Teaching is More Than Just a Class
Just before the holidays I was treated to an outstanding performance of A Christmas Carol. Apart from some great acting and set design, I was inspired to write about the three spirits of gifted education, past, present, and future, and the messages they would relay to the Scroogish general education community, that has long “replaced” talent development with the “idol” of testing. As the curtain closed and I fumbled for my pen to jot down some notes for this installment, I was approached by one of the actresses from the performance, a former student, who had noticed me in the audience. My focus for this column soon changed.
It had been some 15 years since I had directed her in a performance of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and in retrospect, I should have made the connection sooner. Her name had changed, the result of a recent marriage, and she looked a bit older in the costumes and wigs, but her acting skills and singing abilities had only improved. She was excited to see me and eager to share her theatrical history, full of accomplishments.
Another instance found me stopping a former student in the hallway the other day to ask how he was doing. He proceeded to tell me at length about his awesome math class, the success of the school’s Robotics Club, and the anticipation of the newest installment of the Star Trek franchise. I clearly remembered the shy 7thgrader who spent two months researching the best digital camera to buy, and who also needed some help in organizing his homework assignments. He is now a senior in high school, doing quite well. Just yesterday I received two e-mails from former students, one who is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Engineering, and the other a high school math teacher. I thought of the excited 8th grader who was astounded by the principles of circuitry, and the reserved boy who didn’t say much unless the conversations were about baseball. I wished them both well.
As time goes by, conversations like this happen more frequently. Present and former students love talking about their lives, their interests, fears, hopes, goals, and dreams. The sometimes monotonous grind of school vanishes when students are encouraged to discover who they are as individuals. Sharing personal anecdotes or relating a lesson to real-world experiences helps to bridge the gap between content and social and emotional development. Teachers, especially during the middle school years, often need to begin the conversation. Simply asking “How’s it going?” can open up the line of communication between the teacher and student. Attending to the affective needs of gifted and talented students is just as important as content and skill knowledge. There are a variety of ways to incorporate social and emotional issues into and outside of the classroom. Simple conversations are one way; others can take place as an entire curriculum.
Do not worry. Some ghosts will be knocking on the “Teacher’s Corner” door next December. In the meantime, below are some of NAGC’s most important resources for understanding and enriching the affective needs of gifted and talented students. I encourage you to review them, sharing with colleagues as needed.
• Read NAGC’s position statement regarding social and emotional issues facing gifted children.
• Access the Learning and Development standard, of the Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards, and access related resources for them.
• Consider joining NAGC’s Counseling & Guidance Network, devoted to the social and emotional health of gifted children.
Specifically For Teachers
• Check out articles and columns relating to the Affective Needs of Gifted Children and Associated Strategies that are available from Teaching for High Potential.
• Access Connecting for High Potential, the publication dedicated to Parent and Teacher communication.
• Learn more about Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG).
Don’t forget about essential NAGC Publications, available in the online bookstore.
• The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?
• And the companion book, Social-Emotional Curriculum with Gifted and Talented Students On the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Children, 4th ed.
Enjoy the start of the 2013 year!