on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington
Browsing EDCI 540

Required Prompt: Gifted Education

April15

I guess that at the beginning, I didn’t have much of a view of gifted education. It was some mystical thing that happened when I was a kid where a couple kids I knew would disappear for a while and then show up again in our classroom. I had never been exposed to gifted education as a teacher or a student. I don’t know if my view has changed so much as it has been formed.

I think it’s a really invaluable part of our school system. These are the kids we’re counting on to really go the extra mile when they grow up and invent amazing things, write brilliant movie scripts or win the Pulitzer. If we don’t take the time and energy to play to their strengths and give them what they need academically, then they’re set up to fail and/or be miserable.

I know that it takes a lot of care and patience to properly identify these kids and then takes even more painstaking care to make sure that they’re getting adequate and appropriate services to meet their needs. I didn’t realize that there were so many service delivery options available; I always assumed you either skipped a grade or you had a pull-out program. It’s exciting to know that that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do for these students. If only money were no object.

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Required Prompt: Take-Aways

April14

My top 3 take-aways from this course:

1. I CAN DO THIS.

That probably sounds cheesy, but I was truly terrified of having gifted students in my classroom. I don’t like to look or be clueless, and I truly had no idea how to help them. In each of my 4 practicums, I never saw any differentiation for them. I never would have known that they were SCOPE kids unless the teachers pointed them out to me. They did nothing differently…except they looked a lot more bored than the rest of the kids. Now I feel like I have the research base and the knowledge and confidence to actually get this done. I know how to identify these kids. I know what I think about them. I know how to help them in my classroom.

2. I think I have a research area. And a passion.

Coming into this class, I knew it would be useful for me. I knew it had information that I needed to know in order to be a successful teacher. What I didn’t anticipate was that it would help me define what I’m interested in learning more about. It’s so interesting, really: when I look the course for special education, in a way I almost blew it off. I did what I needed to do, and I learned a couple of things, but I almost felt like I’d been there, done that, lived it every single day so what can you possibly teach me about it… you know? And then I got to this class, and I realized that the two most marginalized groups of students in my classroom existed together in the twice-exceptional student. Of course, circumstances in my personal life mingled in and really piqued my interest, but the discoveries I made while reading and doing research for my various assignments really helped me to hone in on this special population. I found the research on my particular area of interest to be woefully inadequate, so I guess I have some questions to answer down the road (I don’t like to rely on other people to give me answers, remember?).

Again, I feel like I’m (somewhat) equipped to handle this group of kids. I get it from a SPED point of view, and I get it from a GT point of view. From my own research, I can gather that we know ways to identify these kids, and they’re not really the conventional ways. I also know that we tend to overlook their strengths and focus on their weaknesses, and I know not to do that! It’s easy to do, I admit. Sometimes I’m so focused on my son’s shortcomings that when he shows me what he’s capable of, my jaw hits the floor. Six years in, and it still happens to me all of the time. It’s going to be trial and error I think, but I am armed with a few evidence-based practices. More than anything, I’m hopeful that I see more of these students in my classroom over the coming years. I have yet to meet a twice-exceptional student in Spotsy schools. Surely they are out there!

3. This is a tricky business.

I guess I’d never really imagined that coming up with an idea of what giftedness is would be so difficult. Coming from being a parent in the special ed world, everything has a definition and a law and regulations attached. Nothing is left up in the air. Switching into gifted/talented, I was shocked to see that it doesn’t operate the same way; I’d assumed it did. There are positives and negatives to being able to come up with your own definition of giftedness as a county or school district, and I’m not entirely sure yet how I feel about that kind of freedom. It’s hard – what if you miss an entire subset of the population that could be getting services? What if you have all of these wonderful ideas for who should get services, but you have no money? Too many people still think gifted kids can make it on their own. I would argue most teachers seem to feel that way based on what I’ve seen in schools. How do we get them in and keep them engaged and learning at their level? It sure would be nice to have a rule book for it, and some money too.

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Required Prompt: Assessment of Knowledge of Gifted Learners

April13

Having taken this a second time at the end of the course, I can say that many answers changed for me.

