Sally M. Todd: I am Sally M. Todd. Recently retired from BYU.
OK. In considering the—the background in history of education I’d—I’d take people back—credit a lot of—quite a ways back in history. We need to start that over again. OK. In looking at uh history of gifted and talented education, as I would teach my students, we’d go back in time and we’d look at the fact that in ancient Sparta they looked at gifted in terms of sports and athletics. So they were supporting and sustaining their—their gifted athletes. And that was the thing that was really held in high esteem. Then in Rome they picked it up and added um the arts and literature. So for them this is important and those are the things that they reinforced and rewarded. And in the Orient they watch for their prodigies. Memory was very important. Intellectualism was very important. And they identified their um prodigies and really supported and rewarded this. And as time went on, different things were occurring. And, you know, as I was thinking about this, whatever a particular nation or people value highest, that seems to be what we reinforce and strengthen in our schools. And so as—as time goes on this has been true and we’ve been impacted by a lot of things. Many from—many things from other countries have been a great benefit to us. As Bonay took a look at intelligence—what is intelligence, he came up with the—the Stanford Bonay Test—what later became known as the Stanford Bonay Test, and we took a look at many other researchers that were doing various things relative to this. Terman and his long-term studies on giftedness and what is—what is gifted and what constitutes giftedness. And so we gained a lot from the different researchers and then when Sputnik came along and the Russians made it ahead of us, this suddenly gave a lot of attention to our young people in the United States and then we suddenly wanted them to achieve and they really had started to reinforce this. And then it was OK at that time to identify giftedness. And so over time, for a while, about 5 to 7 years, this—this has perpetuated and then it took a dive again. And so it’s kind of had an up and down history with gifted education and now we have to fight a lot of accusations of elitetism. You know, “What about this?” “Do these people really deserve all these benefits when the others don’t have them?” And um—and this is rather sad because we forget that one size does not fit all and uh and we do a lot with our special ed and rightfully so, but we also need to take a look at what happens with those that are highly accelerated. So nowadays, many of the things that we really value in our country, of course, is high technology, so we’re seeing that in schools. We really value um sports with the Olympics coming up and all and—and that is considered of high values. So we have good sports programs. Unfortunately we don’t value the arts as much as we should and so know seems to be very worried that the arts have been withdrawn from the schools and yet we have found that in testing, very, very gifted highly accelerated students, there is a common denominator of early music training. When they learned early music training it really made a difference. So today we’re looking at how do we help these highly accelerated students in terms of the values and cultural norms of our nation.
One size does not fit all. My favorite analogy comes from Carol Tomlinson, where she relates this to diving. So if you were in my diving class (clears throat) and I said, “OK, by the end of the semester what I’d like you to be able to do is a—a forward double loop, triple pike into the water” and you looked at this and could not swim, it wouldn’t work. On the other hand if I said, “By the end of the semester what I hope you’ll be able to do is put your head in the water and float.” Now if you’re a good swimmer, this doesn’t work either. I could say, “I’d like you at the end of the semester to be able to do a forward dive pike.” Now that’s average and you think, “Well, if you can swim maybe you can do that,” if I were a good enough teacher and you were a good enough student. But one size does not fit all and you’re going to find that just as there are people with varying swimming abilities, there are people with varying academic abilities, varied—varied creativity abilities. And so we need to be able to individualize so that we can meet the needs of those that are a little slow and need extra help, those that are average and doing fine as no—as a regular basis, and those that are highly accelerated and need a more challenging curriculum, more challenging approach, so that they can feel challenged and the can grow too.
OK. Elitetism has been a concern to many in gifted education, this—this accusation of elitetism. And I think it’s—it’s based on a lack of understanding because I feel as many do that everyone has gifts and talents. Everyone has abilities that can be magnified. But there are some when you pre-test that are far, far ahead of the game. They are achieving just so remarkably ahead of their other peers and the others in the class that—that we really need to be able to do something to meet their needs and that’s not elitetism. That’s a matter of good teaching pedagogy. What are we going to do to reach those highly accelerated students that need to be challenged?
