So it happened again last week… I discovered a “kite”, battered and muddy, too wet and torn to take off in the ever-persistent wind. But something about the way the “kite” fluttered in the breeze gave me hope that there was still flight left in its form.
Perhaps a bit too poetic for a monthly newsletter, but it’s a story that needs sharing. I have shared with you that I am an instructor of adult students. One of the groups of students that I am privileged to work with are students that come to our local community college to earn their GED (high school diploma). I have also shared that a perplexing number of them are gifted students that could not make it in the traditional school setting. Last week a similar story unfolded, only this time it was a “special education” student (from a small, mid-western community) that had gone unidentified as a twice-exceptional student. He shared his story of all the years in a special education classroom after “the test” he took in second grade. All the years of failing because he did not do his homework. All the years of ridicule for his overly creative and dreamy ideas. All the years of hurt and disappointment that he couldn’t make it in the system in which he was placed. But he came with the hope of working hard enough to earn his high school diploma so that he could become “gainfully employed instead of living off of the county.”
After the initial intake conversation, I assessed his competencies in the core curricular areas. He warned me that he would not do well on an “adult test” as he was a “special education student”. Conversely, he had only two questions incorrect on the entire battery of tests. He was surprised and pleased with the assessment results and said that he had never been given a full-length test to know his actual ability. Moreover, based on his assessments, we decided to bold on ahead and try a practice GED Math test just to give him a feel for what would be expected. He scored the highest score on the Math test that I have seen with any student. As a matter of fact, he scored well above the “honors” baseline and he hadn’t had any math instruction in over 10 years. This week he is beginning the GED tests and hopes to have them completed within two weeks. He realizes that a label defined his ability and that he has potential well beyond what he imagined. He has hopes of going to college and getting a degree, something that his inner “special education child” only had dreams of. This week a “kite” took flight!
Why the “kite” analogy? Because it is March! And because there is wonder in “kites”! They come in all colors, shapes and sizes (all socio-economic backgrounds, creeds, lands, abilities and disabilities-2e) and yet behold, with a proper tail and wind they fly. It’s March! And as Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins gleefully sang:
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!
Please see Cathi McCutchan’s 2e Resource List in this newsletter and on the WATG website for more information on twice-exceptional students.
February greetings! As I write this I am awaiting the “blue moon” that will rise on Tuesday evening. A “blue moon” is the second full moon that occurs within the same month. I researched how often a “blue moon” occurs and I found out that they happen on average about once every 2.7 years, or 7 times in the 19-year Metonic cycle. Moreover, the following morning, the luckiest of us will bear witness to its lunar eclipse. The last one occurred in 1866, over 150 years ago! I know that you didn’t open this page to have an astronomy lesson however, there may be a different lesson to learn here.
The other day I was talking to a mom of a gifted child and she told me that her daughter gets “gifted services once in a blue moon”. I know of another family that recently made a move (to a new community 200 miles away from their northern home) in hopes of receiving gifted services for their three children. Another just shared that they open enrolled their son in a community 30 miles from their home and are providing transportation on a daily basis to get his educational needs met. Over the years I have heard countless stories like these. Each and every one breaks my heart and yet fuels my desire for change. Why is it, that for some, gifted services should be as rare a “blue moon” when we see such need? Gifted students do not and cannot “take care of themselves”. The longer I am in gifted education, the clearer it becomes to me that the “once in a blue moon” gifted program cannot become the norm for our gifted students.
I am currently an instructor for a local community college. My role is varied and includes supporting students that are working toward their GED’s or HSED’s (high school diplomas). These students, for whatever reasons, dropped out of school before they earned their high school diploma. Each student must be pre-tested as they enter the program. Initially, I was surprised to see the number of students that pre-tested at a post high school level upon entrance. A significant number of students that dropped out in their very early high school years were scoring as students that had exposure and gained competencies in all, or most of, the areas of the curriculum. The more I tested, the more I could see a trend. Conversations with these high scoring students have lead me to understand that they simply could not stay in a system where their individual needs were not being met. Some are students that had life experiences that pulled them away from school. Yet some are students that are twice exceptional and were placed in special education without gifted support. Some are gifted “untraditional” learners that could not survive in a “traditional” setting. Whatever caused them to leave school must be addressed so this cycle can be broken.
As a school board member, I have recently joined a book study group of K-12 teachers and administration in our district. We are reading the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk- Our Hope for the Future by Brendtro, Brokenleg and Bockern and published by Solution Tree Press. While this book is not specifically about gifted students it gives clarity to several of the issues that gifted students face and identifies why there is a persistent risk of failure. I have only started reading it and will share more in next month’s blog. In the meantime, I have to curb my desire to make this book study all about gifted education and the absolute needs of our gifted students.
And so I wait with bated breath… for the “blue moon” lunar eclipse later this week… and for the time when advocates of gifted children have a voice about the absolute needs and rights of these students. Please, I encourage you to “come to the table” if you are not already here! We need your voice, your passion and your willingness to stand with us on behalf of our gifted children. Perhaps let the moon be a gentle and stately reminder to you that there are gifted children that need your response each and every day… not just once in a “blue moon”.
From the President
"We must recruit more advocates to join our cause for our gifted children."