Interesting Teaching Concept

Finland is restructuring how they teach- removing “subjects” and teaching “topics”. For some reason this new teaching concept interests me. I can’t wait to see how it all works and the learning that happens. Definitely a different way to view teaching.

Historically, Finland has been studied by other countries all over the world as a model educational system. I found this general article about the fascinating educational philosophies in Finland on Smithsonian magazine website and this quote stood out:

There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,” said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

Why is Early Education Important?

I am often asked about the importance of having the appropriate learning environment for gifted students. I loved how these educators answered the questions in an article titled: “Love the Child, Not the Gift”

Baby Einstein

Why help gifted students? Because the first rule of education is “do no harm.”

 JON: What are the most important reasons why we need to invest in gifted students?

SIDNEY and FELICIA: The first rule of education is to “do no harm.” There is considerable research suggesting that gifted students can be harmed if they do not receive appropriate educational interventions. This is especially true in elementary school and among at risk populations, such as children who live in poverty or children who have both gifts and disabilities. The harm can manifest as disturbances in social and emotional development, such as behavior problems, depression, loneliness, and alienation. It almost always manifests as lost academic potential. Hence, the first reason to invest in gifted students is to ensure that they are not harmed by their school experiences. We might call this a moral imperative for investment in gifted students. A second reason to invest in gifted students is to enable them to fulfill their potential.  Gifted students by definition have unusual capabilities, but those capabilities cannot be fully realized without a long process of talent development. For gifted individuals, talent development is a prerequisite for self-actualization. We might call this a humanitarian reason to invest in gifted children. The third and final reason we propose for investing in gifted students is because of the potential return that investment might yield for society. Gifted individuals have tremendous potential to benefit society as adults, whether they choose to focus their talents on raising their children, excelling in their professions, performing at high levels in the arts, making discoveries in the sciences, and/or creating inventions that enhance our lives. We might call this the pragmatic reason to invest in gifted children—the investment may return substantial gains to society in the future.

What do you think? More recess, less, or none?

What??!! Recess isn’t mandated? I just read an article that a break in the day for children is not required by law. I am in shock and had no idea. I just assumed since in the adult world, breaks are mandatory, it would be the same for little bodies. Nope. Since the push for testing and assessments, it seems that other facets (like social skills from recess) of the lives of children are not as important to develop?

Recess is vital in my opinion. Not just for a mental break but for social interactions, imaginary play, games, and there is a lot of research about the benefits of just moving our bodies around.

If adults want a break during the day at work, don’t you think children do too?!

Educators Issue a Call for Mandatory Recess

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Camp Posts, Delayed

So sorry but our camp posts will be delayed a few days…

We are so busy getting the classrooms painted, decorated, and furniture put together that I won’t be able to write on the blog for a few days. Here are a few pics to keep you updated…

Here is Debbie working very hard holding the door open.

working hard

Here is Sherry putting the sofa together, taking apart, and putting it back together again!

IMG_5524

Sherry putting together her first piece!