The risks in not challenging these students is really to lose their abilities. And I think that um—Barbara Clark talks a lot about this in terms of brain research and the fact that in a short period of time, if you do not magnify and use those brain cells, some of them could be literally dead. And I think that uh it’s more then that. I think when young people are not challenged and are not helped and mentored in the areas of their abilities, they sometimes lose these or they bury them. But the—a lot of development is lost when we do not challenge these abilities.
The question is often asked, “What is—what is gifted and who are the gifted?” And um there isn’t one specific black and white answer to that. A lot of it depends on what you’re looking at. But I think everyone would agree that when we’re looking at gifted, we’re looking at those that are highly accelerated that are just functioning far beyond the norm in some area of life. And I think we have grown up to the point where it’s more then just academics, it’s more then just creativity. It can be in the arts. I personally have run into gifted auto mechanics and have been grateful for that. So I have learned over time that this whole area of vocational technical can have some very brilliant, gifted people. So there are many ways in which a person can be accelerated and be above the norm and I think what we need to do is take a look at where they are, who they are, what they are and challenge them from there.
This is a—I love to be asked this question, by the way. What are the needs of gifted and talented students? (clears throat) First of all, they need to be challenged (interruption) OK. Sorry. (interruption) OK, in response to the question, “What are the needs of gifted and talented students?” I would say that they need—they need to be challenged. They need curriculum that challenges their abilities, that causes them to reach and stretch. My personal view is that they need many options. I think they need to be held accountable. I think accountability is another very important need of theirs. They need to give constant accountability because it validates the work. It helps give them feedback. There are wonderful things that come from accountability. But they need this and they need people who understand some of their special needs and idiosyncrasies. Since um they are different from one another, it’s hard to stereotype a gifted person. It depends upon in what domain and in what ways are they accelerated and what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses. But they need people who can help identify them in this way and then they need—really need to be challenged. They need to be held to the basics. So they need to demonstrate mastery of the basics. I know here in Utah we have uh our core curriculum and I feel that they should be held accountable for core curriculum, but if they can finish it in no time at all, if they can do it quickly, let them finish it and then let them buy time to do some things that are above and beyond this, in terms of enrichment and in terms of challenging activities. And wise teachers will listen to these students and will pay attention to what these needs are and what they would really love to do and help facilitate this. So in grading, I would hope teachers would use wisdom and judgment and take a look at, “OK, here is the challenging set of criteria we’re going to use for mastery of this for you. When you have completed this, you can buy time to move on to these other things.” And then come back because it’s important that again accountability be given in those areas, but that’s when a person really grows and develops and loves school—loves learning.
You’re going to bounce me into the home because that’s what I feel about it. (interruption) OK, in terms of social and emotional needs of young, gifted students, I think a lot of it falls on the home. It has been my observation that highly accelerated students who all—who have home backgrounds where the parents expect them to carry their own weight, do their own chores, be an important part of the family where solid values and principles are taught, where ethics are taught in the home, these young people have this solid core within them and it’s amazing how well they can do. How they have learned to—to share, to realize where much is given, much is expected. Where they also take a look at how important it is for them to be able to demonstrate mastery of what they have learned and that this is part of this whole accountability system. But a lot of this is learned at home. And so I think much of their social/emotional background and well-being is dependent upon the home.
How these young people interact with their peers, a lot depends on how things are set up. I think teachers can do a lot in terms of grouping, where they—where they group and re-group, and re-group so that the same people are not at the top of this group all the time. But if they have them grouped together and even those times when you’re highly accelerated students are grouped together, and they need that—they need to be together sometimes and to bounce ideas off of one another. And—and when given an opportunity and they meet together, they split the task into pieces and each of them like to do a piece and come back and teach the others. So there’s some natural things that happen, but I feel in order to help them be more socially uh competent with their peers, we need to set them up for good experiences where they have real tasks and real results as they work together as a team.
