Dangers and Responsibilities of the Internet

note_from_the_teacherHere is a timely reminder to keep an eye on what our gifted students need to be careful of as they participate in open online courses and MOOCs for meeting their needs. So much is available free, outside of the “walled” offerings that are paid for. Watch out that “free” sign doesn’t become more costly than you’d ever imagined.

http://blip.tv/core-ed/online-dangers-and-responsibility-not-so-virtual-4442139

Thanks to Brett for his words of wisdom.

Halfway House

pink ribbon girlNo! I am not in rehab, if that’s what you were thinking. But I have shifted and I am halfway back home to my house on the Shore! Actually just waiting for the last flatmate to shift out and then I’ll be back with my precious grandson as we all prepare for the arrival of his baby sister later in September. He will be such a good big brother. He already looks after himself and his mummy like a good young man should.

It only seems like yesterday when I had two youngsters packing their own lunch boxes into their bags in the morning and getting their shoes ready at the front door ou peut on acheter du viagra. They also had to eat their breakfast, clean their teeth and put their pjs under their pillows, from three onwards! Those were their daily chores, and they got a little surprise each week they managed to do them. Made things much easier for a quick getaway to work in the mornings.

Tyrell started basketball training again tonight. All of 5 years old, playing on the Breakers’ own court. So proud of him when he took the shot at goal that would either earn them all a drinks break, if he got it in, or five pushups for everyone if he didn’t. He did a few bounces and then shot the ball way above his head and straight through the hoop! He’s been practising shooting the hoop since he could just walk and I bent a wire coat hanger into a ring for him and mounted it on the retaining wall outside. Four years and about ten different height hoops later, and he can shoot with the best! He is not even daunted by the full size hoop at the local park – giving it a go with great gusto – and nearly sinking it much to everyone’s amazement! He is still a little shorty like his Mum, but he is reaching the heights of his Dad!

For many parents with a gifted child, they can be erroneously given the name “pushy” when they make opportunities for their children to excel in their given field. Just as we have given Tyrell the opportunity to excel in his sports, and encouraged him to do his reading homework every night, parents of the gifted mathematician, or acrobat, or social justice promoter are keen to give their children opportunities to excel at what they love to do, too. They want to expose them to all things so as not to prematurely cut off their potential. But as the title of a recent thesis I read on gifted education said,

“If you talk, you are just talking. If I talk, is that bragging?”

So sad, and yet, so true in many unfortunate cases. Parents of gifted children too often have to enjoy the pleasures with their children quietly, so as not to seem like they are bragging. Yes, we have all heard those that speak far too much about what their kids can do – and that is why this situation exists. But, deep down, we are just cutting off their flower heads, (poppies are often used here), the most beautiful aspect of the flower. But, in doing so, we kill the stem and support of these kids – both that of their parents and their self-esteem. These people end up living to limbo – another sort of halfway house – where they are not so sure they have a permanent place where they can be happy for their kids or not.

In the Bible, Jesus wouldn’t let the little children be stopped from coming to Him. He embraced them all with open arms. Advocates in gifted education are ever hopeful that our children will be embraced with open arms – and their parents, too.

Giftedness in the Elderly

Cosy by the fire
Cosy by the fire

Inspired by a Spam Comment

It is one of those days – wet, cold, fire going, and I am pondering all the research I have been reading lately in Gifted Education (catching up the last 10 years!!!!). An article I promoted a while back by Gay Gallagher, in the NZ Journal of Counselling had again sparked my enthusiasm. I was thinking – I must contact this lady and tell her how inspiring her article was, when I first read it, and still is today as I search out ways to advocate for the gifted. Maybe I could take some of this information and relate it to my life experiences in gifted education and gifted family members and start blogging more frequently, I think to myself!

Then it happens … I get an update on my phone asking me to accept a comment on my blog … on the very article I wrote about Gay Gallagher’s work! I can’t tell you exactly what it said now, but it was one of those spam comments trying to hook you back to their site selling unmentionable products. But for a split second, I believed what they said, and got excited! The very time I am thinking about her work, and writing more, I get a comment that says ‘I like what you are writing about, and if only the web had bloggers who took the time to write about valuable stuff, then it would be so much better’! Great words – if they had not come from a spammer!

Then I got to thinking some more! Maybe they had actually read my work, and had been impressed by what I had to say, and just happened to encourage me on a cold, wet day in winter, to speak some more about what I love so much. Advocating for the gifted and talented! In fact, my passion has taken a temporary twist as I see an elderly relative getting assessed for dementia and her ability to live by herself at home, at nearly 80, with a test she probably wouldn’t have scored that well on at 40, let alone twice that age! Visual-spatial giftedness may be a bug-bear and an inconvenience to teachers and the gifted themselves, when we think of catering for their education needs. But it becomes tragically much worse, when our medical folk don’t know about the implications of it on everyday life, and use these learning deficit-impacted results of the elderly to determine their future living arrangements.

