Crushing the Gifted Spirit
I recently watched the Ted Talk, Tall Poppies: Growing Up Gifted. It is a fascinating presentation about what it is like to grow up gifted among the many misunderstandings surrounding the gifted child. I then found the website, crushingtallpoppies.com. This website reiterated some of the same common misunderstandings. It lists eight items that the world should know about being gifted. As a gifted educator and parent, I, too, have frequently heard misconceptions. I feel the only way to avoid crushing the gifted spirit is by addressing these attributes in hopes that other educators and parents will understand that gifted students are more than just children with high IQs. These students are emotionally sensitive. They often internalize comments they hear. They have asynchronous development, which means they may be able to reason and think critically like an adult but are still socially or emotionally at a much younger age. They also have a strong sense of right and wrong. They want justice and fairness to always prevail. These children are not perfect. They may struggle in certain areas, and they may not always get straight A’s. This can be due to their fear of failure or anxiety. Or it can simply be that they don’t excel in every subject just because they have been identified as gifted.
Gifted children are like intricate flowers. They have many attributes that are often hidden under their petals. These attributes affect who they are and how they act. However, they are often missed due to the petals that are boldly labeled “gifted.” By realizing gifted children are like fragile flowers, we can encourage and support them, ensuring their spirits are never crushed.
It’s the Most Stressful Time of the Year...
With the holidays approaching, many adults are hustling and bustling about, wrapping presents, preparing family dinners, and planning holiday events. This can be a very stressful time for many, including children. Though children are often excited about the holidays, they too feel the stress of everything that goes into planning and preparation. In gifted children, this stress can often be intensified, resulting in breakdowns, crying, and frustration.
There are signs and signals that children may show to indicate the stress they are feeling. Wanting to avoid school or other social settings, becoming increasingly irritable, or acting out in the classroom can often be signs that a child is feeling more stress.
When you see these signs of stress, there are things you can do to help children. First, set expectations for the family and include children in the planning process. Allowing them to see the schedule and take part in creating it can ease some of the holiday stress. Secondly, organize your schedule into small pieces. Visiting too many people in one day or planning too many events can often add to the stress. Try to make the schedule so that it is not overwhelming. Finally, try to keep the routine consistent with school. Allow children to eat and sleep on the same schedule they would if they were still in school. This prevents over-exhaustion.
The holidays should be a time of family, fun, and celebrations. By noticing signs of stress and being proactive, frustration, irritability, and meltdowns can be avoided. And then, it truly can be the most wonderful time of the year.
November Blog: Getting that Growth Mindset
Having been in education for over 15 years, I have seen the ease in which students give up whenever a challenge arises. Because of this, I have tried to develop strategies for students to help them have more of a growth mindset. These skills can also be used at home. Students need to know that mistakes will indeed happen, but it is the way they think that will either cause these mistakes to hinder or help them to grow. Here are some great statements students can think about when they meet a challenge:
I can always improve.
Mistakes help me learn.
I can learn anything I want to learn.
My effort and attitude make all of the difference.
I will persevere when I am frustrated.
Just having these ideas in mind whenever a child gets frustrated can help them grow. I also talk with students about how many famous people failed in their first attempts. From Steven Spielberg to Oprah and Einstein, these figures have all failed and didn't give up. They had a growth mindset and persevered.
Establishing a growth mindset isn’t going to happen overnight. It is easy to get out of the habit of saying, “I can’t,” or “I give up.” But, by thinking positive thoughts and realizing that we all fail or make mistakes, this growth mindset can begin to take shape and lead students to persevere and grow.
Parent-teacher conferences will be held next week here at the CCL. These conferences provide a great opportunity for teachers and parents to get to know one another and build trusting relationships. However, they can also be filled with anxiety on the part of students, parents, and teachers. Below are some tips that may help you prepare for your child’s conference.
Be prepared for the conference. Create a list of questions you may have for the teacher about the class, school, or policies. List items you would like to share about your child and his/her life at home, along with questions you have about your child's progress.
Ask questions and develop an action plan. If your child has any challenges or struggles, ask about strategies that can help him/her. Then, create an action plan to help your child succeed in school. Be sure to share this plan with your child.
Stay in touch. Check-in with your child’s teacher throughout the year. Conferences do not have to be the only time for communication. Feel free to always email or call your child’s school. We are here to help your child in any way we can.
When parents/guardians and teachers work together, everyone wins. We are here to support you and your child to ensure academic success. See you next week at conferences!
-Dr. Christi Sanderson
“It Was Fine”
Getting Our Kids to Open up About Their School Days
As the parent of a 15-year-old, I have found it is nearly impossible to get my child to open up about his day and how it REALLY went. Even when he was younger, I would get little to no details about his teachers, friends, or even what he ate for lunch that day. So, how can we get our kids to open up? After doing some research, I came to the conclusion that not only is it what we ask our children, it’s also when we ask that affects how much our kids may tell us. So, here are some tips I have found helpful in having more conversations with my own child:
I no longer ask the open-ended question, “How was your day?” Instead, I ask specific questions, such as “What was the best part of your day?” or “What would you like to forget about from today?”
I have learned to ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going. These questions may include, “How’d that make you feel?” or “Then what happened?”
I have also learned that timing is everything. My son is not a morning person, so I try to talk to him more on our way home from school (when he’s trapped in the car with me) or at dinner. These are times when he is wide awake and NOT on his cell phone. It gives me the opportunity to have his full attention.