One of our challenges today in inservicing, has to do with elementary versus middle school, versus high school. And in elementary, it’s so much easier because the children are grouped together for the whole day, so it’s the same group of individuals. They have the same teacher. It is very easy to come in and inservice these teachers because we can inservice in terms of either grade level or in terms of the whole school. And we’ve got a small group that can help focus on a given child and they can team together to help that child, which is great. Then they move to junior high and high school where they have a—a set of teachers, they have differing groups of students depending upon which classes they’re taking, and to inservice, we have to come in and take a look at grade level and discipline. So we sometimes come in and say, “OK, we will meet with the English teachers for the 9th graders.” So we sit down—but each of the English teachers, they are so autonomous in uh middle and secondary schools that it is very hard to cause them all to look together at a given student—they will do this briefly, but still they are—it’s just a whole different focus when we look at secondary and it’s not impossible, it’s just that we have to work in terms of disciplines. We work with the history teachers of a given grade level, the English teachers of a given grade level, and try to have them challenged to try some new things that will help individualize and challenge their brighter students and at the same time keep everybody growing in their classes. It’s—it’s a challenge on secondary. So some of the premises that we set for elementary, and we talk elementary, do not work on a secondary level. It’s a lot more challenging.
Teaming I think on a part of teachers or on the part of parents and parent groups is really an important element of the—the development of a gifted child because we want to look at the total child an we also want to look at the value of interdisciplinary approaches. So when a child is learning something, it really makes sense to them if they can learn in con—in context with several disciplines. So a multidisciplinary approach really strengthens learning. So when you learn something—so, “What does this have to do with the history of our nation? What does this have to do with our politics? What does this have to do with English and writing?” And—and when they can use multiple disciplines, the learning is so much more comprehensive, so much stronger for that individual child. I believe that strongly.
We encourage as many teachers as possible to gain the gifted endorsement in their respected areas wherever they are in the nation. They are great programs. What we hope that teachers will develop through this program is an understanding of the characteristics of highly acc—accelerated children and they are a challenge. They are a challenge to themselves, they’re a challenge to the teacher and to the class, and we want those students to be able to blend within their—their classes but at the same time we want to meet those individual needs. And so with our endorsement, we start out looking at a background in uh—kind of an overview background in terms of the history of—of gifted and the characteristics of gifted. Then we take a look at classes where we say, “OK, so how do you identify? How do you recognize these individuals? What are the characteristics again of—of these gifted students?” Then we move to models and systems and we take a look at some totally knew approaches. And people say, “But that would work with any child.” And some of them do, granted. But when taken and used appropriately by these teachers with these endorsements, it’s a breath of fresh air for a gifted student and it really helps to individualize for them and helps them to soar. Then we have a class in curriculum design and cur—curriculum differentiation for the gifted. So we take core curriculum and then we take a look at, “OK, now how can you enrich this? How can you go above and beyond? In what ways can a student uh that has already demonstrated mastery stay within this topic of this discipline area and still soar and still learn and develop?” It’s—it’s really exciting to look at curriculum differentiation for the gifted student. Then we have a class in creativity, in though processes, in problem solving, where the students gain skills that we hope will last them for the rest of their lives. But they take these high abilities and take a look at new ways to look at these things, new ways to apply them, new ways to be productive with them. And uh these creativity classes are—are so enriching and they again are a breath of fresh air to the gifted. It’s also very good for the teachers because they learn some skills that are helpful. And from there they go into a practicum setting and here at BYU we’ve had them work with what we call “Bright Ideas” during the summer where they work with master teachers—just excellent teachers that really have learned how to deal well with their gifted students and—and with all students for that matter. But they are exceedingly good with the gifted and they have a chance to rub shoulders with these good teachers and to work with very bright, highly accelerated students. So with their practicum they have an opportunity to get in and practice what they’ve learned with these very, very bright students. Then the other part of the practicum is in the schools. We hope that they’ll turn around, set some programs up in their respective schools where they’re really meeting the needs of highly accelerated students and we can come in and take a look at “Are they being successful? What would we council them to do differently?” And just rejoice and cheer them on. It’s exciting.