My relative has never been able to work with numbers and spelling out loud. But she still manages to pay her bills on time and budget her weekly shopping. She may not remember the addresses of her friends, but she can find her way there in the dark, driving on the busy roads and motorways of Auckland. She may be vague and hide her frailty from her family – but then, so would you. It would be smart to do that if the alternative means being tossed out of your home, in the bush with your favourite Kauri trees growing up through the deck! For a passionate ‘greenie’ – a real one, not just the political sort! – walking through the native bush, rather than around an aged care facility, has got to be the best way to spend her last days. Come to think of it – it’s not a bad way to spend any of your time (apart from when it’s cold and wet, and then I would much rather be tucked up in front of the fire).

If you know of this happening to any of your relatives, I would be keen to hear from you. It sounds like a research idea to me! Happy sunny days to come!

The Course

These have to be the most insightful words I have seen written by a parent, about their participation in their children’s education, in the last two centuries!

The Course

A great blog for those interested in non-school education of the gifted. Thank you all at “Chasing Hollyfeld”

Anna’s Story

blogtour21I first met Anna just over 10 years ago when she was the dazzling ‘princess’ – just remarried, wearing a lovely tiara like her favourite princess, Diana.

Anna is not her real name, but for the sake of anonymity, I will not use anyone’s real names in this story.

Anna had been married before and had two lovely teenagers, aged 13 and 15, that she had raised on her own since just before the youngest child was born – nearly 14 years! Wow – that in itself was a credit to her resilience and commitment to give her children the best start she could.

While her youngest was still pre-school age, she studied extramurally and gained her Accountancy degree and worked part-time as an accountant. Soon after graduating she took a post-graduate teaching course and started primary teaching, which suited a single mum with two school aged children perfectly! Prior to babies, she had been in fashion design for 15 years and this in itself showed her range of talent – left and right brain dominant!

But this is not a story about Anna’s gifts or talents, because she rarely thinks of herself as gifted, just “bright”. This is a story about her new relationships with a family who are obviously creative-gifted, and dysfunctional, and a stern reminder why we should advocate for our gifted kids with all our heart.

Marrying into this family has broken Anna’s heart, but not her resolve to advocate for those she can.

Anna was swept off her feet by her ‘prince’, maybe somewhat foolishly, but he captured her heart as a pianist, could be as ‘gentle as a giant’, and loved the outdoors as much as she did, especially skiing and sailing. He ran his own business from home and had been single-parenting his own two children, and a foster son, for the previous six years. To take on someone else’s wayward son at age six and transform him into a caring, educated citizen was not something many men could be proud of. So, of course, these all looked promising traits for the marriage ahead.

Six months into the marriage – Wham! Anna was not prepared for all she got. She expected ‘rocky’; she even expected ‘resistance’ from the children. What she didn’t expect was the disparity with her husband that began to open and fester like an ugly wound.

What started out as her husbands’ awkward idiosyncrasies and different ways of doing things soon became frustrations and points of dissension. She thought, “Who have I married?” She was not used to such an opposite set of values or ways of rearing children. The stress was really telling on all the family, so her husband suggested she take some time out from full-time teaching and study for a while.

Meanwhile, he was also questioning the marriage and what he had gotten himself into. Who was this woman who was so different to him? He privately began to search for answers, and started to question her mental stability!

Anna chose to further her studies into education, and especially online education and gifted education. She had started to develop interests in meeting the needs of those marginalised in the regular classroom. Long story short, she started to see the traits of the gifted, especially the creative-gifted, so obvious in her husband. She started to share these with him and over time, he began to understand his ‘differentness’. He had experienced this since school, and had been badly bullied as a young person. At 44 years old, though, he was not about to change his ways of coping that he had developed over the past few decades.

Anna’s husband had an extremely strong mind and he would push through all obstacles that got in his way when he was ‘a man on a mission.’ That had yielded a mixed bag of results in his working life from top national sales person in one company, to pulling his own company back from near bankruptcy in later years.

The full story would take too long, so I will cut it short at this point. Anna went on to experience various marriage separations as her husband sought his own space to be ‘himself’, and threatened her with ‘ultimatums’ of how things would have to be for them to live together. There was no form of mediation or meeting each other halfway. It was ‘his way’ or the ‘highway’! Anna knew by now, he wouldn’t back down. She had seen this dogged determination in gifted students she had taught, and often feared for their future adulthood.

At one point of separation, Anna’s husband claimed she had Asperger Syndrome. She had taught some of these special children, and vehemently denied his claims. She insisted that if he thought that, then maybe both should be checked out for it, because she found him equally problematic to communicate with. Three hours and $650 later neither were found to have Asperger Syndrome, but the specialist did say there were other problems in the marriage that could be dealt with.

Nothing else was dealt with, because her husband laid the blame for the marriage problems on Anna not understanding him. She tried to accommodate all his idiosyncrasies, now knowing that was how he was wired, but it was a tense relationship and the cracks ever widened, with Anna living under the cloud of his self-diagnosis of her ‘problems’.