IMG_5522

Raising A Gifted Boy Reader- Parent’s Perspective

Written by: Amy Sherman
My 8th grader has a teacher who is  trying to differentiate in the classroom by allowing kids to choose books from a grade leveled reading website and answer the online questions for points.  She’s doing her best with 30 kids 5 times a day. The problem is: none of the books that he reads are ever on the site – he usually reads adult non-fiction. So he has his sixth grade sister use the site to find books which she has read – usually a few years ago – and then she answers the questions for him!   Also, the questions are simple yes/no answers to see if the book was actually read.
Well, so I try to find enrichment classes around town, only to discover that there are a plethora of math, robotics and science enrichment classes – but nothing that revolves around reading, speaking, debate,  thinking and comparing or history literature studies. Nothing – all math, legos, science, and more math.  In order to find what I’m looking for to help him stay challenged; I have to hire a high school or college professor for a one-on-one class!
All this work on my part is coming too late though – He has this firmly engrained belief that he should not do anything different with his mind and talent. It’s not cool. 
Let’s just say I’ve read a LOT of articles and books on giftedness over the past 13 years, give or take. So something has to be pretty “wow” to, well, make me go “wow,” or in other words make my “I Wish I Could Have Read This Years Ago; It Would Have Explained/Helped So Much” list.
An Interview with Roland S. Persson:  The Talent of Being Inconvenient (First Published in The SENG Update Newsletter, June 2010) is one such article.  Dr. Persson looks like a member of the World Wrestling Federation or the older brother of Mr. Clean, but is in fact a Professor of Educational Psychology at Jönköpping University in Sweden, where his research focuses on giftedness, with an emphasis on social context and the gifted individual in society.
So what blew me away in this interview?   It’s the first time I’ve heard someone provide a coherent framework for understanding that which I’ve been clumsily trying to put forward these past 2.5 years in this blog, namely that verbally* gifted kids (and by extension I guess, adults) have it harder vis a vis their artistically and mathematically/science gifted peers.  (*IMO, verbal giftedness goes beyond facility with reading and writing.  It is sophisticated vocabulary, persuasive argument, deep interest in–and the precocious ability to question, analyse and think critically about–philosophical, ethical, moral, sociological, political and historical issues.)
“Geeky” mathiness–particularly among boys–is what our society typically reads as “gifted.”  By and large our school systems are pretty successful in meeting that need.  Not perfect, but there is a greater openness to and ability to provide acceleration, as well as a burgeoning math/science pipeline in place to foster and reward this type of gift (think math competitions, science camps, scholarships and mentorships, etc.).  Musical artistic talent too tends to be celebrated and rewarded. It’s “okay” for kids to be prodigies in these realms and it feels like summer programs for kids are chock-a-block with theater and art opportunities.
Meanwhile verbal talent is seen as somehow commonplace (“Everyone catches up by third grade and learns how to read”), thus serving as the source of endless frustration for parents trying to work within school systems to find appropriate educational pathways. Frankly, I bought into the mainstream construct too.  It was only in the wake of a CTY SET ceremony that the reality was spelled out for me.  “Just look at the awards program,” this gifted expert told me.  “There is an entire page, four columns in small type of kids who made SET in math (700+ on the Math portion of the SAT before the age of 13).  Meanwhile, there is a quarter of a page, two columns in larger type of kids who reached the same mark on the Verbal section.”
Okaaaay.  Light bulb going off.  It explained why even in gatherings of EG/PG kids, my kid still had a hard time finding “people.”  There truly aren’t that many.  Throw is the gender skew at the very far right of the bell curve and there really aren’t that many.
But back to Dr. Persson (whose research/writing I’m now going to have to seek out).  My “aha” in the interview was his Hero, Nerd and Martyr taxonomy of giftedness.  He writes:
Somewhat simplistically, perhaps, I construed societal functions as Maintenance, Escape, and Change, typified by the more common parlance expressions of Nerd, Hero, and Martyr…. Gifted individuals interested in, for example, technology, medicine, or finance—“the nerds”—all serve supportive functions in society. They are rarely controversial because their skills contribute towards maintaining society, its leaders on all levels, and its power structure as a whole. Also individuals gifted in sports, music, and the arts are much appreciated. A few are rewarded more for the moments of release from stress that their gifts offer. They allow us for a moment to escape into a very positive experience. As scientists, we go to great lengths to study the constituents of their skills.
However, when it comes to gifted individuals having the potential to change the social world by their knowledge and insight, they are rarely as appreciated as their colleagues more devoted to maintenance and escape. We tend to fail to realize the consequences of having an uncanny grasp of cause and effect, so typical of the academically gifted. When confronted with certain conditions and decisions, the gifted individual is very good at understanding what the outcome will be. However, being one voice in a group of others less equipped to foresee the results and problems, who in the group is inclined to listen and acknowledge the single and voice differing in opinion and conclusion? If this individual is being contrary to the leadership, harassment and being contrary to the leadership, harassment and persecution are sure to follow in one way or
another. Interestingly, it rarely matters whether the gifted individual is right or wrong; he or she poses a threat to the credibility of authority. Again, history is full of examples, and “martyr” is sadly an appropriate term.
The greater the prestige to be lost, the more severe the battle to retain dominance and authority.
Or, as Ellen Winner (1996) put it Gifted Children: The gifted are risk-takers with a desire to shake things up. Most of all they have the desire to set things straight, to alter the status quo and shake up established tradition. Creators do not accept the prevailing view. They are oppositional and discontented.

