Thinking, thinking…

Hey guys – I am trying to get back to my Saturday routine of posting something related to giftedness. It’s either that, or star up a new website/blog to focus on all things gifted – which is likely to happen in the next few months.

But for now, I’ll try Saturdays!

Today’s post is about my thoughts on GT education. I’m fortunate enough to live in a community with an amazing school district. My oldest attends one of the highest ranked schools in the nation and participates in the IB program. Her teachers are gifted and understand giftedness. It has been a great experience for her. My youngest attends an elementary school that is ranked one of the highest in the state. She, too, is surrounded by teachers that have a deep understanding of giftedness. Her classroom experiences are truly differentiated and she is motivated by these amazing teachers to reach her potential. When she moves up to Middle School in the fall, she will be attending the school where her father works – so we will get to hand-pick her teachers and control (somewhat) her academic experiences.

Needless-to-say, we have had no need to consider alternative forms of education.

But that doesn’t mean my friends, both in and out of district, haven’t been in positions where they are forced to look outside public education for an answer. I have friends who home school, use distance learning, choose private and charter schools, and a variety of other means to educate their children.

If I’m being honest, I would say that as a public school employee, I am saddened that so many of my friends feel no choice but to walk away from public education. As a woman with a business and customer service mind-set, I consider their disenchantment indicative of the problems with public education in many places today –

Too much emphasis on getting the middle-of-the-road learners to pass certain tests, too little emphasis on enabling all kids to grow. Too much regurgitation of material, and not enough thinking. Too much teaching kids what to think and not enough teaching them HOW to think.

Which is a problem, in my mind. A huge problem.

When I used to teach parenting classes, one of the first things I talked with parents about was our changing world – the rapidity with which world dynamics change, the increasing and rapid changes in science and technology.

For one of the first times in our history, we really do not know what the future will look like in 20 years. We like to pretend we do. We like to speculate. But in reality, we don’t know – not really.

When we could predict the future with a fair amount of accuracy, we knew what to teach our kids. We prepared them for a specific kind of life, for a specific trade. We can’t think so narrowly anymore. We HAVE to teach them how to problem solve creatively. We have to teach them how to reason. We have to teach them HOW to think!

But how do we do that in the age of NCLB and high-stakes testing? Are these mutually exclusive things?

I would argue, NO!

You can teach the state-wide standards AND teach kids to think. You can build creativity WITHIN the approved curriculum. But teachers must be taught HOW to do it – and that is lacking at the moment.

Fortunately, the interwebz are full of ideas on how to teach creative problem solving and reasoning within the standards.

Here is but one example:

Let’s say the standard is teaching showing writing ( as opposed to simply telling things). You could just talk about descriptive language, read some examples, and analyze a few things. That would be enough to prep for a test. But you still wouldn’t know how to do it – trust me.

What if instead the assignment was to write a few paragraphs describing something – an imaginary creature or monster maybe. What if you then drew the same creature you wrote about and gave it to the teacher, not sharing it with anyone else. And next, what if someone else in the class had to draw the creature from your story. If you then compared the drawings, wouldn’t you “see” how vital descriptive writing is to your communication of ideas?

Wouldn’t you also learn about perspective and the different way people envision things?

There ae so many things that simple experiences can then teach. Not to mention, the GT kids can take it to a whole different level if allowed to.

Okay, back to the point of this post – if we want to really meet the needs of kids within our schools, we have to stop complaining about the problems with NCLB, etc – stop focusing on the limitations of the system, etc – and focus on how to fix the problem. Second to that we need to move forward, in spite of the problems! Use our own creative problem solving skills and find new and inventive ways to meet the needs of our GT population and teach all kids to think more. It can be done – it is being done, GLOBALLY. We just need to reach out and share ideas more.

What do you think?

On a completely different note – check out this amazing post about writing and publishing. This is a person who gets the bigger picture – she is definitely a problem solver!

7 thoughts on “Thinking, thinking…

  1. Christine, I think this post points to two very important issues – building a global gifted community and the need to re-think how we train teachers. You have to start at the beginning.
    Although I agree with you in spirit about moving beyond NCLB, I can’t bring myself to stop complaining about it and the high-stakes testing environment that surrounds it. NCLB is a far greater problem than just an educational policy. It roots are insidious and it will continue to tear at the fabric of our society until those roots are destroyed or our society is in shambles. {{climbing down off soapbox}}
    That being said, I found your thoughts to be insightful and encouraging. Perhaps if more educators had the courage of their convictions to ‘just so no’ to the current policy wonks and do as you say … move beyond that which they know is wrong … there would be hope that all children could return to learning in school.

    1. Christine Fonseca

      I love your insight as always Lisa! I am not saying we should just roll over and accept the status quo. But, complaining can’t be done simply by choosing alternative ed and calling it a day. Those left in traditional learning won’t have a voice – and their needs are equally important. So, we need to do both, in my opinion – work within the system to transcend it, and change the focus from the top down – if that makes sense.

      Such deep thinking for a Sat. morning!

  2. You’re so right. One of the key things kids aren’t being taught is how to think. If they never learn how to reason, how are they supposed to survive out in the real world? And maybe that’s why so many go adrift when they leave school. Leaving kids without reasoning skills is like tying their hands, throwing them into the ocean and expecting them to swim.

    Don’t get me started. LOL I could rant all day about education. It’s so frustrating and depressing – seeing children you know should thrive get sucked farther and farther down. I’m glad there’s someone out there like you who’s working to fix this. Keep up the good work.

  3. Jonathon Arntson

    Lots to think about here. I appreciate the example you gave, but I remember doing those types of activities in grade school. I’d argue most of my classmates do not remember those activities, and if they do, they don’t remember the purpose of the activity.

    You’re right, who knows what the future will look like, but our society seems to be circling a drain and incapable of recognizing it. How do you get a society as a whole to shift gears? And look how long it took in Greece and Rome.

  4. Great post, Christine. I’m also very frustrated with the legacy of NCLB, and you hit the nail on the head–husband and I talk ALL THE TIME about how public schools don’t teach kids to use abstract thinking these days, which is so not okay. And we keep discussing charter school options for our son. It’s very frustrating, all the way around.

    Hmmm, maybe I need to check out the school system up by you! =D

  5. Great thoughts on this Christine. My oldest is extremely intelligent, but very artistic, and his method of learning is very different from the middle-of-the-road students. I really respect the public learning system, and he has had some teachers who knew just what he needs, while others absolutely clash with him, which turns into a nightmare for all of us. So I agree that it’s important for our educators (as well as parents) to think outside the box. It can be so beneficial to all students.

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