Monday, July 9, 2012

Does TEAMWORK make YOUR team work?

In the morning, I will leave with most of my co-workers and administrators to "retreat" together for a couple of days.  While I don't have an agenda of the upcoming events, I am assuming that we are gathering together to learn and to bond.  What kind of activities will help us to do that?  What kind of team-building "lessons" would be best to help us be more of a community?

I have to admit:  I am a little apprehensive about the trip.  I'm not sure about the sleeping arrangements, the bathroom situation, or the activities.  I wish that I had some sort of agenda, had some sort of idea what we are going to be doing, where I am going to be sleeping.  This apprehension makes me wonder how our kiddos feel when they come into our classrooms.  Are THEY nervous as well?  What are we doing to make them feel less apprehensive, less nervous, more at home?

I am a GT Specialist, so I don't have the same students all day.  I have kids in and out all day, all week.  So my procedures most likely differ greatly from the ones that grade-level teachers have.  I greet the students every day as they walk into my room and again as we begin our time together.  I wonder, though, if they are nervous about what we are going to do.  I work to make my classroom pretty, neat, engaging, and interesting.  Does that make them feel more welcome?

One thing that I do as some of our "first week" activities include making puppets of themselves to introduce themselves to the class.  I hope that this works as a first-step toward building community within the classroom.  I enjoy letting them share with one another and learning about each other.  It also helps me to learn more about each student.  What kinds of community building activities do you enjoy in your classroom?  Share your great ideas with all of us!!

Love, Carol Ann

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Slide???

So, what about the summer slide for all those gifted kids?  Do they suffer from that as well?

I think so.  This isn't true for all gifted students; some kids want to be totally off for the summer, or they are totally engrossed in other activities.  But for many gifted students, they want (or secretly want) to continue learning all the time, especially if you can incorporate their particular areas of interest.  So how do you do that, particularly for your own little smartie pants at home? 

Well, it may not be as much trouble as you think.  In our super-technological age, kids are computer literate at such a young age.  My daughter is moving into seventh grade next year, and she ALWAYS wants to learn something.  What I have done with her this summer (outside of library events and VBS) is give her a project to work on.  She is very interested in fashion and loves to create drawings of her own creations.  So, in order to capitalize on that interest, I gave her a fashion project.  She is to research three different designers from different countries and learn something about those different countries where they are.  Then, she may choose one or more of those designers and create a fashion line using that designer's style, yet adding her own twist where she wants.  She will create a Prezi to show her learning.  She is so excited!

You might say, "But my child doesn't care about fashion!  She's into softball!"  Or, "He loves Legos!"  So, adapt.  There are softball stars from different countries; Lego lovers from all over the world; and so on.  The same type of activity could be adapted to meet the interest of your child.

You may think that most gifted kids are NOT interested in this sort of activity, or any sort of summer project that involves learning.  Well, you might be surprised!  One of my third grade Smarties at school asked me if I would give them a project to work on over the summer.  I was shocked.  So I asked the group if they would be interested in doing that.  And out of 13 kiddos, only two said that they didn't want to.  Can you believe that??



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Monday, January 23, 2012

It's All About.... LOVE?

At the beginning of the school year, someone brought it to my attention that students perform better and learn more from someone that they know loves them.  "Well, great!" I thought.  I love all my kids!  Then I began to wonder if they KNEW that I loved them.  I see lots of kids during any given week in my job, probably around 500.  So DO they know?  And does it really matter?

This year, I have made a conscious effort to speak and show my love to the students, particularly the ones whom I teach in my gifted classes.  Has it made a difference in their performance?  Maybe.  It will take more time to know for sure.  But I've recently had a couple of experiences that made me smile and know that I am making a difference in their lives.

We went on a field trip last week, and I was giving the typical field trip speech, "You are representing our school," and on and on.  In the course of this speech (we had just boarded the bus and were about to leave), and I said that if they couldn't behave, I would make them come to the front of the bus and sit by me.  Well, to my surprise,  four of my boys came to the front and wanted to sit with me.  Now I know that they were teasing and being funny, but still!   I was very surprised!  The day had kindof started badly for me; then these sweet boys were showing me that they loved me, too.   It really made my day.  We all had a wonderful time together on our field trip.