Try to make the conversation interesting. Kids will stick around if they are interested in the conversation. Discuss things you know they enjoy talking about, as it can lead to more details about themselves and their day. And, try not to use “why” questions, as they can often be interpreted as judgmental.
Having open communication with our kids is essential. It helps us know how they are feeling and what they may be going through. However, getting these lines of communication opened is not always easy. But, with the right questions, and the right setting, we may be able to create little chatterboxes that talk to us the entire way home about their day.
Back to school time can be full of a variety of emotions, from excitement, to fear and anxiety. I was having difficulty sleeping the other night, as my mind was racing about the new school year and all it will entail. I realized that as an adult, I was having some anxieties, but often, those anxieties are even greater in children. They begin to worry about their teachers, if they will have friends in their classes, or if the new school year will be difficult, among other things. I began to research a variety of tips and strategies that could help children make the transition into the new school year more easily. Below are some tips that may be helpful for your own child, as he/she begins the school year:
- Encourage your child to share his/her fears.
- Rather than simply reassuring, problem solve on the different fears or anxieties he or she may have.
- Stay calm yourself, as children often realize our fears and anxieties.
- Focus on the positive aspects.
- Begin a school-day routine.
- Take time to visit the school and meet the teacher, if possible.
- Remind your child that others will be nervous too.
As your child heads back to school, remind him/her that these emotions are expected, but as the routine is established, he/she will feel better. Using the above strategies and talking with your child will help alleviate some of these fears, making the beginning of the school year a time of excitement, rather than fear.
I am extremely excited about the new school year to begin, and I cannot wait to meet all of the students and help ease their anxieties as they begin a new year at the CCL!
-Dr. Christi Sanderson
For more information and resources, visit the following websites:
"When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure." -Peter Marshall
This is an interesting time of the year. There are assessments to complete and the academic year to wrap-up. Pressure is inevitable. The question arises: Are we preparing our students to handle the external factors that cause pressure? This is an important aspect to think about. External factors go beyond school and assessments. Due to this, it is imperative that we help our students learn who they are and how they process pressure. In an educational setting, we are able to add stressors in manageable chunks and help students process the situation and develop strategies for success. But, we are only part of the process. We have to work together with the students, families, and each other to help our students develop into the beautiful person that you see inside of them. How are you helping your child experience pressure as a normal part of life?
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"In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours." -Mark Twain
The sun was shining, the snow was falling, and it was 45 degrees outside. Ah, the weather of Missouri. It is always hiding some little gem that surprises me and brings a smile to my face. In education, we face this on a daily basis. It is the beauty of teaching. Every student that walks through our doors is like the weather that we experience in Missouri. There are constant changes that keep us on our toes. When you think about how each moment is precious, it makes what we experience that much more special. The true art of teaching is about being able to read the incoming weather front and help the individual handle it. I have been fortunate to observe teachers that are better at predicting these weather fronts than most weathermen. I am fortunate to work with wonderful individuals that care deeply about our outstanding community. If you have the opportunity, please make sure to enjoy your own little weather fronts while taking time to relax on this wonderful spring break.
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“Identify your niche and dominate it. And when I say dominate, I just mean work harder than anyone else could possibly work at it."
In gifted education, we work with students to find their passion. As students develop, parents and teachers hope a flame is ignited within them.
In our changing societal structure, there is room for everyone to follow their dream. Within every passion, there lies a niche. Within this niche, individuals can follow their passion and lead a productive life that is financially rewarding.
When a young person approaches us with aspirations of being the next Nazareno Strampelli (an Italian agronomist and plant breeder), we need to let them develop their ability to work through obstacles and understand what it means to work hard to develop a specific niche. After all, Strampelli has been credited with helping Italy become nearly self-sufficient in wheat production. He worked in a field that had not been fully developed. but he found his niche. This accomplishment wasn't easy, but he worked hard and developed multiple varieties of high yield wheat hybrids.
It is not imperative to follow the mainstream to be “successful”, it is more important to develop a niche that you love so that you feel successful. When we help students define their niche and work hard to develop it, we will know what success is as educators.
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"Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
How does a person measure the impact that they have on others? Is it by imparting knowledge on them? Is it by helping them develop a sense of self? Or is it by helping them to believe in what they are capable of achieving? In education, it is important for us to work to accomplish all three of the aforementioned goals. Students come into school ready to learn. It is imperative that we not only teach the subjects but that we strive to teach the student to believe in the amazing promise that each one of them already possesses.
In our educational setting, we need to offer students opportunities to explore who they are and how they react to the world around them. In this way, individuals are able to understand who they are and what they are capable of in many different settings. We are able to accomplish this, as well as teaching subjects in the classroom. There are many different ways to go about teaching students about themselves (e.g.-whole class instruction, small group, or independent work). While working in groups, students learn how to maneuver through the trials and tribulations of working with other individuals that may have different opinions/ideas. As students develop, they are able to use previous experiences to help them determine more effective ways to deal with situations. When individuals figure out who they are and what they are capable of, they gain confidence. When someone is confident, they find it easier to believe in themselves. Belief in oneself may help individuals realize their potential.
So, when people ask me what do I teach, I simply say, "People". It isn't a subject, grade level, or skill. It is all of that, but only so I can create an environment where students have the ability to spread their wings and fly. With that being said, I measure my impact by how successful I am at helping students understand themselves and how they have the power to influence the world.
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