I was very wishy-washy and unsure at the outset… not so much about the philosophy-type questions, but about service delivery and some of the characteristics of gifted children. It simply took my being exposed to those subjects for me to be able to decide whether or not I agreed or disagreed with the statement. Also, many of my answers moved from relatively sure to absolutely sure about how I felt on a given statement. For a comparison, here are my answers pre- and post-class:

  1. 2…1
  2. 1…1
  3. 3…1
  4. 4…5
  5. 3…5
  6. 2…1
  7. 2…1
  8. 1…1
  9. 2…1
  10. 3…1
  11. 2…1
  12. 3…1
  13. 2…2
  14. 1…1
  15. 2…1
  16. 2…2
  17. 3…1
  18. 3…1
  19. 2…1
  20. 2…1
  21. 3…1
  22. 4…1
  23. 1…1
  24. 4…1
  25. 2…1
  26. 2…1
  27. 2…1

A couple of answers I ended up doing a 180 on, but mostly I either moved from “I have no idea” to “yes!” or “no!” or simply more firmly agreed or disagreed with my initial thoughts. I guess the good news is that I’m not unsure about anything anymore. I can actually give an explanation as to why I feel the way I do and either back it up with research or a really impassioned speech!

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Required Prompt: Philosophy of Giftedness

April12

I think that my philosophy of giftedness has largely remained unchanged since I first started this course. I looked back at the last entry I did pertaining to my philosophy from February 23rd, and I still agree with everything I wrote there.

Re-cap:

I believe:

  • There is a difference between giftedness and talent. (Gagne)
  • You can be gifted in something without ever having developed the talent that goes with it. But certain factors come together and act on that giftedness, and talent is developed. (Gagne)
  • There isn’t any one way to be gifted.
  • There are many areas and ways in which one can be gifted, and they can co-exist. You can be both highly intelligent and highly artistic. You can be gifted in sport. You can be book smart. (Gardner, Renzulli,Tannenbaum, Sternberg, Gagne)
  • Gifted students often display task commitment (Renzulli).
  • Gifted people are born with the predisposition to be great in one or more fields, but these gifts need to be nurtured in order for them to amount to anything.

I believe that gifted students deserve to come into the school setting and have a safe place to learn and express themselves. We owe them the same opportunity that we afford to every other student – to realize their potential. They deserve to be in classrooms with their intellectual peers and have stimulating conversations and learning environments that go above and beyond the scope and sequence of the general curriculum. They need differentiated instruction in the classroom and pull-out programs, and depending on their area of giftedness may even be served best in a magnet school setting. Because gifted students may have social and emotional needs that differ from their age peers, they should have access to group and individual sessions with a school counselor to help them with their unique needs.

 

The one thing I will say that has expanded has been the way in which I feel I am able to actually help them once their in my classroom. I know now of so many more options than I did at the outset of this class, and I feel like I can actually make them happen. The one thing I might add now is that I would use the buzzword cluster grouping. Compacting also comes to mind. I think that before I felt like I was largely unequipped to handle these kids, but now I know that I can in fact give them an enriched and exciting learning environment. I don’t have to rely on a gifted resource teacher, I’ve got my own toolbox.

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Programming Options Reflection (for April 8)

April11

Getting into a jigsaw to learn about these was helpful and interesting, but once again — I think I must be a little nutty (or just Type A??) because I am very hesitant to rely on somebody else to give me key information. I’m one of those seek it out yourself kind of people. Nevertheless, I learned some interesting things.

I specifically researched residential high schools, and I found some really fascinating things. Perhaps it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? I saw one study that was done using parents and students, and students were pretty stressed out about their residential high school environment and academics, and by the last survey neither parents nor students expressed confidence that being at a residential high school would raise their chances of getting into a good college. Specifically, the sentiment was raised that had this particular student stayed in her high school, she’d have been number 1 in her class. Now she’s one in a sea of many just like her, and she doesn’t stand out at all.

The one option that piqued my interest was summer/Saturday programming. I don’t know how feasible this is because it seemed to be so expensive, but some of these activities just sounded so neat and challenging. If I had the money, this is the kind of thing I’d send my kids to in the summer. The one down-side I see though, especially for someone like my son, is that he is already so far above the standard curriculum…and if he got to participate in something like this that really enriched his learning, he would go back to school so bored and unmotivated.

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Creative/Critical Thinking Reflection (for April 1)

April1

The discussion post we did on creativity was interesting to read. Some of us have some divergent views on the subject, and if there is disagreement in such a small class, I can understand that it is difficult to define among the larger set of educators. I hereby swear that I will never say the words “Be creative” in my classroom without an explanation!