I—I wouldn’t use this in the future but let me tell you. I think a lot of the program has been dumbed down to where—and I—please don’t use this in (interruption) That’s right. (interruption) I think a challenging curriculum is one that takes the regular core curriculum that one would teach and you take a look at in what ways can you help a student to magnify and develop in their thought processes relative to this discipline. So you take them a step beyond where we take a look at—you know, when we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy, we’re moving up into the upper levels of Blooms, so we talk about in what ways can this person apply this, in what ways can they take this to piece—take this apart and take a look at its component parts. In what ways can they be creative and innovative with what they’re learning? In what ways can it help make them better judges of what is right and wrong, what is true and what is not true, so they really take a look at the realities of things relative to their own lives and their own activities.
Models and systems in gifted ed are some of the benefits of this whole program of endorsement because we’re looking at what some of the specialists and some of he gooroos in gifted, as you will, have shared with us in terms of programs that really strengthen and support what we’re con—talking about, in terms of acceleration, in terms of challenging these gifted students. So we look at things like “Talents Unlimited,” which is a thought process which doesn’t add to a teacher’s burden, it just gives the teacher a new way to teach some of the same material but in a more effective, thought provoking way. We take a look at Rensule’s Triad Model and we take a look at Type I, Type II, Type III activities which are progressively more and more autonomous for the students so that when they get through they do well. We look at George Bett’s Autonomous Learner Model, Ganhai has a model, Sternberg has a model. There’s just several models available where they talk about different approaches to teaching regular curriculum. Different approaches to enriching, enlarging, challenging that are really—and they’re fun to use.
Some time back I was asked to teach a class in the—well, in—every time I teach the class in gifted education, I have a segment on those with disabilities. And some time back I was asked to teach a class on disabilities and put gifted into it. And for a while all the special ed majors were required to take the gifted ed class. And sooner or later in the semester there was uricoli feeling with them when they said, “Do you mean to tell me a person can be gifted and learning disabled? A person can be gifted and—and hearing impaired? Do you mean that person can have these different disabilities and also be gifted?” And you know it is such a joy to watch that happen because I say to them, sometimes when we do our identification, we either look for strengths or we look for disabilities and we forget to look at both in a given individual. And so a person can have uh disabilities in some areas, can have tremendous gifts in others. And so it’s—it’s really tricky in this identification process. But a wise person who is doing this kind of assessment will take a look at, “In what ways is this person highly accelerated?” On the other hand, what are some of the needs and special uh considerations that need to be given to this individual? So I would hope people in special ed look at both ends to the spectrum with some of their people or they will completely miss some of their highly gifted students. They’ll be masked by their disabilities.
Many children—many teachers can miss totally their gifted population. Sometimes these students have lacked opportunity as they have grown up, so they have missed through social/economic causes some of the opportunities for development that some of the others have had. And so in identifying these gifted students, they have to be very careful that they don’t have a bias or that they don’t let these other things blind them to what could be a very, very gifted child. And usually we can spot this in the learning mode. So as—as a highly accelerated student uh or that—a student with that kind of potential, may come into our class, you may not recognize it until they get into the learning mode. And a wise teacher will take a look at how well they are functioning in this new learning situation. And that sometimes is the best way to identify some of our gifted students. In what ways are they functioning in these new situations? And some just really surprise a teacher in that they have incredible abilities that they never would have guessed based on their home background or their cultural background. (interruption) Yeah. Right. It makes a big difference. So you get them in and take a look at them.