Another night during the previous week, I had a mediocre day at school and a difficult night with my own children.  After I had FINALLY gotten my youngest to bed, I collapsed exhausted in my bed.  I checked my school email, and saw that I had received an email from a student.  I had shown them how to email me from Edline even if they did not have their own email account.  It was from one of my girls, and it just said that she loved being in my class and that I was such a fun teacher.  That small gesture made such a difference in how I felt that evening and how I felt about being a teacher.  In reflecting on this feeling, I wonder how big of a difference we can make in their lives by these same types of small gestures.  I gave her a BIG hug the next day, and I told her about my difficult night and how her email had lifted my spirits.

I know that teachers make a difference in the lives of students every day, and I'm sure that you have even more poignant examples than these.  How do you show your students that you care about them?  How do they respond?  Please share them here!  In such a stressful job, it helps us all to hear these stories of LOVE!

With LOVE, Carol Ann

Monday, January 16, 2012

Happy MLK Day!

Welcome Back!

Although I know that many schools were out today in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, our school was not.  However, I took time today--and I will the rest of the week--to help educate our youngsters about some of our country's history and how one man--just one man--made such a difference.  He knew in his heart what was right and what was wrong, and he was never swayed from his beliefs.  He encountered many difficulties for himself, his family, and others, yet he understood the importance of his mission.

After talking a bit with my students today, I had them draw or write about THEIR dreams for our country and our world.  Today I had kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders.  You would be amazed at the ideas that they had for our world!  While some of them mimicked the ideas of MLK, others were concerned about hunger around the world and taking care of our earth.  It was a wonderful day of sharing ideas!

How about you?  What are you planning this week for your students?  How are you planning to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Have a great week!

Carol Ann

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sometimes My Heart Hurts...

Welcome back to The Mysterious Gifted Society!

Well, today was a little bit difficult as I realized more and more how much differentiation my kiddos need.  After listening to my daughter's frustration with her education, I visited with one of my gifted classes.  I asked them about what they liked about our gifted class and what they would like to change.  They gave me a couple of suggestions, like having class outside sometimes, and things like that.  When I asked them about their regular classes, the conversation changed a little. 

It's funny how you wouldn't think that kids would want their school to be harder, but they do.  They really want to learn and to show their excellence, but the honest truth is, gifted students are not really a priority for America.  Of course, this makes no sense at all.  We need smart over-achievers to create jobs, change our world, and, of course, pay taxes!! :) 

But how do we do this?  Honestly, it's hard to say.  We need to differentiate, but it's difficult to know how and to find the time with all of the requirements of teaching.  This discussion has really been on my heart, and I will be doing my best to try to help everyone meet the needs of these students.  This is not a criticism of any teachers, just of the system.  And what I want most is to help teachers give an equitable education to ALL of our students.  I know how crazy busy it is and how hard teaching is.  My goal is for us to colloborate together and find some ideas, suggestions, and solutions to help these kiddos reach their goals!

One area that's been on my mind is math.  I am absolutely no mathematician, so trying to determine how to differentiate for kids is hard.  I was wondering if we could put them into math groups the way students are grouped in reading, with pre-tests to determine placement.  Older kids could possibly function in a small group learning environment with little instruction.  This would be more difficult with younger students, but I still think it might be workable.

Teachers out there, what do you think?  Do you see problems with this?  How can we better differentiate for these "smarty pants"? 


Carol Ann :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Welcome!

Welcome to The Mysterious Gifted Society Blog!  I am so glad that you stopped by!

I am starting this blog for several reasons.  First of all, as a Gifted Specialist, I feel that I have a responsibility to advocate for our brightest students.  They often spend their school days listening to information that they already know or being used as a tutor for remediation for other children.  But what we all really know is that EVERY child has the right to learn, even the gifted children.

But what we also know is that teachers have SO much to do every day, and that it is incredibly difficult to meet the needs of all of these children.  In this case, sometimes it seems impossible to focus our attention on those children who most likely are going to score in the 95th percentile on "the test".  Don't we need to "save" those struggling kids?

Of course we do.  However, we can't neglect those potential high-achievers.  I hope to provide insight, information, and ideas for parents and teachers to educate, support, and inspire these amazing students so that they can reach their true potential--the STARS!