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The Kaleidoscope

A quarterly periodical from
Colorado Association for Gifted & Talented

Back to School 2020


Welcome to The Kaleidoscope, now with a fresh new look! Each quarter, we provide quality, relevant articles of interest to help families and educators support children who are gifted. The Kaleidoscope is one of your benefits for being a member of CAGT. You also receive The Happenings, your monthly source for all gifted and talented current events, which also has a redesigned look to go along with our beautiful new website (click here to explore our new website). Enjoy!

            CAGT Conference 2020 is coming!
                                             CAGT conference logo 2020
We're gearing up for this year's conference, which is considered among the nation's top gifted education events! This year, we're going virtual and we're offering discount pricing! The conference spans two days (October 19-20) and will include esteemed keynotes, a wide variety of relevant breakout sessions, Family Institute, Awards Recipients, Student Art Contest, and much more. Click here for details and to register!



In This Issue

  • A Message from our CAGT President
  • Article: "Equity Over Hand Sanitizer: Racial Justice as the Focus for Reopening Schools"
  • Article: "What Matters When Identifying and Serving Gifted Students from Low Income Backgrounds"
  • Article: "Finding Your Community: Essential Support for Parents of Gifted Children"
  • Article: "Why is My Child So... Quirky? Sullen? Needy?"

A Message from our CAGT President


August 19, 2020

Hello Colorado Gifted and Talented Community,

As we move into the beginning of the school year and say goodbye to summer, we want to let you know that The Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented is here to support you, your children and your community’s gifted needs. We have resources, articles and links for educators, administers, and parents for advocacy and beyond.  All of the resources can be found on our CAGT website.

CAGT is honored each year to host our annual conference. This year, our theme is: Through Their Eyes: A Wider Lens of Gifted. We are proud to welcome Richard Cash, Colin Seale, Julie Skolnick and Jonathan Mooney as our Keynote Speakers. Each of these esteemed members of the gifted community will share their expertise and experience on various topics addressing the needs of our gifted students.  We also will have a number of experts in the field of gifted education facilitating Breakout Sessions and Signature Series on a variety of relevant topics within the field.  Register today here!

New to our association this year for our members and friends is Conversations with CAGT’. Renowned educators and researchers from across the United States bring you their insights, suggestions, ideas and inspiration about a variety of topics in the field of gifted education. Join us on Facebook Live every Tuesday at 5:00. If you cannot make it live, all of the conversations are recorded and available on the CAGT Facebook Live page and our website.

Thank you for everything you do for gifted learners everyday!  You make a difference!


Sincerely,

Diana Caldeira, President

Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented

 

 

Equity Over Hand Sanitizer: Racial Justice as the Focus for Reopening Schools in the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Colin Seale (CAGT Conference 2020 keynote speaker)
originally published Aug. 5, 2020,  from thinklaw.us

School systems across the country have responded to the national reckoning around issues of racial justice by rapidly developing strategies and plans for education equity. These efforts are certainly better than no effort at all, but they miss a crucial point: an education system cannot have a strategy for equity. Equity needs to be the strategy for everything else.  


This is not meant to minimize, in any respect, the extremely serious safety and logistical considerations involved in reopening schools during a global pandemic. But when equity is the “why,” the “how” and the “what,” it shines a light on the path forward during these challenging times. Before continuing, it is important to clarify that my definition of educational equity goes well beyond buzzword status, proclamations of the importance of equity by school boards, and the equity committee where everyone on the committee is super-committed to sharing how committed they are about equity. 


Educational equity is a design framework where justice is the outcome for individual children and for the system as a whole. In practical terms, equity requires four fundamental shifts:  


1. Moving away from the mythical idea of meeting the needs of “all students” to the student-centered approach of meeting the needs of “each child.” 


2. Rejecting the notion of empowering students because students already have power, and equity requires the system to help students galvanize this power.


3. Recognizing that academic success is a necessary, but insufficient outcome of an equitable education system. 


4. Preparing students burdened by unjust systems to successfully navigate, question, dismantle, and rebuild new, more just systems. 


