Jeffrey Shoemaker is a Gifted Intervention Specialist in Ohio with whom I have had the pleasure to chat with several times. He is a passionate teacher and advocate for gifted children. He also blogs about his experience here. I grateful to Jeff for accepting, with great gusto, the invitation to write to mark Gifted Education Awareness Week 2013.
Since this week is Gifted Education Awareness Week, I wanted to write about something inspiring. So I thought for a moment, and came up with the topic of passion. What drives you to love Gifted Education? I know there are several aspects of Gifted Education that I have a passion for. I hope that you can relate to these as well.
One area of Gifted Education that drives me is the fact that Gifted Education is in need of advocates. These children with these amazing abilities get left behind so often in the regular classroom. Regular Education teachers at times are focused on the bottom or middle learner students. Many Gifted students are expected to learn on their own, or given extra work to keep them busy. This has to change. This is why as a Gifted Intervention Specialist (GIS) it is my job to help the Regular Education teacher differentiate their teaching to help gifted students be successful in their Regular Education classrooms. Every student should be making at least one year’s growth. To help with that I feel that it is my job to be a resource, and an advocate for my students and teachers in my building.
Another area that drives me in Gifted Education is breaking down myths. There are so many myths about Gifted Education and its students that I feel that it is my job to break those myths apart and show Regular Education teachers that gifted students need more assistance than what they receive at times in the Regular education classroom. There is a great list of myths at the NAGC website (http://nagc.org/myths.aspx). We as GIS need break these myths down and help our students to be great students and successful lifelong learners.
Gifted Education is so diverse, and yet it requires all of us to do our part. In Gifted Education there has to be people who love these students, and want the best for them. This leads me to an aspect of Gifted Education that I am passionate about. Helping our students fit in, and makes sense of their abilities is an important aspect of giftedness that needs to be addressed. Our students are brilliant, and yet they feel like they don’t fit in or have many friends. When I pull my students out of their Regular classroom, and bring them down to mine, I make it my purpose to have a classroom that is positive, and where everyone can share their ideas, and expertise. I want my students to feel they fit in my classroom, and the students in it. They have friends there that may think like them, and have similar interests. I feel that having this kind of classroom environment is important for intellectual growth, and for personal growth.
As an off-shoot of that, I feel that it is my responsibility to make sure my students are challenged. I try, like you, to come up with activities and units that have depth and complexity. I try to make units that don’t have one clear defined answer. I do that because we all know in the real world there are many answers to life’s problems. I see the State Standards as a starting point, and not an ending point.
To sum things up, what drives you about Gifted Education? Is it the students, or the challenge, or the politics? It is the fact that these special students will hopefully be the leaders in our community, states, or countries? I can’t answer that for you. But as for me, I fell in love with Gifted Education several years ago, and every year my love grows deeper thanks to the students I have, and how they challenge me to be a better teacher, advocate and resource for them now and in the future.