Ultimately, after living on a Pacific Island, where they had gone to help restore post-tsunami tourism, and hopefully patch up their marriage, he asked her not to return after a trip back to New Zealand. She had shown absolute commitment to her marriage, living through extended periods of poverty and hardship in ‘third world’ living conditions (living in the bush with no electricity, running water, and living off the food grown on their land) in her last two years.

For those of you who have read the sophisticated picture book, Westlandia, and remember the character, Wesley, this is a most apt depiction of Anna’s husband.

Anna says she has learned much about the other side of giftedness from her ordeal, but her return home was the continuation of more of the tragic story. She returned and stayed with her ‘mother-in-law’, initially just until she got work, but it ended up being for nearly one year for various reasons. She became the main caregiver of the mother of her now de facto husband after the elderly lady had a heart attack, and learned much about the family in the time she lived there.

All the family members had traits of creative-giftedness in the areas of music and the arts. The mother also had dyslexic traits. None of these had ever been officially identified and this family had been well-known for years in art, dance and music circles. They had lived a very difficult life together as a family and have all appeared to go their own separate ways, with the parents finally separating after 40 years of a rocky marriage, and the children hardly contacting each other.

What Anna has drawn from this experience …

Firstly, it is important for the gifted to have their academic and creative needs met in school, so they are not frustrated and lose hope for themselves.

But more importantly, they need to have social and emotional needs met, not only for themselves, but also for the sake of those nearest and dearest to them. This can be to nurture their own healthy family relationships, but also for those they will eventually relate to outside of their own family.

I would add…

Just as we give guidance to our top sportsmen to help them cope with the pressures of professional fame, we should be guiding our gifted youngsters into developing the means to advocate for themselves. To do this effectively, they need to know themselves, and how they think differently from others they might meet. There are some easy ways of letting others around you feel more comfortable in your presence.

Difference can be celebrated, once it is accepted. But, if we deny the chance of identifying these children, we may forever leave them struggling in their future relationships. I know many students say they don’t want to be seen as different, and don’t want the gifted label, and I empathise with that. But, they are different, and they need to be identified and assisted in any way they need to help them function as a healthy, emotionally adjusted citizen. In an ideal world we would personalise the education of everyone to help them to reach their aspirations and beyond. We would not have to label anyone as we would be accepting of all. But, we don’t have an ideal world. We don’t have ideal parents raising ideal kids and ideal teachers for every child they teach.

What we do have are passionate people who have all experienced any number of situations like Anna, but who may not be as keen to talk about them publically. I ask that in this “Gifted Awareness Week” we recognise the Anna’s out there, and ask our politicians and education ministries in whatever country we reside, to know that behind our calls for funding are real people who have been really heart-broken because of giftedness not being given the priority it deserves.

Finally, if you know “Anna” or recognise her from some of this story, please be thankful for her openness, but please keep her anonymity.

Mother’s Day 2013

Yes – we love our Mothers here in New Zealand. Out come the chocolates…the brunches…the special dinners…the flowers! Well, for some of us, anyway. I have to say I was very blessed with my family taking me to lunch – even if I did have to pay for my son, who yet again, had lost his EftPos card!

Yeah … Right!!! So the Tui commercial says!

Mothers have had the grace given to them to birth and nurture and bring forth into the world. What an awesome privilege. And it is not only our biological mothers I am referring to here. There are many wonderful women who have not had the pleasure of giving birth to their own children, but who, in many other ways, have helped in the raising of young people. Do we really, I mean, Really! appreciate our mothers? Continue reading “Mother’s Day 2013”

Gifted Awareness Week New Zealand

This week coming New Zealand is hosting its annual Gifted Awareness Week – a time when we hope to reach more eyes and ears in an effort to alert the general population to this special group of people in our community – the “gifted”. In many ways they have been prone to losing the use of their gifts or having their uniqueness shunned through general ignorance of those around them. Continue reading “Gifted Awareness Week New Zealand”

One Space – Free Online Learning Courses for Single Parents

One Space is a popular UK social networking site for single parents from Single Parent Action Network (SPAN). It launched a series of free online learning courses recently.

The online learning courses help to up-skill single parents in current work practices so that they can gain and maintain successful employment.

The interactive learning modules are easy to follow and available 24 hours a day to enable lone parents to fit their self-development around family commitments and work at their own pace.

I know and appreciate how well online learning can benefit single parents unable to get childcare for their little ones. I was in that position many years ago now, and completed my first ever degree from Massey University, extramurally, as was available then – through the post). I completed my Bachelor in Business Studies – Accountancy over six years. It fitted in well around my roles as full-time child caregiver and my part-time work with an accountant. I retrained as a teacher when I found accountancy professional development cut too far across family time. Later, I went on to study my Masters in Education via online study while I taught in a full-primary school.

Online education became an interest, and then developed as a major for me during my Masters’ research and study. I developed an online journalism course for gifted seniors who anticipated following this line of work after school. It included role play exercises to familiarise participants with taking an alternative point of view on a topic. By doing so, they had to research a topic much more deeply and their journalism improved as a result.

So – well done One Space, for not only recognising a need for single parents, but for using current technology to improve the chances for those in need.