Merry Christmas

Well, unlike years gone by, I am up and away for a Christmas in the tropics (Auckland has given us a very humid 28C over the last couple of days just to prime me up) – 31C where I am going, and 100% humidity!

But, before I go, I need to share this great recap on how knowing your child’s IQ can help and hinder you. It comes from the Talent Igniter series and is based on policies in countries other than my home country of New Zealand, so I will add a note for my local colleagues here:

NB NZ colleagues The first bullet point in the list:

  • You should not go into the school and demand anything. Schools have absolutely no legal obligation to meet the learning needs of advanced learners.

IS NOT APPLICABLE in New Zealand. Our schools do have a mandate to provide an eduation that meets the gifted child’s learning needs written into the National Administration Guidelines.

However, I suggest, the manner in which you approach the school should not be “demand”, as their first sentence rightly says, but more enquire and work with the school to provide what is best. You may need to find a school that understands what that might just mean for your individual child, because in New Zealand, school boards are left with the responsibility to define ‘giftedness’ as their own community feels appropriate.

The following bullet points on the Talent Igniter series list, however, are good advice no matter what education system you are working in.

  • You should not go into the school waving the test results round and expect the school to believe they mean anything all that significant. Most educators do not believe IQs really mean much. They will likely point out that your child doesn’t do his work perfectly, that they have plenty of kids like yours, and that just because a child has a high IQ doesn’t mean she really understands all the material at higher levels. (I add – Not a helpful way to get anything done, anyway!)
  • You should expect to hear about how there isn’t any money for gifted learners even though what they need generally doesn’t actually cost any more money. Most schools generally already have everything a gifted young learner needs but they won’t allow the learner to go where what they are ready to learn is already being taught.
  • Don’t tell them your child is bored and needs more challenge. It’s simply offensive and counter productive.
  • Don’t assume or expect that (I add, ALL) the educators at  your child’s school have any specific training in the identification, instruction, or needs of gifted learners, what IQs are or what they mean. It is not part of the curriculum in (I add, MANY) schools of education.

I believe the Waikato Association of Gifted Children (in New Zealand) is looking at how to advocate for their children by asking about helpful advocacy ideas used by the other special needs organisations. They initially suggest you take an impartial ‘other’ with you who is knowledgable about what would help your child best. Seems to me like they are onto it down there. Good work!

Well, enjoy your Christmas break, being with your gifted kids, or without them, depending if you are an educator or a caregiver. And I mean that sincerely – some gifted kids are ‘lovable rogues’ and are often hard work. We all need a break to refresh and renew our passion to get on board with them again for an often ‘wild ride’.

Notoriety comorbid with giftedness

With all the current discussion about Wikileaks, no matter how you view Julian Assange and his team, you have to credit them with some level of intelligence to be able to get their hands on the documents in the first place. And now, after falling out with his former partners, who are off setting up Open Leaks, it is revealed that this gifted guy became obsessed by his power, and started to alienate the very people who started the mission with him, to reveal truth that world powers were keeping hidden.

When gifted people use their high intellect for questionable deeds, they can do it expertly and gain much notoriety from it. These two go hand-in-hand. So we shouldn’t expect all our gifted students in our classrooms to be excellent scholars, because like all kids, some just enjoy the darker side of life. Or sometimes, it is the intensity with which they do things that draws them to extremes of behaviour.

Just as we have mentors (managers and coaches) that help our top sports people cope with the stresses that this level of play exposes them to, so do our gifted children need mentors that can help them be guided through the minefield of life that their high intellect will expose them to. But, somehow, the sports community seem to accept they need a coach to make the best use of their skill moreso than the gifted academic.

It is no wonder we find gifted young adults going off the rails because they haven’t learned to cope with their giftedness early enough in life. They fall into their own trap of thinking they are invincible, and when they combine this invincibility with their creativity, they can become very misunderstood people. Their passion to achieve a good cause can sometimes tip the balance to a point where notoriety becomes the focal point.

Tip for the day: Look behind the behaviour, to the motivation, to see what is really going on. Give some of your gifted kids the leeway they need, just like we give our rugby players 10 minutes in the ‘sin bin’ when they goof up in a game!

Latest Update: I jut took my grandson to see “Megamind” – and it had just the same storyline as this post! Gifted ‘kids’ using their intellect for ‘evil’ or ‘good’ – or both! Maybe director Tom McGrath knows a bit about these kids, too!