I learned a lot when I worked at Provo Canyon School (clears throat) for a short time. I have learned that many times when teachers do not identify their bright students, these students can lose heart and they can um—they can respond in a variety of ways. Some of them rebel, some get very angry and—and lash out and we consider them behavior problems. Some of them bury it and become apathetic. They—they just seem not to be interested in anything that is going on. And then, of course, you assume that maybe they’re not too bright after all. And then some of them just play the game and they go along and they just cruise right along with what is going on but they only do average work because that is what is accepted, that’s what is rewarded. So wise teachers will be very careful with this and try not to misunderstand what’s happening with students with uh behavior disorders in their classes or students that—that look like they just don’t care anymore. They’ve just given up. We need to find out why. Why have they given up? What is it that is not challenging to them about the school system? And I think sometimes they need to sit down and do a one-on-one with a really challenging student and find out what the story is. Teachers need to do more listening then they do talking.
When we talk about gifted education and gifted students, these students can differ from one another just as much as they can differ from students with disabilities or—or other, you know, major differences and it’s really interested because some of them are enthusiastic and highly motivated. Some of them do very well in spite of us. Some of them are um a little slower and then we’ve got our different thinking strategies so we’ve got some that are reflective thinkers. They like to think it over and they may not respond as fast as we anticipate so we may make some faulty assumptions. We have some students that uh have given up and they have a whole history of failure over time that has caused them to have given up. And it’s really interesting to see what happens when they meet a really good teacher who has been primed in gifted education, who realized that people are going to be different and we’ll take this child and he or she is and really do some assessment in the learning mode to see what’s going on and see what challenges this student. And what is rewarding for one is not rewarding for another. So wise teachers will see what is the reward. And sometimes the reward is time with you. So if they do well on this, then come on up and let’s sit down and brainstorm some things that could be fun for the future and just to have time with you as the teacher is a reward. For other students to have time with a computer in the computer lab is highly rewarding nowadays. For other students to have time out on the—on the ball field, you know. And for some students they just need to be left alone. And sometimes we just need to get out their way. It just varies. Students are so different from one another. And especially in this accelerated group, they vary tremendously.
Yes. OK. (interruption) I think through mainstreaming a variety of abilities. So we have students of varied abilities, varied needs and interests as we have done today through legal uh public laws and so on uh we still have a teacher who must assume responsibility to be accountable for each of those students in his or her class. And I know this is really challenging sometimes. (clears throat) But this is—this is going to be the name of the game as uh—as time goes on because I think mainstreaming is going to be here for a good, long time. But I think a wise teacher and one who is ethically responsible will care about the development of each of those students. And I know it’s challenging but we have some wonderful tools. And the thing that we talk about in gifted education is borrow that IEP or SEP from the special ed, let’s put everybody on a contract and take a look at how they’re developing. There are some wonderful tools available for teachers to really help them to individualize in that classroom and to be able to handle that wide variety of abilities. And still they must not let any of them down. It’s a challenge but really good teachers accept that challenge and find that kind of fun believe it or not.
