Educating Gifted Children

here’s an interesting piece from the US ASCD website looking at perspectives on giftedness and how schools should cater to the needs of their gifted children.

ASCD Article

Within TSRS we have been discussing giftedness recently in quite a lot of detail through a number of meetings over the last 2-3 months. One of the first challenges is that you have to get to a definition that all can be comfortable working with. We are clear that a definition that is narrowly defined to recognise those children who are strong on linguistic and/ or logical/ mathematical only is inadequate. It must encompass all those children at advanced stage of development in all intelligences (Howard Gardner).

Secondly, we are absolutely clear that we do not wish to finish up with a scenario in which there are special facilities/ allowances and arrangements for special needs and gifted children, whilst somehow leaving the bulk of children who fall in to neither category unfulfilled.

For me, far more comfortable is an approach based on differentiation – a set of practices and processes whereby the teacher builds knowledge and evidence of the strengths and development needs of each and every child in the classroom and, over time, seeks to provide varied and differentiated learning experiences that will meet all their learning needs.

There is no question this is challenging and a big shift for many teachers. However, there is now an increasing amount of material available to help teachers to begin the journey down this route:

Differentiated Instruction
Reflective Teaching
Andrew Pollard’s Website

Playing ‘The School Game’

When Students Don’t Prepare

Teacher Professional Development

Here are two articles – on different subjects related to education, but to me symptomatic of the general malaise and challenges that are the significant reason why major root and branch reform of ‘how we DO education’ is so necessary.

The first carries quotes and short pieces from a number of teachers who appear bemused and confused about why their pupils should be failing to prepare for lessons, failing to do what they’re ‘supposed to do’ before lessons.

Somewhere along the way, in reading all of them i found myself surprised that the teachers couldn’t understand why the students were ‘rebelling’. The fact is that the way the scenarios are described they are classic situations where teachers and students are engaged as parts of a system that has been perpetuated in schools for far too long – a system in which students believe it is their responsibility to do the minimum they can get away with, while the teachers believe it is their task to catch them, coral them and subordinate them – making them bow down to the tasks ‘whether they like it or not.

I feel like I want to scream out – what about a different paradigm. A paradigm which suggests that learning communities can exist within which curious students work to satisfy their own quest for learning by working obligingly and cooperatively with facilitating educators who act as guides to the knowledge they seek.

How much longer must we all beat ourselves up in these silly games where we, the big people (parents and teachers) know best and force, cajole, blackmail, threaten and generally bully students to do things against their will because we KNOW it’s in their best interest.

And then there’s the second article that acknowledges and admits that in thousands of schools all over the world educators are behaving in ways that make clear they don’t care a jot about their own professional development – they just want to fulfil the minimum requirements of their J-O-B. To them it’s not a vocation, there’s no passion in what they do, no inclination to believe that mastery of some skills and knowledge on their part could enable them to transform the lives of some young people.

How do we break out of these mindsets where both pupils and teachers perceive themselves as cogs in a system. a system that has no logic, a system that plays out a bizarre game based on power differential and force.

is it any wonder that some of the most talented students ‘refuse’ to play the games, rebel against the systems and don’t achieve (by the standards of the system) – incidentally, most of them succeed in all kinds of ways once they are released from the confines of the education game!!

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