I read an article in the New York Times this week that made me nostalgic and hopeful at the same time that I continue to be alarmed by statistics that show little progress in three areas that greatly concern me.
First, we’re no closer to realizing an education system that will challenge all children than we were when I started my career (many years ago). With gifted children, this means that if they come to the classroom knowing what is about to be taught, the school has an obligation to find a way to take them to new levels of knowledge/understanding. When we know that happens in scattered schools across the nation, why can’t we ever learn to get it right?
Second, we continue to under-identify disadvantaged children from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In NYC, “black children made up 11 percent of this year’s gifted kindergarten classes, down from 15 percent in 2009-10. Representation of Hispanic students was 12 percent in both years. The school system as a whole is roughly 70 percent black and Hispanic.”
Third, why do we under-identify? Because we continue to rely on testing, not authentic testing of what is important in a child’s real world, but rote testing of facts and skills that disadvantaged children have had little or no opportunity to learn.
So why am I nostalgic and hopeful? One article stood out from all the rest. Entitled, “A Sleepaway Camp Where Math Is the Main Sport,” it immediately caught my eye. Is this a Talent Search-based program? Is it even WCATY (the program I founded) today? No to both questions. It is a program for NYC public school students entering 8th grade, where at least 75% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. They represent a diverse population and their past experiences with challenge and opportunity were sadly lacking, but they have three positive characteristics in common: they love learning; they love math, and they are good at learning! Add to that, they love this program and are “cruising” through mathematical concepts that ordinarily most students wouldn’t see before college.
One of the criticisms of the program is that these children cannot catch up with their more privileged peers in the short time they attend the program. As I told parents of underachievers when they were considering attendance at a WCATY summer “camp,” it is true that their school may not have changed and that there will be a hard road ahead, but the children will have changed. They will dream bigger dreams; they will be aware of possibilities; they will refuse to stand still; they will seek additional opportunities; and they have found advocates who can help them to made valuable connections. I can tell many heart-warming stories of WCATY students who have done just that.
Posted in Advocacy for the gifted, Awesome children, Compassion and respect, Cumulative advantage, Diversity of giftedness, Early identification of giftedness, Excellence in education, Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, High expectations, Learning by doing, Passion for a field of learning, Passion in teaching and learning, Role models, school models, Serious learning, Showing versus hiding one's talents, Teaching smart kids, Testing, The chance to learn
Tagged academically minded, authentic testing, be smart, becoming good at something difficult, caring about ideas, Cumulative educational advantage, Diversity of giftedness, dreaming big dreams, high expectations, life-long learning, passionate learners, passionate teachers, raising smart children, Role models, school models, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, smartness across diverse populations
National Parenting Gifted Children Week is hosted by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted).
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On June 24, The New York Times reviewed Alexandra Robbins’ “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” in which she states that although adults are proudly admitting their earlier nerd status now that they have achieved success, “there have been surprisingly few trickle-down effects… bullying and exclusion are rampant” (in our schools). She elaborates, “many of the traits that correlate with ‘outsider’ status among high school students — originality, self-awareness, courage, resilience, integrity and passion — reveal themselves as assets later in life.”
The review is less than an endorsement of Robbins’ writing style or message, and I do not agree with the concept of overachievement, the topic and title of her previous book. However, as the reviewer – Jessica Bruder – points out, “None of this dampens the urgency of her broader message. Adults tell students that it gets better, that the world changes after school, that being ‘different’ will pay off sometime after graduation. But no one explains to them why.”
The article concludes that Robbins is “dead on: teenagers need to hear that adolescence ends. And more than that, they need to believe it.”
The point of “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart” is that for many gifted kids, the teenage years are too late for this message. That is why they don’t believe it. Grandma says start telling them that it’s good/cool to be smart early on. Starting in infancy and toddlerhood, smart and gifted children need to feel good about their abilities and have that message reinforced every time an unfortunate incident of name-calling, bullying, or negative peer pressure to hide who they are and what they know occurs.
In honor of SENG’s National Parenting Gifted Children Week, I am offering a special price for “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart.” Start your little ones on a path to believing in themselves and their talents at an early age. Go to the “Contact Ellie Books” page of www.allkindsofsmart.com for details on how to order.
Posted in Advocacy for the gifted, Awesome children, Children's Books, Developing a child's curiosity, Early identification of giftedness, Early Learning, Early reading leads to later success, Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Grandma says it's good to be creative, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Curious, Grandma says it's good to read, Growing up smart, It's Good to Be Smart, Learning by doing, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, Natural learning, Parenting for academic success, Parenting for adulthood, Passion in teaching and learning, Picture books, Role models, Serious learning, smart child, Smart is cool, Special Book Offer, The chance to learn, Young Children
Tagged ages 0-7, Buy now, children's picture books, grandparent alert, learning is fun, life-long learning, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, parent alert, passionate learners, pre-k to 2nd grade learners, raising smart children, reading with your little one, SENG, whimsical pictures attract children
Eric Heidin, Olympic skater and gold-medalist, once remarked that it all began because someone gave him some skates. This is an apt metaphor for advocacy. Someone must provide the skates. But Eric received more than that. Advocacy for him meant also receiving an arena, a coach, time for practice, competition, guidance, caring when he struggled and lost, and pride when he achieved and won. It means the same for all children with talents, whatever the field of endeavor. They must be given the materials and the tools for learning. They need someone who can feed their passions and guide them through the hard work and determination it takes to succeed. They need to stretch their limits and be respected for their goals and accomplishments. Advocacy for talent development is advocacy for excellence, whatever the domain. Advocacy for appropriate educational options is essential along every person’s road to success and happiness.
In the literature on talent development, Peggy Dettmer (1991, p. 170) presents stages of advocacy that she believes can help parents and teachers become more effective in bringing about educational change. Attention is the first stage, because if you are going to make a difference, you must first gain the attention of key people in whatever constituency you need to affect. After attention, the interest you’ve roused in the situation invites participation by those you need to assist you. Their concern for the students you’re trying to help should follow. Those who are concerned should be ready to get involved with your situation. As they grow in knowledge they should become more willing to make adjustments to the curriculum, policy, or program. This leads to their commitment and puts them in a position to provide encouragement for others to support your efforts. They will be able to help you promote an optimal match between learner characteristics and curriculum or program. Finally comes resolve to make the change successful, perseverance to see that this is accomplished, and progress toward realizing the educational goals you had in mind. Dettmer suggests that as your children go through school, you will need to cycle through the stages again and again at increasingly sophisticated levels.
These descriptors need not occur in any set order. You might or might not experience them as stages. Chances are your advocacy will require you to work at increasingly complex levels, but you might simply consider these helpful key words that inform your thoughts, feelings, and actions as you guide your child’s talent development.
“Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart” can help you to start advocating at the basic levels for your smart and talented children when they are preschoolers or in the early grades. In honor of National Gifted Education Week from July 17-23, I will offer a special sale of the book throughout July. See the Contact Ellie Books page of this blog for details.
Posted in Advocacy for the gifted, Children's Books, Creative Kids, Curiosity, Developing a child's curiosity, Early identification of giftedness, Early Learning, Early reading leads to later success, Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, It's Good to Be Smart, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, Natural learning, Picture books, Reading is cool, Showing versus hiding one's talents, Smart is cool, Special Book Offer, Young Children
Tagged academically minded, advacacy, ages 0-7, Buy now, children's picture books, grandparent alert, learning through exploration, life-long learning, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, parent alert, pre-k to 2nd grade learners, raising gifted children, raising smart children, whimsical pictures attract children