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.

What is the difference between gifted education and academically rigorous education?

A friend just sent me a link to a discussion board that posted this question. I LOVED it because I think some of the confusion with gifted education comes with the battle between pushing the children and how the curriculum is approached with gifted children. Sometimes meeting needs of the gifted is not how far you push them.

Steeplechasing_(AUS)

One person’s answer was amazing and wanted to share it:

This is by no means a scientific answer. I’m doing my best to describe what I have seen as a tutor, and a parenting in education consultant during the past 20 years and presently. As a description rather than a prescription, consider this:
Imagine a a horserace around a track; and then imagine a steeple chase.[1]

Galloping around the track, the horserace, is about finishing the race quickly and strategically. Like Academic Rigor, the horserace is about finishing fast.Academic rigor is characterized more by having a curriculum like a horse race. It typically includes activities involving rigorous testing/scoring and competition/rankings, such as doing an academic decathalon, taking a zillion advance placement (“AP”) classes, learning Latin, history, maths, sciences, English Literature (or literature in one’s native language), Writing, Classics, and playing games like Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. I have seen many high school students take a rigorous course of study with many AP classes, get advanced standing in college, test well on standardized tests, memorize much — and move quickly into grad school in any field. The goal of academic rigor seems to prepare students to take the next step in their educational/professional lives. The study which pre-med students do — biology, chemistry, botany, physics, maths — prepares students via academic rigor for the study of medicine.

The steeplechase requires a horse and rider working as a unit to analyze what’s coming and to prepare an approach so as to finish first most gracefully. There are all kinds of configurations and maneuvers for horse and rider to learn together. The configurations require agility and flexibility. Like Gifted Education, there is a focus on meaning, ability, and expanding capabilities. Gifted education provides a more qualitative experience for the student. That is, the pursuit of individual excellence guided by inquiry — using a student’s interests and abilities — creates the academic excellence we see in those who are motivated by using all of their capacities, ideally without regard to competition. Gifted education goes deep into subject matter of interest, connects interdisciplinary resources, and provides for an education that has depth and breadth, and does not always include the goal of standardized testing, competition, ranking, etc. The goal is the expansion of the student’s abilities to the fullest extent possible. Rigor can be part of that expansion, but it isn’t always necessary unless the academic goal is competing against those who have had an academically rigorous education.

Gifted education is much more intrinsically motivated, more fluid, and sometimes rigorous. Academically rigorous education is traditionally never fluid, is historically structured externally, and is even now designed to narrow the pool of students competing for X.

I have seen students move from gifted education to rigorous academic education. I have seen others move from rigorous education to gifted education. The students who receive gifted education during elementary school and then switch to rigorous study during middle and high school seem to me to be the most well adjusted and successful students of all.

*****
[1] Here is a description of steeplechase (a type of horse racing) for those unfamiliar with the event: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steeplechase

*Picture from Wikipedia

How to Annoy a Gifted Child

bigstock-Child-with-angry-expression-12160457

I LOVED working with gifted students in my gifted resource room and classroom. They are intense, perfectionist, funny, and enjoy challenges. They could also get annoyed quickly and sometimes didn’t hesitate to tell me all about it- even if I didn’t want to hear it. I learned over the years to help guide them in how to express this frustration or annoyance. I taught them how to try to be constructive and understanding towards other students. Sometimes I was successful. 

I recently came across this article my partner and I hung up in our classroom by our desk. We also shared it with some of the classroom teachers we worked with at the school. I felt it was important to remind myself of why these children got annoyed so I could be more understanding. 

Top-Ten-Ways-to-Annoy-a-Gifted-Child

Power of a Teacher

I love teaching.

I love seeing faces light up when “something clicks”.

I love hearing the little feet running down the hallway or up a trailer ramp with excitement of the learning that happens.

I love having students or parents years later come and tell me how much it meant for their child to have been in my classroom.

I just love teaching and always hope my students feel that from me.

~I saw this video tonight and it is a great demonstration of how one assignment can change the lives of students forever.