Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Is Your Potential?

Potential.  We use that word a lot.  Many students, particularly gifted students, have a great deal of potential.  But what does the word potential actually mean?  According to dictionary.com, here is the definition of potential:
  • possible, as opposed to actual.               
  • capable of being or becoming.
  • a latent excellence or ability that may or may not be developed.
So, when you think about it, what is potential actually worth?  It's not real; it's just possible.  It's not real; it's just a capability.  It's not real; it's latent.  So what is it worth?  Basically nothing.  Nothing until we come along.  

Yes, we.  Who are we?  We are the parents, the teachers, the people who love these gifted students.  And if you've been around for long at all, you can think of at least one, and probably several, students who have failed.  Who did not meet their potential.  Who maybe even quit school.  Or worse.  I believe that we as parents and teachers often fail these amazing kiddos.  Please don't think I am being critical.  At least not any more than I am critical of myself.  We do the best we can.  And as Maya Angelou graciously stated, "Now that I know better, I do better."  One thing I try to do on a continuous basis is to improve.  To just take one step in front of the other, moving closer toward being better.  Not better than you, not better than anyone else, but better than I was yesterday.  

And that moves me on to the next portion of my post: OUR potential.  As teachers and parents of these smarty pants, what are we doing to help them reach their potential?  Each gifted child is unique and different, so they don't all have the same wants and needs.  I learned this firsthand from my own family.  One of my children is self-motivated and has always done her best in her schoolwork and has been driven to succeed.  She has other dreams and goals as well, and she works to create plans and successes so that she can achieve what she wants.  Then, there's the other child.  He is brilliant.  And creative.  And wants what he wants.  But only if it's what he wants.  So, yeah, not exactly self-motivated to excel at school.  Unless he wants to.  Unless his interest is piqued.  Do these kids have different needs?  Yep.

If we want to help our beloved students to reach their potential, we need to help ourselves to reach our potential!  Ugh!  So I have to grow, too?  Can't I just do things the way I have always done them?  Well, sure you can.  But if our goal is to help these smarties to reach their potential, we are going to have to make some improvements.

One of the things I am most excited about in education is the idea of the growth mindset.  If you haven't heard of this, do some research on Carol Dweck.  The concept of the growth mindset may not have been geared toward gifted education and gifted students, but I believe that the growth mindset is perfect for gifted kiddos.  Basically, the growth mindset focuses on the idea that we are able to become more intelligent, more creative, more of a leader through hard work and challenges.  On the flip side, the fixed mindset believes that whatever you are born with is what you have and all you will have.  I love the idea of pushing these gifted kids to build their brains to be stronger and more resilient.

If you need a good place to start with this idea, check out the videos on Class Dojo.  I love Class Dojo, and now they are delving into the growth mindset movement.  They have two series of videos that introduce and explain this way of learning.  They are so cute and so fun!  Even my 6th graders like them!  Another player in the growth mindset movement is Whole Brain Teaching. If you haven't checked them out, you certainy need to.  Whole Brain Teachers often use a "Super Improver" wall whereby students are able to set goals (with or without teacher help) and then move up the Super Improver board as they improve their skills.  Goals and skill improvement plans can be private and differentiated for each student.  I had planned to incorporate this more into my class this year, but failed miserably since I changed schools and the year was a bit crazy.  I am definitely using this next year, complete with badges that the kids can earn.  I want to make it a HUGE deal when they move up the board.

And I realize that I am all over the place right now, but I am also considering starting the National Board Certification process.  Eeeek!  I am pretty nervous about this!

Let me know how you focus on your kiddos' growth!

Carol Ann