newspaper article, Moving Picture: Libertyville Computer Whiz Has Big Plans, about her son and his intense interest in computers. Comments shared were truly inspiring!
  • "It's that moment when someone who had low expectations figures it out and is in AWE of his ability. Seeing the connections happen in his brain. Amazing!" Mona Chicks
  • "I get to school him here, and help him make connections, and watch his face light!!" Care M. 
  • "Knowing that if there's more spirited, divergent and creative thinkers out there like her, humanity might have a hope!" Celeste of Oz
  • "Saying 'my kid can code in 4 languages!'" Susanne Thomas
  • "An off the wall sense of humour. Watching them think - the brilliant leaps from go to OMG where did that come from???" Gluten - Free Mum
  • "His humor and original jokes! Oh, the jokes he spontaneously makes up!" Celi TrĂ©panier
  • "Beyond joy about rediscovering his "old", happier self. Proud of us for stepping up to plate as parents. Flip side of public judgment--enormous appreciation 4 strangers who genuinely like your kid." tedra 
  • "Constantly impressed with their insight, creativity, kindness, seeing new patterns." Justin Schwamm 
Have you found your tribe? People who 'get' giftedness and how it affects your life? Consider joining us at Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented on Twitter and find your tribe! Each week we discuss timely topics related to gifted children, adults and education. Questions are posted the day before and an edited transcript is posted after each chat.
We look forward to seeing you Fridays on Twitter at 7/6 C and 4 PM PT in the U.S. as well as at midnight in the UK, 9 AM Saturdays in Australia (ET) and 11 AM in New Zealand. There is also a Sunday chat (in lieu of that week's Friday chat) on the 3rd week of the month at 4/3 C and 1 PM PT in the U.S. and 9 PM in the UK to accommodate those who can't attend the Friday chats.
Feel free to email me at gtchatmod@gmail.com with questions relating to chat times, topics you'd like to discuss or guests you'd like to see on #gtchat. Below is a list of links which were presented during this chat.
gtchat rectangle

Links:
Life in the Asynchronous Family” by Kathi Kearney
Off the Charts: Asynchrony and the Gifted Child” Neville, Piechowski & Tolan, eds.
Off-the-charts cover
Family Counseling with the Gifted” Linda Silverman” (pdf)
A Year of Small Gratitudes” from Jen Merrill
Serving Highly & Profoundly Gifted Learners”  (pdf) in the Gifted Education Communicator Winter 2009
Mellow Out Book Cover
Sprite's Site Post for New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour


Sunday, April 6, 2014

My First EdCamp Experience and Why It Matters



One of the most difficult conundrums for gifted advocates is preaching to the choir and reaching out to the general education community at the same time. This past weekend, I decided to step out of the choir loft and into the main auditorium … I attended my first EdCamp. To be clear, I was venturing well out of my comfort zone; I am not a teacher and that fact often does not bode well in a room full of teachers.

Any apprehension I felt on the drive into the city melted away as I took a seat to listen to the day’s Inspire Talk. Before the presentation, several people came up to me and thanked me for coming as I had mentioned on Twitter that I planned to attend the event. It occurred to me that it only takes a short walk to bridge the gap between teachers and advocates when we realize that our passion is ultimately to see all students succeed!




Over the past 24 hours, I’ve reflected on why this experience was so different for me when clearly the emphasis of an EdCamp is geared to primarily professional development for teachers. Then it struck me … the very nature of this relatively new type of unconference brought together the avant garde of the teaching profession; the forward thinkers who are not bound by rules of from whom they can and cannot learn.

All in attendance considered themselves life-long learners. There was the sense that learning can take place anywhere. There was also a general sense of frustration among these teachers that their profession had taken a hit in recent years with the continual demands of standardized testing which sapped the creativity and innovative spirit that had sent many of them into the classroom in the first place. This was particularly evident among those who taught in public schools. How sad.

Unlike past experiences in formal school district settings, I felt accepted and heard when I spoke about my role in social media to facilitate the conversation between parents and teachers in the gifted community. Gifted students were viewed as a part of the school population who had needs that deserve to be met. It was an uplifting experience to say the least.

EdCamps are probably not a destination for most parents. However, they are something parents should talk about with their child’s teacher as a viable option for educators who seek quality professional development. And did I mention the conference was free? The only expense was getting to the conference, and with the proliferation of EdCamps around the country this should not be a major issue in the future.

Why does my attendance at an educational conference matter? It is a sign of hope that there are teachers who are not bound by traditional expectations of how children learn or how anyone learns. We must seek out ways to work together.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Underachievement: An Alternate Course of Action

Photo Courtesy: Morguefile

In my last post, I promised resources for those who requested them. While pulling together the list of links below, I came across several forgotten gems on the topic; articles which have influenced my thinking but escaped my memory. I would be remiss if I did not thank two authors whose work has had a profound impact on how I approach this subject ~ Mr. Josh Shaine and Dr. James Delisle. Their articles are the most parent-friendly ones I have ever come across. I highly recommend you read their articles first.

The term ‘underachievement’ is about as prickly as the term ‘gifted’. There are lots of definitions and parameters, but little agreement on what the term actually means. I’ve always had an uneasy feeling about the connotations surrounding underachievement. As a parent, it made me sad to think of a child as an underachiever.

When did the child become an underachiever?

Where could a parent have gone wrong?

As it turns out, neither the child nor their parent actually did anything wrong. You wouldn’t know that to listen to teachers, psychologists or ‘experts’ in the field of gifted education who try to tell a different story. They are quick to point to the symptoms of underachievement, but are at a loss for words when it comes to causes. And there is a good reason for that …

You see … this is a classic case of blame the victim. Something has to be wrong with the child that they are simply not living up to their potential (or should I say to someone else’s expectations?).

In Delisle’s article, he acknowledges that there are students who do not perform as well as they could academically, but he insists we stop blaming the child. Rather, he explains we should start making a difference by changing ‘our’ vocabulary and attitude about underachievement.

I couldn’t agree more. Last summer, I sat in a session with one of the leading ‘experts’ on the topic of underachievement. It was all about how to fix the underachieving child. During the presentation, she had an activity for the audience. Not accepting the premise of the activity, I chose not to participate. This did not sit well with this expert. She actually came to my table to ask me personally to join in. When I said “no”, she became flustered and walked away. The irony of my actions obviously escaped her.

As parents, we often expect a lot from our children when they are identified as ‘gifted’ … perhaps we expect TOO much forgetting that they are still children? I know – this flies in the face of another group of experts - who say we must push, and push, and push. Well, many of these gifted children are a lot smarter than the experts and that includes the ones who label them as underachievers.

Photo Courtesy: Morguefile

Don’t the same experts advise parents to do all we can to encourage creativity? Then they tell us how to get our children to conform to an uninspired curriculum offered in many classrooms today. We are told to coerce our children into completing the 10 to 12 worksheets they are handed every day for homework ... or endure being labeled another ‘esteem-killing’ term … lazy.

Another course of action:

·         Forget the term ‘underachievement’
·         Explore why your child lacks interest
·         Change the environment, not your child
·         Encourage your child to find their passion
·         Be patient with your child



Links:



Patterns for Charlie (Companion piece to Underachievement from the Inside Out) by France Shaine (Josh's mother)

A Note on the Definition of Underachievement 

Underachieving Gifted in a Talent Development World 



Giftedness, Conflict, and Underachievement (book) by Joanne Rand Whitmore