When I try to explain to people what the first few months of this school year have been like I can only describe them as a time of “vertical learning”. There has been no curve. I have learned so much from my students, their parents and my colleagues that Christmas reflection time finds me overwhelmed…but in the best possible way.
The Destination ImagiNation program has provided me with rich opportunities to observe students doing some pretty incredible things. As they solve the instant challenges and work through making decisions about the big challenge, the conversations they are having with one another are amazing. Students are displaying an incredible amount of empathy as they try to listen to each other. They are recognizing patterns that are interfering with their success and then altering them! They are moving from frustration into excitement back into frustration and on into creativity…and persevering. Most of them are as nervous as I am as we try something new, but they’re taking risks, showing leadership and building a diverse group of learners into a team.
I have also learned a lot from attending the two conferences in Calgary; one focusing on the social/emotional needs of gifted students and the other looking at acceleration. I think one of the biggest things that keeps coming back as I talk with students and their teachers is that the inner world of these children is not simple and straightforward. What we see in an assignment or remark is often the product of a long journey through a complex series of thought patterns before emerging in class. If we could track that journey it would help us understand what these students need. Sometimes what we see instead is a mask of some sort, carefully designed to help the student fit in and protect themselves and their inner world from being misunderstood.
The first retreat that I did with students was also a huge learning experience. Letting the students guide me as I tried to keep them on track was a careful balancing act that provided me with enormous insight into the pressures that both teachers and students face understanding the concept of what is meant by work and learning. As these students explored their own interests, they offered me a unique insight into who they are and the things that matter to them. I look forward to the next retreat and hope that it will help them to gain more understanding of themselves and their passions.
I’ve been reading a lot of different books and articles as different issues emerge and some of the most helpful have been at sengifted.org. If you want to learn more about the social/emotional needs of the gifted individual in your life, it is worth checking out some of the articles. Learning more is a great gift to both of you!