OK. (clears throat) Years ago, gifted came under uh Public Law 94-142 in special ed and parents were very upset over this. So they went—they went to the courts and they said, “We don’t want our children to be labeled handicapped so we’d like—we don’t want gifted under Public Law 94-142 any more. These are not handicapped children. They are quite capable and able students and we don’t want them to be clustered or grouped with this other group.” So in my opinion, they pulled them out of special education and put us back 20 years in time. I—I feel so badly about that because now legislation—we have a lot of legislation, we have books full of laws on things that need to be done to meet the needs of students with disabilities. We do not have books of laws to help our gifted students. There are a few but they’ve given a lot of this to the states to decide. So our state decides randomly, periodically, to allow so much money for this population but then they leave it so—so loose in its interpretation that really the money could be used to pay the parking lot—you know, any number of things and the money does not go to really help the teachers or to help these gifted students at all. And so it’s really challenging. I watched one school district do something very effectively though. They had just a given amount of money, and so they had—they let the teachers know that there was going to be a certain amount allocated for the gifted, please submit your proposals. So teachers were invited to submit their proposals, the proposals were looked over by a team, and then they were granted certain funds to carry out their plan and there was an accountability built back into that where they needed to report back what—what happened with the funds and in what ways these were—these funds were able to enrich the lives of there gifted students. I watched that happen and I thought, wise district. It was a district decision. But otherwise the funds are meager and it’s really kind of sad that this population is being neglected. There’s a study that was conducted years ago—well, in 1994, ’95 on national excellence and they talk about the—the quiet crisis of the gifted and how this whole population is being so neglected and how people are just afraid to even get involved with it. And uh it’s really sad. But they came up with some wonderful solutions, possible solutions, wonderful ideas of ways that teachers can meet these challenges. (interruption) That’s right. (interruption) Now see gifted has nothing to do with cultural background or social strata at all. They can have—we can have gifted students from any background and that’s why it’s so easy to miss some of them because in a—in assessing this we make some assumptions about people of given cultures or people of certain races or certain economic strata that can be very faulty reasoning. (interruption) That’s right. (interruption) It was. (interruption) That’s right. (interruption) The early—early I.Q. tests uh gave us kind of an unusual focus. I personally think I.Q. tests have their place but they are—they need to be taken with a great deal of consideration because how is that person feeling on a given day? What about cultural bias in the test? In what ways are we using those scores and making major assumptions. And see this can be really misinterpreted and misunderstood. And as we talk about the testing that was done during—during the wars and during the service and—and in other times when there were reasons to go ahead do some mass testing, we found some very interesting things that some people were highly intelligent according to these tests that they would never have assumed by their behaviors or by other evidence.
That’s right. (clears throat) I’m—I’m really glad that today we look at gifted and talented in—with a broader perspective and a different set of lenses because we find that uh many students are highly accelerated and maybe not on that I.Q. test they can be accelerated and gifted in so many different ways, not necessarily related to intelligence. So intelligence is a piece of it, but it’s only a small piece and sometimes intelligence doesn’t tell you what that person’s really capable of doing.
So are you asking me what is creativity? What (interruption) When we look at creativity as an element of highly accelerated students, this is a fun domain because people can be creative in so many different ways and I learned a while back at a conference an interesting insight on creativity and that is creativity is not random. It is not um without direction. It really is a very orderly process. So there is a divergent thinking element to it, but then it is very convergent and very um orderly as it is pulled together. So with our—our students as we teach them creativity and as we hope they will use their creativity, we encourage them to do higher-level thinking, to do problem solving, but to do it in a constructive way. And always with the gifted I would hope we would have ethics, morality coming into this in terms of what are the things that we owe to our fellow beings? What are some of the things that are really constructive in terms of what we’re doing? So as we have students who are behaving creatively, which we love, so we love to get them turned into this creative mode, we also need them to ask themselves, “In what ways can this help bless the lives of the people around them? In what ways can this strengthen their own development and what—what can be achieved through this that would be constructive and uplifting to others?” And so if this is part of this whole creative focus then we can watch them just go—they can—they can just soar with it. It’s really exciting.