How do I find the right school for my child?

Where we live, we are fortunate that we have lots of options when it comes to educational setting for our child. However, sometimes that can also be a curse. There are almost too much to choose from!

front

When we started looking last year for the right place to send our son, we looked into charter, magnet, private, and public schools. In our county the public schools even have 2 different calendars to choose- year round or traditional. It was so overwhelming to talk to, research, and tour all the schools. However, I was really glad that we did and here are a few personal reasons:

1. Every school has its own “personality” or a feeling that I got when I walked in to the school. You can get a good sense if it is a good fit for your child pretty quickly.

2. Some of the schools were a little overwhelming in the classroom- almost too much going on or a lot of “stuff” around (NOTHING wrong with this at all- just something I noticed).

3. Each school had different size classrooms and amount of children in them.

4. I liked the students having technology in the classrooms.

5. I liked smiling teachers.

6. I thought hands-on, field trips and speakers were important.

*All the schools I toured had fantastic curriculum and learning so I didn’t really list this.

Every parent will opinions or ideas of what they want from the school environment. The hard part is not to feel pressured by others when making your decision. I always tell parents to tour several schools, talk to the teachers and administrators, and make sure you feel comfortable with your choice. Some parents will tour 8 schools and some will know right away where they want to send their child. It is a personal decision! Good luck!!

Helpful parenting link from PBS for choosing right school

Kids NEED To Learn To Make Mistakes

mistakes

LOVE mistakes as a teacher. It is so important for kids to learn that it is natural part of learning and it WILL happen.

I might sound like a bad or mean teacher but I always highlighted mistakes in my classroom- mine and students’. I think it is an integral part of the learning process and one that is often not taught. I would also point out my mistakes and have the students analyze how and why I made it.

Sometimes I would ask the students if I could use them as an example of making a mistake. In the beginning of the year the students would balk or start to get upset about this- especially the perfectionists. It would provide the perfect opportunity for students to learn that EVERYONE makes mistakes and it was fine. We would talk about how it didn’t make the person better/worse/smarter/ or dumber. We would always recognize the bravery of the person and letting us look at their work and to talk about it.

For gifted students, this was vital. They realized they didn’t have to be perfect, they didn’t have to always be right or have all the answers. It also helped them become comfortable with coming to ask questions and realize I was going to judge or think of them any different.

I love this article posted on Edutopia and how it highlights embracing mistakes. Highly recommend it.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Today has been full of changing our name, converting to new blog address, learning how to utilize help topics, tweeting, Facebook, Instagram, etc! I also got to talk to another private gifted school that is opening their doors next year too! What an opportunity for me to talk to someone going through the same experiences.

Anyways- just wanted everyone to know our name changed, the look of the blog changed, but we are the same! Happy reading!

cropped-wakegifted04.jpg

Higher Percentage of Sensory Challenges with Gifted Children

With everything I post, some people may agree or not agree and I am ok with that. But in my opinion (and there is information to support this by others), there can be a correlation between being gifted and having sensory challenges. I do believe that many gifted children have intensities can also include the senses.

Unfortunately, I do think there is a social stigma about talking about “sensory processing disorder” and its direct correlation to other disorders. But it is getting to be a more common term in education and hopefully more accepted too. It can be debilitating but can also be minor and easily adapted for when it is understood.

Here are two articles about gifted children and sensory processing disorder. I would HIGHLY recommend any parent of gifted children read it. Your child might not exhibit these characteristics but I bet some other children around you do.  Always good to be an informed parent. 🙂

spdflogotransparent

davidson

Sometimes I feel Like a Hypocrite

front

Do you ever feel like this?? Not just in parenting but anything?

Well, I do…this weekend we made a decision to change the name of our school. I strongly believe that gifted children should not be ashamed of their gifts but taught about them. They are not better than anyone else but they are different.

Anyways- I could stand on that soapbox (and I have!) for awhile.

I cannot change that there is a social stigma against talking about or having your child be considered academically gifted.

Therefore, we are changing the name to “Wake Academy“.

Just wanted to make sure everyone knew! We will be busy the next few weeks changing everything over to the new name.