March 17th, 2021
In This Issue
Gifted in the Classroom
Throughout the course of our gifted "PD" times these past few years, district educators (and families) have courageously and honestly confronted the fears, fallacies, and facts surrounding talented and gifted persons. Perhaps no fallacy more often rears its head than the perception that the gifted person – be s/he child, adolescent, or adult – will "just get it" – will automatically understand an idea, task, or project because s/he possesses advanced intellectual capabilities. As one educator courageously shared during a reflection, "I [realized that] I don't need to 'go after them' [for right answers] 'because they should know better'. I realized that I should treat them like I treat other students when they make mistakes." This educator's observation references author Ian Byrd's Top Ten social-emotional needs of gifted students (one of these, "Imposter Syndrome", will be explored later in the newsletter), validating that all kids, even the gifted, sometimes struggle academically. These educators' honest self-reflection and innovation in practice are helping to provide the emotional climate necessary for gifted students' growth -- a climate that is, in some places, still changing.
In another recent interaction, a local mother shared that her daughter's teacher, "told the entire class that they were not working hard enough. The class should understand the concept, even though it had not been taught yet. ... Sometimes, we [teachers] mistakenly assume kids who are accelerated don't need instruction." However, as researchers of giftedness note often (Winebrenner, Webb, and others), gifted students will eventually "hit the wall" intellectually: they will finally (be it in third grade or senior year) encounter a task, project, or concept that they truly do not understand. It is at this point that even our smartest students need our patience, our compassion, and – yes – our help. We may, at first, assume that these students are being lazy or disrespectful (and – to complicate the situation, they might be actually choosing not to try or acting out because they feel intimidated by facing something they don't understand for the first time). However, these students – like all students – need our patience and our expertise as teachers. To learn additional ways to help foster gifted students' social-emotional development, read on!
Impostor Syndrome: Washing the Elephant
Many of us have heard (or used) the phrase "washing the elephant" to describe tackling a difficult or nearly impossible problem. One of the "elephants" gifted kids encouter, Impostor Syndrome, seems – at first glance – to be an oxymoron. Most gifted students work quickly, answer questions immediately, and solve problems easily. In fact, because some gifted students answer so many questions, it is easy to want to "take them down a notch" (as one teacher observed) or believe, as another teacher shared, "they are just showing off". It can be a surprise to learn – as these teachers did – that many of these same students actually see themselves as dumb, just lucky, or as "a fraud", students who – in Byrd's words (2021), "have tricked everyone into thinking they are great." These students' perceptions can spiral into underachievement ("I'm dumb, so I might as well not try"), perfectionism (in order to avoid mistakes), and even anxiety. (To read more and explore Byrd's story, click here.)
How to help: 1. Realize that some gifted kids (yes, even the "show-off's") truly believe they are not smart.
2. Offer help – gifted kids may need some of the same supports other students do. Or, they may need additional help because they have never had to problem-solve this deeply before. (For example, a gifted student might need more help in structuring more complicated essays. S/he's used to writing something the night before and turning it in for the A, but s/he can't figure out how to structure a research paper. Another gifted student may need help planning for a long-term history or science project.)
3. As Byrd suggests, be real and relational. When students know that you actually know them and care about them, they are more likely to believe your honest feedback. And ... give real criticism.
For citations as well as additional resources: click here.
It's time again to think about summer camps!
Unlike last year, many of our "tried and true" summer camps have returned in-person! To access an ever-increasing list of regional and national summer camps (both virtual and in-person): click here!
Future Problem Solving!
Future Problem Solving (FPS) ~ Are you looking for ways to “stretch” students’ thinking? FPS may be your “ticket”! By working collaboratively through a system of thinking and problem-solving to create solutions to complex yet highly plausible future events or problems, students gain fluency in group work and in problem-solving. In FPS, after reading and understanding a “future scenario”, students work through five steps: brainstorming associated problems, finding the main problem, brainstorming solutions, evaluating solutions, and using self-selected criteria to determine the best solution. For examples and information, visit fpspi.org/
Midwest Regional Educational Service Center
Our Vision/Mission: The Midwest Regional Educational Service Center serves and supports students, families, and districts as an innovative educational partner.