As we train our teachers and look at planning and organizing of their curriculum, I would hope that they would take a look at some of the things we usually look at. “What is the main idea? What are the supporting ideas?” But then I would hope they would take a look at “Who is in my class? What are some of the questions that should be asked on specific levels that will cause these people to do some major thinking?” So they’ll take a look at those that are going to have a hard time with this and take a look at what are some of the steps that they can use to strengthen them. I hope that they will bear in mind the fact that gifted students love complexity first. They like the advance organizer. They like—they like to know what the whole picture is, then tell me the pieces. And I’d like to be able to know whether I know the pieces and where do I need to spend my time. Where some of the students with disabilities need to have pieces and pull them together like a jigsaw puzzle, but you’re highly accelerated students need the whole jigsaw puzzle, then they need to take the pieces apart and take a look at the elements of it. So in planning I would hope that a teacher would do some individualizing with this so that—and maybe do some of both. Because your highly accelerated students can handle that as long as you don’t do only that. So they’ll look at the pieces but I would start out with the whole picture and say, “Today we are discussing the orbits of the planets,” which helps the person know what the main topic is and then say, “OK, now let’s look at each of the planets. Let’s look at how they function in terms of one another. I’m going to hold you accountable for the names of the planets, their orbital patterns, whatever. And so as they get planning their curriculum, they really need to take a look at some differences and what are some of the different elements that are going to be most comfortable for the different ability levels in this group?
In the process of teaching I would hope that they would know their students quite well to start with so that they know how to approach their students and what is—what is a reward for certain students. For some students to say, “Oh, well done, well done” is highly rewarding. For others they’d rather you didn’t draw attention to them and they would definitely not want you to draw attention to the fact that they knew it all to start with. Um, when we’re with—when we talk to our gifted children they say, “Please don’t draw attention to me. Don’t—don’t have me look so much better then the others in the class.” This—this isn’t good. It isn’t healthy. And so a wise teacher as they interact with the students will—will do it wisely and carefully in terms of who these people are and they will acknowledge um mastery very carefully and very wisely.
Assessment for a gifted, talented student falls into this category of accountability that I talk about a lot. And so sometimes assessment is prescribed, you know, by the state. So if we’re following core curriculum, sometimes they have certain text that must be given that ascertain how well a person has achieved it. But for a very gifted student, sometimes to ask them, “OK, in what ways can we demonstrate mastery of this? How can you show—how would you like to show that you have learned this?” You’ll get some very interesting answers at times. So sometimes they’d like to do it as a portfolio, sometimes they’d like to create a video, sometimes they’d like to do a diorama, they’d like to do a report. But not everybody does reports and so we need to give these students some options as they get looking at accountability so that it can be fun, exciting for them. So if we do it in the domain of their—of their gifts, again if we will use their abilities to strengthen their disabilities, if you will, or their weaknesses, we’ve—we’ve got some growth and development that is occurring that we really are trying to foster. So a wise teacher in this area of assessment will pre-assess at the beginning and find out where the students are. We’ll then take those that already know it and have them use ways of their choosing to demonstrate that they already know it and the students that don’t know if, of course, will have to approach in—in other ways too. But with those highly accelerated groups, some of them could teach it. So when you pre-assess, if you find that they could teach it, then let them. So then you help team teach with the student and give that student a certain piece of it, give them a time limit, set the criteria so you both understand what’s going on with this and turn them loose. Give them some time.
I think high expectations can be healthy. I think we need to be very careful that we don’t over expect because sometimes we will make some assumptions that because a highly accelerated student is really good at certain things, that they’re good at everything, which is unfair. But I think also if you’ve got a highly accelerated student that’s earning ‘A’s, we need to talk to them about expectations. We need to talk to them about the challenges involved here and—and where could they go from here? How could they make it even better? In what ways can they apply this to some of the goals in their lives. And I think as we do this, we gain a more realistic expectation for these students. So when they have earned that A, they need to feel good about that ‘A.’ They don’t need to feel like this is “Mickey Mouse,” this is just um busy work. And so everybody got an ‘A,’ they did to, but it’s—it’s meaningless. So what we need to do is challenge them and have them help us understand what an ‘A’ is where they are concerned. So if this is the case, and I believe in a lot of contracting—if this is the case then our expectation, yours and mine together, a wise teacher will do it with the student, “Our expectation of an ‘A’ means this,” and then the wisdom of the teacher needs to come in so that that student doesn’t set such high expectations that it’s un—unreachable in the time allotted. So we’ll say to the student, “OK, but what can be done in this month, f that’s what it is, or this week that is allocated to this that’s realistic, that could really show ‘A’ work where you are concerned,” and let that student help you understand what that expectation should be.
