Friday, December 30, 2016

Stifling Genius?

I read this article from Scientific American today, entitled "How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children." The article begins with the story of Julian Stanley, a psychometrician and professor at Johns Hopkins who began a study of gifted kids in the 1960s, and through a series of vignettes explains what this long-term research study indicates about how we should parent and teach gifted children. It's a l-o-n-g article, but if you work with kids in any way--and in particular if you are a teacher--please, please take the time to read it.

I've been thinking for a couple years now about how we teach gifted kids in K-12 schools. I recognize how badly I did this when I was a middle school teacher, so I'm pointing the finger at myself first. I would like to say that I didn't always know whether the kids I was teaching were identified as gifted or not. I have learned a lot in the past few years about what actually makes for gifted learners. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about gifted learners: "high achieving" learners are the same thing as "academically gifted" learners. They. Are. Not. Synonymous. Nope. We have to get over this. One of the problems for the truly gifted learners in school is that they often see the reality of the "game" of school for what it is--not a very good game for the gifted kids either. And, because they understand that school is a game--and a pretty bad game at that--they might refuse to play. Which is why they are not always high achievers.

While I don't know for sure which of my former students were (are) talented and gifted learners, I have some suspicions based on what I've learned about gifted learners. And oh, how I would like to be able to go back and apologize to them!

Number one on my list of apologies: I'm sorry for stifling your genius by requiring the same work of you as everyone else.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Liturgical Christmas

A (belated) merry Christmas to you! I hope it was a happy time of celebrating for you.

I have not always loved the Christmas season. There have been years where the commercialization I see this time of year entirely overshadowed my joy of celebrating Christ's first coming. There have been years when I feel anything-but-joyful during the month of December. There have been years when I dreaded the busyness and stress that all-to-often permeate the American Christmas. But this year? Not so much. I have felt wonderfully joyful and peaceful, and my heart is full to the brim with hope and love, despite the challenges of the time since we last celebrated the Nativity. It's not that everything is perfect, but rather that I am able to see a bigger picture somehow, that I am able to rest in the security of being loved by an infinite God.

I had a tangible reminder of that on Christmas Eve night/early Christmas morning. My brother-in-law and I attended the Christmas vigil service at a nearby Episcopalian monastery. I am not Episcopalian by creed, so it was interesting to note the similarities and differences to other Christmas services I have attended in years past. I enjoyed gathering with seven monks and about a dozen other worshippers to celebrate Christ's coming.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Learning to Be Uncomfortable

My friend, the amazing Alice Keeler, dropped this great quote in an online conversation today.

Alice was talking about the way things sometimes change in a software update; the developers move buttons or menu items to new places, and it causes us to have to rethink, to relearn. But I love the twist here: those small moments of a little discomfort might be avenues to new learning.

I turned it into a graphic, because we should take this to heart, teachers. We should keep learning new things. We should keep striving to get better.

But we also need to recognize that learning new things can be a challenge. Learning new things can be hard.

There is always a learning curve; and a little discomfort in the process of learning should be expected.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

When Your Students are a Blessing

Yes, I own a seflie-stick. No I'm not embarrassed about it. I'm also wearing a Christmas sweater
with a T-Rex on it (wearing a Christmas sweater of its own, of course) I don't embarrass too easily.

This crew.

This was the group of students I was privileged to teach in my "Teaching Science Pre-K through Middle School" course this semester.

We just has our last class meeting, and I am truly, truly sad to be finishing things up with them.

To celebrate, I brought candy canes, and wore a horrible-amazing Christmas sweater, and we made slime, because science.

This group of students was an absolute blessing for me this semester.