The part I love the most about my job is working with students. Despite having gone through a screening process and being considered a unique group of learners, when they come to visit me to work on their challenges and projects, they are as diverse a group of students you’ll find anywhere. In fact sometimes I think even more diverse as their exceptionalities often place them in completely different spheres of passion with varying degrees of intensity. When I think about my role as their “teacher” in a pull-n program, it is more about creating the space for them to explore their own “giftedness” as opposed to working toward any specific outcome.
In Renzulli’s Triad Model of giftedness that you see above, you can see the space I am talking about, it’s right there in the middle. And in that centre is also the heart of some controversy over whether the potential for giftedness (above average ability) is enough to merit involvement in gifted programming. Without task commitment and creativity can one be considered truly gifted? As I work toward carefully constructing the space where all three can flourish, I encounter all kinds of obstacles living there: unusual expectations, fear of taking risks, vulnerability, sensitivities…I try to navigate them carefully and encounter some of my own fears: Did we get anything done today?!? Am I giving them what they need?!?
On Friday night I went to talk to Cameron Tofer a local game developer (Beamdog.com) about how to mentor some of my students who are working on developing computer games. When I asked him what program I could buy or where I should get the students started he gave me a very interesting look and said something like this: “I don’t start my day knowing how to do anything I want to do. I start my day with an idea and then I go online and find a way to make it happen.” It was a humbling moment as I wonder how often I’ve crowded that creative space with my presence and my own preconceived ideas about how to make that creativity and innovation happen.
Destination ImagiNation tells me that I cannot contribute to the solution of my teams. Sylvia Rimm and Susan Winebrenner tell me not to steal a student’s struggle. So my goal is to open the space and keep it safe. And seek out mentors who can help guide the way.