Thursday, November 17, 2011

Don't Be a Turkey: Say Thank You

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. 
~Albert Schweitzer

It's been a difficult year around here. Yet I was thinking today about all the things that actually went well, the people who were kind, supportive, or (sometimes unexpectedly) took on a challenge or went the extra mile. People I found inspiring, for their insight or for their generosity. Sometimes people pass through--or out of--our lives before we have the opportunity to thank them for the difference they've made. This is a reminder to let them know. Now.

In our GT lives, challenging although these often are, there are almost certainly thanks to be given. More than five people, but it's a start.  Some suggestions:
  • significant other/family member: Sometimes we take our closest and most stalwart supporters for granted. Why not thank them for something that made a big difference to you? They may not even know if you don't tell them.
  • a child: Although they are younger that doesn't mean that kids can't give adults new insight, new motivation, new wisdom. Acknowledge someone who did this.
  • a peer: Thank another parent, educator or committee member, someone who offered support knowing what it is like to be in your situation.
  • a resource: Someone who you may not have even met in person may have provided information, help or inspiration through a book, an article, a presentation or online.  Let them know.
  • across roles: Are you grateful to someone who crossed lines of similarity in roles, who might have a different vantagepoint?  A boss, someone you hired, a remarkable educator or a special parent when that is not your role.  The extra effort on this person's part is all the more reason for thanks.
Not your average turkey; this one counts his GT blessings

You needn't be long-winded in your thanks, but do be specific and sincere. It can be spoken, a quick handwritten personal note, or even an email.  Or you can not only thank that someone but also cc. others or express it publicly so that your appreciation is more widely known. Need some words to get you started? Try something like this: "In this season of thanksgiving I was thinking about who I feel especially grateful for and you came to mind.  I really appreciated when/how you _____________.  This made a difference because  _____________. Thank you."

It may take a moment's effort but your thanks can be very meaningful to the receiver. And the reflection benefits the sender as well. Parenting and educating gifted children can involve a lot of struggle. Finding ways to appreciate and express the positive lightens the load and the outlook for everyone.

Don't put it off.  You--and others--will be grateful you did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Child Buyer

John Hersey, The Child Buyer, NY, Bantam, 1960, ISBN 978-0-394-75698-1 (read online)
I read a remarkable piece of speculative fiction last week.  Although written in 1960 (before I was reading, or even born) and now out of print, I'm nevertheless surprised to never have heard of it before:  The Child Buyer by Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist John Hersey. Sharp stuff.

An excerpt:
BARRY RUDD: Mr Clearly kept referring to gifted students as the 'monster quotient' and kept talking about me as a 'deviate.'
SENATOR MANSFIELD: I noticed that was Miss Henley's favorite word, too, sonny. I don't blame you for bridling at that.
SENATOR SKYPACK: You got a better word for it, Mr Chairman?
BARRY RUDD: "While they were talking about their busybody old tests, I was having one of my regressive reveries--thinking that all my knowledge was innate; I'd been born with it. I'm often amnesic as to the source of my information, and I've just felt that I've 'Always known.' 'I just knew it.' When I used to believe in God I long had the image of facts and stories having been written in pencil on a sort of reel of microfilm made out of skin in my head by Him before I was born. I thought of God as being able to talk big and write very small.
SENATOR SKYPACK: Top off the rest of it, he's a blasphemer.
BARRY RUDD: I didn't intend any disrespect of your views, Senator.
(pp. 145-146, from 1964 Bantam Classic edition)

Although the entire story unfolds in the format of Senate Hearings, every character comes across strongly with an individual voice and agenda. The result is a poignant commentary on just about everything: education, politics, psychology, group dynamics, child-rearing, loyalty, patriotism, self-image.... What I found most alarming was that the basic premise--the very title--never proves an issue; no one questions that there might be a "Child Buyer" at all!  But the story isn't about the whether a company might legally purchase a ten year old boy, rather can the representative find the price of each very different townsperson so that the sale that Barry Rudd, a profoundly gifted child, might be arranged? 

