Friday, June 10, 2016

Are We Failing Our Gifted and Talented Learners...and Teachers

Gifted and Talented education has long been a passion of mine but over the past few years I've become more and more concerned about how we are catering - or not as the case may be - to their diverse individual needs due to a range of factors.

Since the implementation of National Standards, there has been a focus on 'lifting the tail' of achievement in New Zealand.  I absolutely agree with this - we need to make sure that ALL our learners are achieving and working towards becoming successful, productive members of society. However, my concern is that, in the focus placed on our underachievers we are neglecting the other end of the spectrum, our Gifted and Talented students.  It is a very complex issue and I worry that students who are perceived as having 'behaviour problems' or those who drift along achieving where they should be in terms of National Standards and then leave school the minute they can when in fact they are sometimes the unidentified Gifted and Talented, are missing out.

We are lucky in New Zealand that we have organisations who support our Gifted and Talented students and their families and the Ministry of Education has a resource site on TKI, but what about the students who miss our on being identified and become very negative towards learning?  Organisations such as the One-Day schools can only do so much. If students are going back into an environment where their needs are not catered for due to the enormous pressure on teachers to 'lift the tail' of underachievement, then what can be done to support the learning community and to make sure that the needs of ALL our students are met?

New Zealand Association for Gifted Children

New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education

So What Do We Do?  Are Our Gifted and Talented Students Missing Out?

I came across this article last week and the issues raised in it really hit home. (Click on the caption to read the full article).  I loved that it also addresses the Gifted and Talented colleagues with whom we work which was a really interesting aspect as we don't always value the differences in our workplaces.  While it is an American article, it raises questions about how we meet the needs of all of our amazing students.

The article tells the story of 'Aiden' a twice-exceptional student for whom the regular system did not work.  We've all had an 'Aiden' or two in our rooms.  We know how to cater for their academic needs to various extents but it's often the social side which poses the problems because they don't 'fit in' to the social norms and expectations.  I often why we would expect them to though.  Isn't part of being a human being celebrating the quirks and differences of who we are?  I often wonder why we can't just do that instead of expecting everyone to conform to the norm.  As my students often say - "What is normal?  Who decided what normal is?"  Kids are often wiser than adults.  This was a fantastic discussion amongst all of us and I guess it's why our classroom environment was such a crazy and relaxed one where everyone was valued and accepted for who they are.

Jenn Choi - How Gifted and Talented Programs are Failing our Kids

So, what are you currently doing to meet the needs of your gifted and talented students?  What are your struggles?  What support do you get from within your school?  What improvements would you like to see?

Let's get the discussion going...

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