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The Diverse Doctor

In the weeks and months leading up to Gifted Awareness Week this year, I've been immersing myself in a new fandom, that of Doctor Who. I've enjoyed (thanks to Netflix) the different regenerations of the Doctor, his various companions, his adventures and travels and troubles, and mostly I've enjoyed his musings about life and humanity. So merging my new interest (obsession?) with Gifted Awareness Week I thought it apt to look at lessons about diversity from Doctor Who and think about how these might apply to the very real context of gifted education in New Zealand.


Lessons in diversity from Doctor Who:




Image credit: Flickr user: Doctor Who Spoilers, licensed for use CC BY 2.0


- an awareness that life exists in many variations
The Doctor takes many forms. He understands, at the most fundamental level, that he himself is the very embodiment of diversity. From this understanding, he is then aware, from his travels in time and space, that life takes many forms. Some life forms…
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A Message on a Post-It

Not long ago in my MindPlus class, we were talking about being gifted and what that means for us. Instead of talking, one student quietly wrote on a post-it ‘I don’t really feel like I fit in at school’ and stuck it on the wall. This innocuous little post-it kick-started a torrent of ‘me too’ comments and we talked at length about this meant. Whilst fitting in is not the same as a sense of belonging, the two can go hand-in-hand. Children talked about not feeling 'right', not fitting with others, being misunderstood, being different, not being able to be themselves, and not meeting others like them as factors that contributed towards their sense of not belonging. 
As a teacher, a parent, and a human, I felt devastated for these young people carrying the burden of not fitting in, not feeling part of things, not belonging.  I wondered what it was that made them feel so ill at ease?  I wondered what steps we could take to enhance belonging in our classrooms?
Some of my ponderings br…

Like-mindedness...inclusion...and us.

Associate Professor Tracy Riley’s recent research, shared in a SENG article, Thinking Along the Same Lines, and to be further explored at the upcoming NZAGC conference, puts like-mindedness in the spotlight.
Like-mindedness is an important part of gifted education. The benefits of grouping gifted children together, creating like-minded environments, are both intellectual and social. Intellectually, like-minded students can work together at a faster pace, in greater depth, can challenge and question each other in order to bolster their individual and collective learning. Research by Adams-Byers, Whitsell and Moon (2004) found that gifted students saw the academic advantages in learning with like-minded peers as being challenge, fast pace, quality and depth of discussion, and lack of repetition of content.  Sandra Kaplan highlights that in like-minded groups, students can share perspectives and ideas that can be more readily understood, without the need for protracted explanation. This s…

Colourful and complex... students' thoughts about like-mindedness

Working (effectively) with like-minded peers is an essential element of the MindPlus programme. But what do children actually think and say about working with their like-minded peers?... I asked two classes of gifted children and here are their responses:
Learning with like-minded peers… -It’s easier because we don’t have to explain ourselves or our ideas -It’s not as hard as working with non-like-minded peers -We can work together on the same things, or on different things in the same ways -We can help each other learn -You can understand each other -We can learn from each other -It’s just easier to work with like-minded peeps
Communicating with like-minded peers… -We don’t have to tackle ‘what does that mean?’ -You can really properly listen to and think about other people’s ideas -It’s waaay easier to communicate
Connecting with like-minded peers… (socially and emotionally) -We ‘get’ each other -You can connect with others -We go through similar things -It’s interesting to be able to talk to peo…

Mind the Gap

The recent scoping report by consultants MartinJenkins, commissioned by Gifted Kids (now New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education) identified a series of ‘gaps’ in service delivery for gifted children in New Zealand’s schools (read more here: http://www.giftedkids.co.nz/Gaps+in+education+for+gifted+-+report+finds+-+Media+Release). These thoughts are echoed by the shared Position Statement from the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, giftEDNZ and the NZAGC.

When thinking about gaps in relation to the education of gifted, one springs to my mind immediately – the gap between potential and achievement in our gifted children. This gap saddens and angers me. To see gifted children languishing in the 'above standard' zone, perhaps a year above their chronological age, is simply wrong.   While giftedness is not an automatic ticket to high achievement but our gifted children absolutely and undoubtedly have the ability to achieve at exceptional levels, many years above their chrono…

Gifted Awareness Week 2014 - 6 word stories

The cells in a beehive has six sides. A guitar has six strings.
The atomic number for carbon is six. There are six geese a-laying. And any good story has just six words.
My Tuesday class of year 4-6 students at Gifted Kids (New Zealand Centre of Gifted Education) have expressed their ideas about what being gifted is all about, briefly, through 6 word stories. What better way to communicate complex ideas.
You might take a minute to think about the deeper meanings here, about where these ideas come from, and about what we can learn from understanding what our gifted children think.

Here's a selection that really captures the spirit of their thoughts.

Getting straight to the point...
An individual with advanced intellectual ability.
Gifted? Me? High intellectual ability? Yes!
Intellectual ability, born with the person.

And with deference to Lady Gaga...
Baby, I was born this way. 
Being gifted doesn’t come by mail.  
See Mum, it’s all your fault.
Don’t blame me, blame my parents.

Giftedness …

End of year thoughts

The end of the school year brings with it tiredness, relief, amazement at how we all survived, and time to draw breath, perhaps some time for some unforced critical reflection. The recent PISA results and the ensuing and no doubt ongoing debate also forces some critical thinking. I'm interested at the moment in how we organise the children in our care to optimise our time & energy for their learning -aka grouping. Ability or interest? Fixed or changing? Self or teacher determined? Some, all or none of the time?

I have been particularly interested in watching the social & emotional responses to grouping... Here's an example... Highly able, albeit somewhat reticent reader, in mixed ability reading group, feels like an outlier (uncomfortably so) but at the same time begins to express doubts about own reading ability, & therefore becomes reluctant to outwardly participate ie share ideas in discussion. Teacher assumes this lack of verbal participation is a significant l…