The two things that stood out the most to me were SCAMPER and the Morphological Matrix. Doing that in class was really fantastic and fun. And if it’s fun for a group of graduate students, I can’t imagine how fun it would be to do with a group of elementary school kids. I’ve heard frequently that teachers should let kids brainstorm freely because it gets their creative juices flowing, but I think that participating in this activity is much more likely to get kids engaged and help them think of ideas.

What fun!

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Differentiation Reflection (for March 18)

March19

The differentiation activity we did in class showed me that I don’t have this down quite like I thought I did going into the activity. We found ourselves as a group not being respectful of the learners in our make-believe classroom when it came to thinking of the lower-achieving students. It wasn’t intended as such, and we even thought we were trying to step around that, but we still ended up there anyway. We thought that differentiating the product would be the easiest way to accomplish our goals, but we quickly found out that it was very tricky.

I think that the two areas I am probably going to be the most successful at differentiating in are content and process. Once you explained to us how to use the process to differentiate, I had an aha moment.  Kind of interesting, because at the outset I thought that would be the most difficult to do.

The reading on differentiation left my head a little fuzzy. The graphic on page 288 of our text made so much sense to me, and it made everything click. I think I’m going to copy this and blow it up and keep it in my desk!

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Compacting: Reflection (for March 11)

March15

I had never heard of compacting curriculum before. Some of the other service delivery options I was more familiar with, though. My own brother was accelerated in elementary school. While I was in school, I remember having friends in a pull-out gifted program. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were also cluster-grouped in some of my classes. I didn’t know that this was purposeful, I just thought that’s how their schedules were made and it was happenstance. Maybe that’s what they want the average students to think??

I really like the idea of compacting. I’ve often wondered what I’m supposed to do with these kids once they’re in my classroom. Differentiate, yeah, fine, but there’s only so much you can do if they know it inside and out already. It never occurred to me to let them skip over the things they already know and either heavily enrich that content knowledge or move on to something else.

The most difficult first strategy makes sense and it seems very effective. I can think of a few children in the practicum I just finished who would have benefitted greatly from compacting. What they were doing was so boring I wanted to bang my own head on the desk. It was more of the same, just more of it. What they really needed was to move past what they already knew.

This is definitely something I see myself using regularly in my classroom. To me, it makes it easier on everyone and makes the classroom more dynamic and fun.

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Required Prompt: Questions/Concerns

February25

I think that many of my questions were embedded into my previous reflection posts. However, I do still have some questions that I’m fairly confident will be answered in the next part of the course.

What exactly is differentiation? I don’t think I’ve seen it done correctly, if at all. I can explain it and understand the theory, but I want to know what it actually looks like. I want to see this in a classroom.

How do I serve these students? How do I, with my taxed resources and crunched time, actually help them out in my general education classroom?  What if I recognize a student as gifted in an area that maybe my district philosophy doesn’t identify as giftedness? Am I obligated to try my best to nurture that gift with zero support and zero resources? What if I don’t know anything about it?

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Required Prompt: Assessment of Knowledge of Gifted Learners

February25

Coming into this class, I had very little working knowledge of gifted education. Looking back at my responses, I can see that I had my own little philosophy of giftedness going on, which was completely UNapparent to me while I was taking the assessment.

I think that in general, my responses to the questions dealing more with philosophy I was more sure of simply because they involved what I believed to be true about giftedness. I don’t need somebody else’s theory in order to form my own opinion, so background knowledge didn’t matter as much. Those answers seem to largely be 1 and 2 responses.

I was very wishy-washy about the characteristics of gifted children, giving most of those questions a 3 response. I never had much interaction with gifted kids growing up, and aside from their pull-out programs they seemed a lot like me. I wasn’t really aware of any special characteristics they had, other than being know-it-alls in school.

I didn’t strongly disagree with anything, most likely because I knew I didn’t know enough about the topic to be vehemently against anything that was asked. I did, however, have a couple of 4 responses. Looking at them now, I think that perhaps I wasn’t sure what those questions were really asking. In some cases, I just didn’t have any research or background knowledge to stand on, and they didn’t seem legitimate to me. If I were to take it again, some of those 4s would change.

Many of responses I can easily stand by, and some I’m still wishy-washy on. I suspect that as the course goes on, I’ll be able to answer these questions with a firmer yes or no stance.

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