I recently returned from a trip out of the country, to beautiful Florence, Italy. Amidst the swath of gelato flavors, Italian cuisine, and historic sites, I remembered a lesson I had been taught. I recalled it after I had the awe-inspiring opportunity to stand before pieces of work done by masters such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Botticelli. Seeing these works, the intricacies and the details of generations of study and mastery is... difficult to describe in any tangible way. I will simply say that I have been changed forever because I had the opportunity to become part of their history. As I stood before the statue of Michelangelo’s “David” I had to wonder how a relatively inexperienced 26-year-old was capable of producing such an incredible piece of art. The works of polymath da Vinci had me stunned. The architectural wonders surrounding left me spellbound… these marvels and feats all gave way to one big question. Who mentored these people that were capable of such creativity and handiwork? What was the instructional system that inspired this “renaissance” with lasting results? And now I cannot help but wonder about our present system of raising up new “masters” after seeing what can happen when giftedness meets a mentor and a benefactor. In the times of Michelangelo and da Vinci, students were partnered with mentors, the ones to pass down centuries of study and knowledge for continued scholarship and innovation. These students, under the tutelage of their mentors, were given the chance to learn, hone and perfect their talents. They were also taken under the wing of benefactors who financially supported their learning and endeavors the sake of imagination, creation and knowledge.
So how can we inspire a renaissance for contemporary gifted education? How do we inspire gifted mentors to take on the role of being there for the younger pupils? How do we inspire benefactors like legislators, businesses, and corporations to invest in gifted education and support these students? Right now, we have the opportunity to be ambassadors for a “renaissance” in gifted education. I challenge you to continue (or start) asking the questions and building relationships for the sake of our gifted youth as an ambassador for them. A gifted education renaissance is within our reach, when together we raise up this new generation of “masters”. Will you join us?
February is behind us, but the effects of the turbulent weather appear to want to stay. Winter has Wisconsin in a vice grip that has me ready to throw my summer clothes in a suitcase and leave on the next flight south. The song "American Pie" seems to sum up this sentiment quite accurately "but February made me shiver..." and I still am. The good news? It is March now. The entire state is ready to heave a huge sigh of relief as spring tries to creep through the piles of snow. Since March has already started like a lion, days dipping into the negatives and veritable mountains of cumulonimbus snow drifts, I have no doubt that the old saying is true. In like a lion, out like a lamb (ok, my fingers are definitely crossed here).
With this saying and the experiences of the tumultuous month of February there is something to be learned. How can we, as a community of individuals dedicated to advocating for gifted students and education, be more like the weather? Think of the numerous snow storms in February. When one snowflake falls, the change is imperceptible. But when a multitude begins to float down, the change is hard to ignore. If we take advice from the weather then, we can see that working together and working persistently, will create waves. Some days might be sunny and some might be cloudy and gray, but in the end, change happens. It might be imperceptible at first, but gradually over time, things change. look at the improvements and little changes that we have made thus far as gifted education advocates in the last year...
Gifted education has garnered the attention of the Blue Ribbon Commission (for School Funding) who has suggested different funding possibilities including double, quadruple, and ten times the current level of funding we have now for our gifted Wisconsin students. We have met with Department of Public Instruction folks about gifted education and what WATG can do to support DPI’s gifted efforts. We implemented an Acceleration project which has received surveys back from 95% of the state’s school districts. These surveys gauge whether or not school districts have an acceleration policy in order to help us move forward in gifted education for students at a district policy level. The Dells housed the state WATG conference the first week of November. Following this event in early November, people from around the US gathered in Minneapolis for the National Association for Gifted Conference. At both of these events, we discussed the different methods of implementing gifted practices, and what the nuances of advocacy resemble. We learned from one another and taught one another. In January, a delegation of gifted advocates from WATG met in Milwaukee at the State Education Convention. At the convention they presented and spoke with school board members and superintendents from WI about gifted education. These examples are only a portion of the behind the scenes work that is going on for our gifted children!
With all of the steps that we have made as advocates for gifted education, be the wins at a community level, state or on a national level, we are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Slowly we are chipping away at education policies which no longer serve our students. But there is still work to be done. This month, two of our WATG board members will be heading to Washington D.C. to NAGC’s Leadership and Advocacy Conference. Partnerships with other states will be further developed and meetings with Wisconsin legislative offices will help us more deeply cultivate our gifted advocacy efforts. There is always more that can be done, and every seemingly insignificant step, just like every snowflake, makes a difference. And the good news? The difference is seen and experienced in the lives of gifted children across the state and across the nation. Now, who wants to join us at the table to join this movement? There is plenty of space… let’s plan to go in like a lion….
From the President
"At the beginning of the training process for gifted and regular classroom teachers, they need to learn the skills of the trade."