Earlier this month I had the opportunity to go to the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Conference in New Orleans. Many people have asked me what I learned while I was there, some of the best known researchers in Gifted Education were in attendance and I had the opportunity to attend sessions with the likes of Joyce van Tassel Baska, George Betts, Karen Rogers and more. I attended sessions on models of gifted education, differentiation, acceleration, culturally diverse gifted learners, STEM programming and even a quick session on iPad apps for the gifted. Bill Nye the Science Guy was there and then there was the most amazing hall full of books, games, programs…all geared toward gifted students and those who live and work with them. (The Unwrapping the Gifted Blog to the right has a very comprehensive daily overview of the conference!)
I suppose the most important thing I learned is that I have much more to learn. Even though we identify gifted students as a particular group of learners, their needs are diverse and there are many things to consider as we try to build programming for them. One of the biggest barriers, full stop, is cultivating an understanding of how not only their learning needs are different but also how their experiences in thinking and feeling can be very different as well. Without this understanding on the part of students, teachers and parents, gifted students may come to see their gifts not so much as gifts but burdens that they must carry. And then we all lose. It is a terrain that I try to navigate carefully as I believe the best pathways are not always laid out in advance but a negotiated process which can unfortunately oftentimes feel painstakingly slow.