Wry, haunting, funny, heartbreaking, timeless. This is dark commentary, as pertinent today as ever. In addition to the sad question of the gifted child's relationship with the larger society (outcast, curiosity, dependent, burden, commodity?), it further begs a deep and terrifying human question:  What is the price of our convictions?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Going Up? A Gifted Education "Elevator Pitch"

 Do you have an elevator pitch for gifted education?

What if you suddenly have the (brief!) opportunity to speak with a key legislator, administrator, or perhaps skeptical educator or parent about gifted education (note: actual elevator not required).  What will you say?

A little preparation will help you think clearly, make the most of the moment, and forward the cause of gifted students.

GT education is important:
  • For the future: Confining students to educational environments they don't find challenging or supportive doesn't give them the tools necessary to become the innovators, the creators, the leaders, nor the involved members of the 21st century global community who they have the potential to become.
  • For educational best practices:  Teachers trained to work with gifted learners benefit all students. Many successful learning strategies now touted in regular classrooms due to their benefits in flexible grouping and academic rigor actually originated in gifted education. 
  • For meeting children's needs:  Every child deserves to have his or her academic and socio-emotional needs met.  Gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly dependent on public schools to meet their educational needs, but these students are also especially likely to be unidentified and underserved.
Each of these points is a reason for advocacy and hours of discussion onto itself.  However, the idea is to summarize and present three key points as to the value of gifted education in the time span of an elevator ride (approximately thirty seconds to two minutes).

Be clear and brief. Speak with passion. Be prepared and flexible about answering questions--ask for the opportunity to have a more thorough discussion!

NAGC advocacy themes

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    The Big Picture

    True Confession.  I felt compelled to put my money where my mouth is this weekend. I joined the National Association for GIfted Children (NAGC).

    I've been a member of the local and state gifted affiliates for years and years. Not just an active participant "member" (which I'm certainly not saying isn't a sort that counts) but a paying "member" too.

    I used to have a NAGC membership many, many years ago after my oldest was first identified as gifted, but eventually let it lapse when I found that the resources I required went beyond those found in Parenting for High Potential. Our GT monies were being spent on books, conferences, homeschooling, early college....  I hope we've "payed it forward" for our community (and eventual grandkids) by staying involved with gifted education even while homeschooling. We had experience to spare, if not money!

    But at a recent GT meeting I found myself realizing that if I keep looking at it as the "monetary return on investment" I'm just going to continue to be frustrated, that I need to think about the potential value in another way:
    • Do I want to put money into gifted advocacy at a federal level?
    • Do I want gifted education to have a louder "voice"?
    • Do I want parents to be better represented in gifted education?
    Well, yes.

    So, again, none of this is to say that I think that being physically and immediately involved in kids' lives and educations isn't the absolute priority (and, indeed, absolutely exhausting).  However, I believe that the Big Picture trickles down to that same exhausting microcosm.  As my daughter reminds me about, oh, everything, "It's a system, mom!"  While meeting individual needs is imperative, ultimately the situation will never improve if each parent and each educator continues to look ONLY at the nearest (and dearest) level.

    Perspective: In our busy daily lives, we might notice the center point
    --not the relation to the other factors or that they are actually moving.
     Stars around Polaris - Day 62 by Velo Steve

    We ignore the Big Picture at our (exhausted) peril. Each GT parent and educator should not have to "re-invent the wheel", nor should they feel they are alone with their struggles, questions or celebrations. Therefore connecting to the larger gifted community is important, not just for ourselves but for others.

    Where I've connected in time, effort, and participation, it has made a difference for our family and for me personally. While any kind of involvement may not mean an immediate return, I've found over the years that what I've put in does have a way of "paying off" in the end.

    But I realized I might need to turn the perspective around and also consider the ways my individual choices impact the larger picture. And NAGC membership is a pretty straightforward way to connect, especially as they
    • take a stronger role in advocacy 
    • reach out more to parents, and 
    • have a strategic plan to encourage the public's value and support of gifted learners. 
    No one can take on those Big Picture tasks individually, even though we all value them. But together we can contribute to their success.

    Looking beyond the immediate
    Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (Paris, 1888), page 163.