Bursting the “Bubble Dome”

I have just been drawn back to the amazing work of the team at “Bubble Dome” – a NZ-based company started by Rebecca Merle, with whom I had the pleasure of working with some years back. I can truly say “WOW” – these guys are really getting themselves out there, providing great holiday, after-school, and in-class workshops for students (and teachers) to use their personal creativity and learn with some great ICT tools as well.

Not just in New Zealand now, they have venues in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as well. In fact, if you are in quick, you may be able to still sign up for some of the courses running prior to Christmas, and in January next year.

If your children have a passion for animation, movie-making, architecture, fashion design, science, robotics, or writing (among others), check their courses out now. The kids that go often say it is the highlight of their holidays. Let them break out of the traditional learning bubble and be wowed by the possibilities of learning with Bubble Dome.

Fabulous work, Bubble Dome Team.

And, NO, this is NOT a paid presentation as you get hounded by on tv!

Informal Learning

I watched some videos by Jay Cross and Peter Casebow recently on the value and extent of informal learning. “What is informal learning?” I hear some of you ask. The opposite of formal learning – surely?

Informal learning is not a stand and deliver type of transfer of knowledge. There has been much more informal learning taking place with the rapid uptake of social learning tools on the internet. (You know, the types of sites the school authorities want to ban you from using in school – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a myriad of others).

Jay made the point that “conversation is incredibly powerful to transfer learning” and I guess, by way of deduction, it can be the place where reflection “in action” can take place. Why wait until the end of the day when we are too busy to reflect on the experience?

Education can’t be linear anymore. We have information coming at us from all directions, so we need to navigate it carefully while we are amongst it. A great idea for your computer labs in schools must be to get rid of the individual computers and chairs and put 2-3 seater benches at the computers so you automatically have groups of students interacting and discussing what they are learning.

They concluded by saying “Social networks are vital for informal learning” and conversation is the most powerful network to bring people together. However, keeping in mind the Pareto Principle, we are funding 80% towards formal learning, but in fact, 80% of our learning takes place informally.

Have fun talking … and learning.

Unproductive … I’ll say!

Some gifted students never really get anything of consequence done at school. They drift through the system seemingly unable to produce anything of quality. This should not deter you, their teacher, parent, or mentor, from searching for their potential.

Procrastination is the enemy of time – isn’t that what they say?

I have been putting off doing this post for far too long – does that tell you something?

The fact is – I can’t write about this topic with any authority, as I struggle with it continually. Starting something at the latest possible moment (or even later than that if I can put it off!!!!) somehow gives me the adrenalin boost I need to actually get going and get it done! And generally – I get it done well! And some!!!! And on time!!!!! (I take my commitments seriously).

I will add to this post as I think of ways to overcome the “thief”, if I get a round tuit!

Stress – is it distress or eustress?

Have you ever thought stress could be good for you?

We generally think of stress as that extra tension on us which causes us to worry or become anxious about a situation. This is distress.

There is another form of stress, eustress, and it is a ‘good’ stress. It is the sort of raised levels of tension you feel before a winner is announced, or when you receive a job promotion, or when the birth of a baby elevates our tension levels.

The dis- and the eu- refer to the stressor, not its impact on you.

Continue reading “Stress – is it distress or eustress?”

The Gifted Education Centre Documentary

I saw a preview tonight of an excellent documentary explaining gifted learners and the various needs for their education. It was good to see some of our stalwarts in gifted education in New Zealand there enjoying the results of a determined effort to capture the essence of gifted students. The audience included Roger Moltzen, University of Waikato; Kate Niederer, Gifted Education Consultant; Kathy Williams and many of her Auckland team from The Gifted Education Centre; Marilyn Stafford and Lynne Beresford, and representatives from the NZAGC.

We look forward to seeing this on television asap as a step toward empowering the teaching community to better provide for gifted students in their regular classroom.


Learning Quests for Gifted Students

Here is a link to the books I have written for teachers to use within their regular classrooms, to help broaden inquiry learning topics for their gifted students. See them at the Essential Resources website, or at your local teacher resource centre.

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  Each book (9 in total) has between six and twelve units that address specific aspects of giftedness or topics that interest gifted students. The Teacher Notes page addresses some of the issues gifted students encounter in the classroom, and give you ideas on how to deal with them.