Sunday, January 28, 2007

Teaching Gifted Kids?

I just read a post Differentiated Instruction, Web 2.0 and Learning Differences that referred to an old blog post from Vicki Davis blog site, How wikis, podcasts, and laptops help students with learning disabilities. I went to Vicki's original post to see the entire thing and this is the first paragraph:
Any teacher can teach a smart kid -- a "smart kid" with regular learning abilities can learn from an inanimate object -- a book. They can teach themselves on the Internet. Teach them and you are knowledgeable about your subject. But it is the child who has challenges -- you are true teacher when you accommodate and reach that child.

The gist of the posts were the benefits of using Web 2.0 tools with learning disabled students, definitely a good idea don't get me wrong.

I take offense :) to "any teacher can teach a smart kid". I've spent the last twenty years advocating for gifted kids in the regular ed classroom and many of them spend hours a week in an academic desert. Who learns the least new material in a given school week? Not the student with learning problems, but the gifted kid. "Any teacher" can't always teach a smart kid. NCLB has exacerbated the problem. i could rant on but 'Nuff said.


The Tour Marm said...

When I was a public school student in New York City, classes from the fouth grade through tenth were segregated according to one's ability and needs. I was in the 'IGC' and 'SP' (Intellectually Gifted Classes and 'Special Progress') throughout my elementary and junior high years. Our teachers were stimulating and had high expectations. There was hardly a dull moment.

Interestingly enough I experienced the other side of the coin when I had to attend a local private school during a nine week strike by the UFT. It was the first time I had shared a class with students who were LD.

It seemed to me that the teachers I encountered there were almost threatened by bright students! They were extremely uncomfortable with students who challenged them. (In fact, I got into major trouble for questioning some facts and figures, something for which I would have been rewarded by my 'real' teacher.)

The teachers catered to the LD and literally ignored the smart students because they perceived that we had the ability to fend for ourselves. (It was less 'intellectual' work for them.) Regurgitating information and passing tests was all that was expected.

In fact, I recall one teacher suggesting that some of us might assist a couple of students with reading comprehension; this created an atmosphere of mutual resentment amongst classmates. While I was taught to be of service to others, I thought it was inappropriate in this situation. (So did my mother!)

It was the most boring and frustrating eight weeks of my school career!

Some of my friends who were attending this private school for the same reason, eventually got together as an after school study group in order to prepare for our eventual return to our public school classes.

Not all teachers can teach smart kids.


nbosch said...

Thank you for your well thought out comments, my big frustration is that things have not changed in the twenty one years I've been working with gifted kids.

Identified students are gifted only one day a week few receiving any modifications in their daily curriculum, teachers continue to be threatened by kids that are smarter than they are, most teachers teach in a one-size-fits-all mode no matter how much the district tries to encourage differentiation, teachers still think that gifted services are elitist, students who don't do their grade level class work perfected do not "deserve" to come to the gifted program and on and on and on.

BUT the thing that irritates me the most is that many teachers think I don't work hard since all my kids are smart. :) They don't realize that each child is different with different strengths and weaknesses and personalities and baggage, they don't realize that we write all our own curriculum, they don't realize that we deal with 11 schools, 11 principals, 40 classroom teachers, 5 school pychologists, 130 parents and usually attend 150-200 meetings a year!! Yikes, does that sound whiney enough. I do have the greatest job...I get to teach whatever I want to kids who want to learn new stuff. All in all... a good gig!!

Barbara said...

I have a little different take on all of this but none the less your post is compelling. It as fostered a good conversation with the staff about the high achievers in our classrooms. Two points hit home- one the gifted kids do learn the least new material and not many modifications are made to meet their needs.At least at our school we are now more aware and we are looking for ways to change things.
As a rule however I do not believe the teachers are scared of the gifted kids... their time just gets absorbed at the other end of the spectrum.

nbosch said...

Thanks for stopping by Barbara. Gifted kids’ personalities run the gamut from "Golden Boy" and “Teacher’s Pet” to "nerd" to "unbelievably annoying”. Depending on the personality of the kiddo and his/her baggage (ADD, anxiety, OCD, perfectionism, underachievement, LD) classroom teachers react to them in a myriad of ways. “Fear” may be a bit harsh but I’ve seen all types of reactions by teachers. I’ve seen teachers intimidated by gifted kids, I’ve seen them in awe of gifted kids, I’ve seen them used as co-teachers, tutors, errand runners, and more. Of course I’ve seen some teachers who do a brilliant job of teaching gifted kids, these teachers usually have more training during their college days or are gifted themselves. I don’t blame the classroom teacher, I blame the university and school districts who “don’t get it” and think it’s OK if the gifted kids sit day after day. The latest research shows that a student with an IQ of 130 knows 50-80% of the material BEFORE entering the grade! Yikes. Teaching in today’s classroom is more challenging than ever and I admire the men and women who do it. I couldn’t do it again.