For school system leaders grappling with COVID-19 reopening challenges, these four shifts can provide remarkable levels of clarity. We call this comprehensive approach The Educational Equity Equation, because true equity requires a combination of goals. When your focus is on “each child” instead of “all students,” your leadership becomes more purposeful and less colorblind. The transition to “each” means you are disaggregating the data. Focusing on “each” necessitates an equity-focused strategy to data collection to begin with, because when you already know devices and wifi access are a challenge for families, why would you ever rely on an 100% online family survey to guide your decision-making?  


As Dr. Rosa Perez Isiah noted in our recent Educational Equity Equation Conversation, this is not really a battle between equity and hand sanitizer. Equity is hand sanitizer. Pre-pandemic, why was it ever normal to narrowly focus on academic success in schools without hot water, disgusting bathrooms, and poor ventilation systems? There is no question that the pandemic has heightened public awareness of inequities like the digital divide. An equity focus mandates the understanding that connectivity means more than a Chromebook and a hotspot.  


How connected are students to grade-level work in a system that regularly underteaches low-income students of color? How much access do students have to the tools that prepare them to break the stuff that needs to be broken when we treat critical thinking like a luxury good? Disproportionately low identification rates for these students in gifted and talented and other advanced academic programs have been an issue as long as these programs have existed. Your school board’s #BlackLivesMatter statement is important. But if your school system’s day-to-day practices call into question whether Black minds matter, whether the voices, input, and know-how of Black families matter, or whether the injustice of asking Black students to work twice as hard to get half as far matters, there is still work to do to make equity actionable. 


Student and teacher safety. Academic achievement. College and career readiness. Ensuring the basic needs of students are met. Yes, yes, and more yes to all of these. But equity cannot be just another item on the list if your school system is serious about repairing the injustices built into the system.


What Matters When Identifying and Serving Gifted Students from Low-Income Backgrounds?

by Matthew Lynch
originally published Jun. 16, 2020,  from theedvocate.org

Gifted students are those whose creative, intellectual, artistic, leadership, or specific content abilities are greater than those of the average student. Gifted children are often put in special programs or classes to satisfy their curiosity and intellectual needs. The placement of gifted students into these programs is, in many cases, based on teacher and parent recommendations.


Gifted students can come from any background, but unfortunately gifted students from low-income backgrounds are seldom identified and represented in these special gifted programs.


Gifted students from low-income backgrounds are underrepresented


Schools in the United States miss out on many opportunities when they fail to recognize gifted students from low-income backgrounds. Many gifted students from low-income backgrounds are not recognized as gifted and thus are not placed in these gifted programs for a variety of reasons.


Usually, entry of a student into a gifted program is up to the discretion of a parent or teacher. Parents of low-income students may not encourage the placement of their student into a gifted program because of cultural differences, a fear that their child will be even more different from his peers, or a fear that the gifted program may consume the child’s time that he would otherwise be spending earning money or helping take care of younger siblings. The gifted student himself may share these same fears and not advocate for his gifted needs.


Opportunities outside of school also weigh into the mix. Economically advantaged students have more opportunities outside of the classroom for gifted enrichment, whereas disadvantaged students do not. They must rely on the public education system.


The biggest issue may be a stigma placed on minority low-income students. Some teachers may feel that low-income students are generally lazy or lack work-ethic, when in reality these students may have difficulty completing their homework because they lack internet access at home, lack money to buy materials for projects, or lack the time after school to work on homework because they must instead work to earn money for their family.


How to identify gifted students from low-income backgrounds


Due to these issues at play, it is especially important for teachers to be advocates for these underrepresented gifted students. Identifying these gifted students is the first step in this advocacy. It can be difficult to distinguish gifted students from high-achieving students. While these categories can sometimes overlap, there are large differences between the two classifications. Gifted students, as opposed to high-achieving students:


     Have the ability to find and solve difficult and unusual problems

     See connections, relationships, and understand multiple perspectives with ease

     Ask a lot of questions

     Have advanced vocabulary and communication skills

     Love to read

     Can understand abstract and complex concepts

     Concentrate for long periods of time on areas of interest

     Are usually aware that they are different

     Are usually introverts

     Have a constant need for mental stimulation to avoid boredom


How to serve gifted students from low-income backgrounds


The most valuable way you can assist gifted students from low-income backgrounds is to advocate for them. Be hyper-aware of the gifted students that could be in your classroom and seek out the appropriate programs and opportunities for them.


It is equally as important to teach gifted students to advocate for themselves. Coming from low-income backgrounds, these students often put their own interests secondary to the interests of their family’s well-being. You must show the student that reaching their own full potential is the best way they can help their family.