OK. (clears throat) If I could share one thing about gifted ed, I would say these young people need lots of options, whether it’s at home, at school, in their business. They need a variety of ways to do things and they need wise people that can help them see other ways to do them because sometimes we get locked in in our thinking. So if we can help them break mind sets and help them to uh take a look at the options and help them realize that all through life you’re going to have to meet the basics first. And so, let’s get the basics taken care of and that’s why. It’s my stewardship to see that you have learned the basics. So you help me show that you have mastered these and then you can buy time for the rest of this. And we’ll teach them how to use their time and how to use their abilities. But it gives them lots of options and lots of accountability. This is a theme song with me and I’d love to sometime teach a course on accountability because I think here’s a chance for a student to come in and—and you say, “OK, here are the goals. Here’s what we established. Are these realistic goals? OK. And we agreed that they’d be done by a given time so tell me what happened.” And sometimes the student says, “It didn’t work. I failed.” And you say, “What did you learn from it?” And you help them see that failure is not a negative thing. Failure is sometimes to find out what didn’t work. And you help them take a look at things from a realistic and a constructive point of view and then you ask the question after you say what went well, “What could you have done differently to make it even better?” And a wise teacher will be ready to help answer that for the student too. So as they get looking at what went well, what could make it better next time? We’ve got people growing and feeling constructive and positive about these things. And so I would council every teacher, every parent to take a look at options and accountability and realize the accountability should be a—a constructive experience between the two of you, one-on-one. Lot’s of one-on-one.
I don’t think so. Well, we talked about dropouts. (interruption) One thing that does worry me is this area of dropouts and suicide in this population. And I think a lot of this happens when these people lose sight of their goals, when they feel like there’s to much contradiction, where there isn’t enough support, there isn’t enough of a reality check on things um and it’s sad. It’s really sad when I see very, very bright students. So sometimes they need to have someone slow them down not in a negative sort of way but just to council and be realistic about how much time and energy they actually have, how they can balance—see balance is another issue that I feel very strongly about. In fact, let me talk about balance for just a moment. Balance is crucial where the gifted are concerned and wise parents—and this can start at home when they’ve got a good family behind them, can talk about intellectual, social, physical, spiritual elements of life and how we need to give attention to each of these. And that’s why they can’t get tunnel vision and only do that thing which they can do the very, very best and love the very most in life. You still need to eat reasonable meals. You need to get sufficient rest. You need to get exercise. You need to be able not only to stretch your mind; you need to be able to stretch your relationships with other people. We need to be able to work cooperatively with others and productively with others. We need to have some solid values that we live by. So what are the things that we really believe in and that we’re really willing to defend to the death? But I think if we teach these gifted students balance, we can avoid a lot of the things that are happening with dropouts and suicides because they are maintaining health, social, emotional, physical, spiritual health. And I think it’s well worth the effort to help these young people learn these things.
I feel that in my professional life that education and teaching has been a mission and from the beginning it has been a sacred trust. And I have found that in my teaching at the university, all these principles that I talk about gifted education apply. I haven’t always mastered them as well as I might have but I’ve had a great experience practicing them and trying them with these very, very bright students. So for me it has been a joy and a pleasure to have the sacred trust as a mentor and a teacher of these remarkably fine young people nowadays. I have loved my interaction with the students. I have loved getting to know them as individuals. I have loved to see them light up when things have made sense to them and to see them set some goals that are in harmony with their own life goals so that as they learn things, it’s more meaningful to them because they’ve helped set the goals. But for me it has been a joy and a pleasure throughout my whole life to be a good teacher or to strive to be a good teacher and to have had this opportunity in this trust by my university and others who have hired me. So I am delighted beyond measure to have had this special blessing and privilege in my life.