The annual WATG conference was held in Wisconsin Dells earlier this month. Did you have a chance to attend or have a student attend the teen conference? This year I wanted to hear Ian Byrd, who was the keynote speaker on Thursday, October 3rd. I have followed his website, www.byrdseed.com, for quite some time and wanted to hear him in person. It is always good to hear advice and recommendations from people who have personal experience with the subject, so I figure that Ian Byrd, as a gifted individual, was worth listening to at a conference about gifted students. I was not disappointed.
For the Thursday keynote address Mr. Byrd talked about the label of “smart.” When working with teachers and undergraduate students studying to become teachers, I hear many who refer to students as “smart,” or they tell parents their child is “smart” simply because the child can answer a general question about homework or a reading passage or a math problem which is at grade-level or below grade-level. I continually ask why they label the student as “smart,” and if they have referred the student for advanced academic opportunities or the gifted program since they have decided that the student is “smart.” Most of the teachers and my students have never considered a response and do not know what to say. I encourage them to not label the student, but to respond to the student and parents by acknowledging the answer to the question they asked the student.
Mr. Byrd referred to gifted students who are labeled as “smart” and how that label is a burden and prevents gifted students from learning and seeking opportunities because they feel they are expected to already know everything. To gifted students, as Mr. Byrd pointed out, “Smart = Easy” and “Hard = Not Smart” and has gifted students asking themselves if they were ever “smart” to begin with. This scenario is also known as Imposter Syndrome. This type of label equally impacts gifted students as much as the label of the students in the previous paragraph.
To provide an example, Mr. Byrd used an analogy and asked us to consider a trainer. A trainer’s job is not to tell the client that they are strong and accomplished when doing easy tasks; it is to encourage the client to achieve the harder goal and keep working. According to Byrd, teachers can use the following as a guide in the role of a trainer to provide an educational environment that challenges students to learn more deeply:
1) Provide specific feedback (‘great job’ is not specific)
2) Know what students can already do (pre-assessment)
3) Pose questions that require thinking, not just remembering (consider asking divergent questions where there is no right answer or a known question; for example, what do you wonder?)
4) Students ask questions (remind them they are learning, and it is okay to not know everything)
Mr. Byrd made the following statement in his keynote address: “Easy 100%’s are an education emergency.” Oh, that more teachers and parents would recognize this and pursue an education that challenges gifted students.
To follow up on the work of Ian Byrd, here are some of his articles:
Long Term Success: Giving Bright Kids Feedback
Asking for Student Feedback
The Curious Case of Imposter Syndrome
Ask the Doctor