Gifted students from low-income backgrounds may also be afraid of ridicule by their peers. As so many of these students are underrepresented in gifted programs, a minority student may be the only student of color in the entire gifted class. Children don’t like feeling different from others, so you must also teach the gifted student to embrace her unique abilities.


Changing the way low-income students are represented in gifted programs will not occur overnight. Change will occur one student at a time, and these students need you to find them and to advocate for them.


Finding Your Community:
Essential Support for Parents of Gifted Children

by Gail Post
originally published summer 2020,  from ghfdialogue.org

As a psychologist, I thought I would be prepared. But like many of you, I was blindsided by the unexpected challenges that accompany raising a gifted child. It was daunting—complex, exhilarating, isolating, and downright overwhelming at times. Parenthood is hard enough. Parenting a gifted child presents an array of additional and unanticipated surprises—and as parents, we deserve support.


What Are Some of the Unique Challenges Parents of Gifted Children Face?


Parents of gifted children typically experience a crash course on giftedness, gifted education, advocacy, and navigating others’ misconceptions. But what can be particularly troubling is the sense of differentness and isolation that emerges. Unless your friends and family have raised a gifted child, it is doubtful that they fully grasp your child’s unique challenges—or your own joys and struggles.


This sense of isolation creates a barrier from others, forcing you to play by different rules. When your friends’ children excel at sports or ace an audition, you readily share in their excitement. But you say little about your own child’s accomplishments—aware that you might risk the appearance of bragging. If you encourage your child to excel or enroll in an SAT prep course, you could be judged as pushy or overinvolved. If your child needs additional academic support, or you advocate too forcefully for improved gifted education within the schools, the accusations might be even worse. Elitist. Unequitable. Helicoptering. Selfish. The list goes on.


Parents of gifted children develop restraint, not only to avoid personal attacks, but to shield their children from potential backlash. They carefully weigh their words when describing their child’s needs to coaches, camp counselors, or babysitters. They learn to soft-peddle complaints at school, include the needs of other classroom children in any request for services, and present strategies to teachers and administration that are cost-effective and will not impose a burden on staff.


When parents of gifted children finally muster up the courage to communicate their child’s accomplishments, they often add an element of “undoing” into the mix. If their child receives a compliment, they may counter or “undo” the success with something negative. Yes, he excels at math, but you should see his messy room! I am so proud of her for winning that science award, but boy, you should hear her mouth sometimes! Playing by different rules takes its toll. It demands vigilance and a dampened spirit, and it delivers a crushing blow to spontaneity. When you cannot jump for joy at your child’s concert, math league, or award night, your experience is diminished. And your child may sense—and possibly misinterpret—your lack of enthusiasm.


As the parent of two gifted children (who are now young adults), I also experienced these reactions. Although well-meaning family, neighbors, and friends tried to understand, they could not fully grasp the unique dilemmas inherent in raising two gifted boys. And I struggled with concerns that I might seem boastful or convey false humility. So, I often remained quiet.


What Parents of Gifted Children Need


Once I eventually found other parents who truly understood the challenges of gifted parenting, I could finally relax. I no longer felt compelled to downplay, minimize, or “undo” my sons’ experiences. I stopped worrying about whether my motivations, concerns, or joys would be misperceived, and could engage in a supportive, meaningful dialogue about strategies and resources. I even obtained ideas that helped with college planning— as overworked school guidance counselors had few resources and minimal experience with gifted students.


How Do I Find My Community?


I reached out to friends who also had gifted children. We were friends before our children were born, so the bond already existed. Sharing the gifted parenting experience was an added bonus— and a great source of support.


I found parents of gifted children in both expected and unexpected places. At the playground. On the soccer field. Outside of music lessons and chess tournaments. No explanation was necessary. They understood completely and often had words of wisdom to share.


I joined— and eventually co-chaired— a gifted parents advocacy group within our local school district. Frustrated parents, discouraged after years of witnessing the schools’ watered-down gifted programming, shared stories, concerns, and strategic plans for change. The group offered support, information, and validation, and directed our energy toward improving gifted services. Persistent, yet respectful of the district’s fiscal constraints and the realistic demands facing teachers within the classroom, we were able to leverage some change in gifted education policy and procedures. We also offered workshops and guidance for other parents in the district.


Through my writing, I have met psychologists, academics, educators, and writers within the gifted community who understand the dilemmas gifted people face, and who are committed to changing policy and perceptions. I offer this additional comment to emphasize that support and enrichment can be found through unanticipated sources (i.e., outside of school activities or homeschooling cooperatives). And you still might benefit from connection and support— or even choose to advocate for the gifted—after your own children are grown.


Every Parent of a Gifted Child Can Benefit From the Support of Like-Minded Parents


The greatest obstacle to building support can involve finding other like-minded parents. If you do not have a network of family or friends who get it, you must look further. You might advertise through your PTO or other school or extracurricular organizations, ask your child’s gifted education teacher for a list of parents, contact your state-based gifted advocacy associations, or participate in respected online forums, such as Gifted Homeschoolers or Davidson Gifted forums. If you are homeschooling, you could pursue connections through homeschooling cooperatives or online gifted parenting groups. With some effort, you should be able to find a group of parents who can provide support along this parenting journey. It will provide an invaluable personal benefit— and help as you parent your child.

 

Why Is My Gifted Child So... Quirky? Sullen? Needy? The social and emotional needs of gifted individuals

by Christopher Taibbi 
originally published Jul. 25, 2020,  from psychologytoday.com

As a teacher who works with gifted students on a daily basis, I have often been approached by parents and teachers for advice. Sometimes it's the more mundane day to day questions they are seeking answers to (e.g. "How can I get my child to be more motivated?!"). On other occasions the topics seem a bit more... well, serious. The parent/teacher has noticed bouts of sadness or mania or withdrawal or any host of other emotional or social "quirks". It's during those conversations that the essential question is eventually broached:


Do gifted individuals tend to have more or perhaps different emotional “problems” than other children?


The answer from research--and my own observations from the past 20 years in this field--seems to be a resounding NO. Gifted and high-ability students are typically at least as well adjusted as any other group of students. Nevertheless, gifted children do face some different issues. Like all of us, gifted students can show a wide range of personal traits in such categories as temperament, risk-taking, introversion and extroversion. These traits may affect their work as they strive to meet goals. At times, leadership roles and expectations of being “the smart one in the group” can affect self esteem and willingness to seek out and tackle new challenges.


Why might these aspects be a “risk” to healthy social and emotional development in gifted and high-ability students?


To be clear, it will not necessarily be a detriment. But there are some factors that resonated with the students as we met and discussed this rather large topic. Here are some highlights.


Advanced knowledge or maturity over their age peers. In many ways, gifted students may seem advanced or “ahead” of their peers, both in terms of subject knowledge and areas of interest. This may put them at odds with schoolmates and, at times, even those in the home. These issues may be compounded when school lessons offer different levels of complexity of pace and instruction—at times feeling too easy or too slow. When there is a “mismatch” with educational environments (e.g. pace and level of rigor) this may affect the student’s own academic intensity, interest in the content, creativity, or aspirations. Also, especially as students mature, common interests among friends may begin to diverge. This can cause pressure to “be more like everyone else.”


There are a few common areas of vulnerability that research as well as anecdotal conversation reveal. These include stress caused by perfectionism and self-perceived underachievement. Gifted students who “feel different” or have had others comment on their “giftedness” may feel lower self-esteem when they do not always “have the right answer.” They may find that it feels harder to make friends, as few really ever want to be known as “nerds.”


So what is there to be done to help?


Believe it or not, one of the simplest things might be just having that “one good friend.” Helping to foster this and creating opportunities to explore these (e.g. clubs or team sports) may be one of the biggest elements that help students feel less isolated. Shared abilities and interests, as is true with all humans, are key to feeling less isolated.


Additionally, we can help students understand that mistakes are not disasters. This “growth mindset” is critical as it can help students realize that perfectionism tendencies can be reinterpreted as persistence that leads to success. Reducing the focus on perfectionism is critical because overwhelmed students may feel paralyzed by their circumstances—anxiety, avoidance, and withdrawal might then be the results. Adults can help by celebrating setbacks as learning opportunities.


I have written this article from the viewpoint of a teacher in a classroom. But keep in mind that the larger reach of this article is that of all higher ability individuals. From the workplace to school classrooms to home, you might be right next to someone who could use a hand or a word of encouragement.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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