As you read this newsletter, we at the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted are still basking in the “afterglow” of our fall annual conference, “Revolutionizing the Basics: Making Education WORK for Gifted Students” October 3 & 4 at the Glacier Canyon Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. We were pleased to share this dynamic learning event with well over 300 guests, speakers and exhibitors. Our audience included teachers and administrators, retired educators, state representatives, teens, parents, psychologists, social workers, and members of the business community. We welcomed attendees from all areas of our state, and shared countless ideas of what works best for kids and gifted education. Many conference attendees remarked that there was a “charge” in the rooms, an electricity or palpable energy as we learned and grew together. Without a doubt, many special things were happening. Old friendships were rekindled; new ones were made. Old ideas were challenged; new ones forged. Conversations were lively and productive, with much laughter (and some libations) shared. There was, indeed, a “charge” in the air, and we thank you, our attendees, for bringing our conference to life with your energy and curiosity.
Though it is impossible to thank everyone who helped to make this event so successful, we especially want to thank our conference chairwomen, Kitty Ver Kuilen and Beth Fairchild for their boundless energy, enthusiasm, and encouragement. With the support of Nancy Woodward, our highly capable Executive Assistant at WATG, these ladies ran a spectacular conference! We also want to thank Board Member Lalitha Murali, and Stacy Read, Web and Software instructor at Waukesha County Technical College, for their work with 28 diverse and dedicated teens, who crafted online games to help solve world problems that are near and dear to their hearts. Bravi tutti in this endeavor! Please see the article in this month’s newsletter for more details about the Teen Conference.
We also want to thank our exhibitors for sharing ideas, information, and resources with our attendees. All of them stretched our thinking, and provided us with the tools to pursue excellence in gifted education.
The format change of this year’s conference allowed attendees to participate in two full days of learning, and our attendees took advantage of this. Participants engaged in thirty(! ) sessions, including five extended learning opportunities. Our highly inspiring keynote presenters, Ian Byrd and Dr. Scott Peters, challenged us to get to the heart of gifted education, to revolutionize the basics, and to respect the unique joys and challenges of raising and educating gifted children and adolescents. Our heartfelt thanks to these gentlemen for sharing their time and talents with us.
Each WATG conference is also a chance to celebrate some of the people who have made unique and lasting contributions to our field during the past year. This year’s award winners included:
Our kudos and grateful thanks to all of them!
Finally, we’d like to acknowledge the abiding care and thoughtful presence of our outgoing president, Cathy Schmit. Under her indomitable leadership, our organization continues to grow, and to tackle new tasks that will benefit gifted learners in our state. Thank you, Cathy!
Every outstanding conference leaves us with excellent memories, and also with a “charge” to go forth - to use what we’ve learned - in our homes, our classrooms, our schools, our state, and our nation. Therefore, we as a board are “charging” you with two duties during the coming year:
P.S. If you still have the “earworm” of the WATG Board’s performance of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” rolling around in your brain, you’re welcome :)
I was visiting with an elderly woman recently and she was telling me about her experience with getting her eyes examined. She was surprised to learn that her vision had changed drastically from the last time she had been checked. Her comment was that she had had such imperceptible changes over time that she never really noticed what was happening. She compared it to sitting on your porch on a sunny day engrossed in a good book, when suddenly you look up to realize that it has gotten dark and you need to turn a light on to continue reading. Her new glasses were nearly miraculous, like someone turned the light on for her.
Time has a way of changing things… I am learning that it is important to stop and reflect on those changes, or lack thereof. Are they for the better, worse? Moving forward or moving backward? Healthy or unhealthy? Energy filling or energy draining? Are we changing or are just the things around us changing?
The way we teach, parent or advocate for our gifted children is the same way. The world is moving at such break-neck speed. Life is overflowing with opportunities and obligations, and there is simply no way that we can keep up. But it’s not until we STOP and reflect back on where we’ve come from that we realize where we are. Forward? Backward? Stuck?
Please accept the following invitation as an opportunity for a reflective “pause” - to help you to examine your teaching, parenting, advocacy, and/or support of our gifted kids. Are you doing things the same way as you have always done them? Are you changing with the times? Do you know the current research? Are you applying it? Do you network with others concerning gifted? Do you advocate for better support of gifted education? Do you know a gifted child that is counting on you? Please consider joining us for a personal check-up!
You are cordially invited to the
WATG Fall Conference
Revolutionizing the Basics: Making education WORK for Gifted Students
October 3-4, 2019
Wilderness Resort and Conference Center, Wisconsin Dells
Take some much-deserved time out of the busy-ness of life and join us in examining where we are and where we can go with gifted education in Wisconsin. Dr. Scott Peters and Ian Byrd will be our keynoters. Conference breakout sessions are designed to stimulate, enrich, and provide networking opportunities for educators, families, teens, and business and community leaders.
…We’ll turn the light on…
Summer is in full swing, and with the long days and warm afternoons comes the typical hustle and bustle of August. Stores begin their marketing toward a school year that may be filled with apprehension or excitement for students and parents alike. But the lessons to be learned from summer are not quite over! This last week I had the opportunity to spend the week at SOAR G/T summer camp with a group of wonderfully gifted and talented young adults from around Wisconsin. This group of students, bright and curious, came together, some for the first time and some returning to learn with one another. They spent a week learning what it can mean to be gifted, surrounded by peers who share similarities and similar struggles. They were challenged to learn new things and explore different ways of understanding. These lessons are crucial for gifted kids as they learn to understand themselves and what it means for them to experience challenges in a world when so often they are not challenged in their daily settings.
As I spent the week growing with these students, there were also crucial lessons for me to learn. The most important take-away for me came from watching the campers learn methods to accomplish new tasks. When gifted students are presented with difficult things in school and within their comfort zone, they can learn to do the task so quickly that they require no instruction. The math problem, or piece of music, or logic puzzle can be accomplished with seemingly minimal effort as their brains adapt to the challenge before them. However, if you take a gifted kid and present them with something that requires more practice or steps to master, it is important to realize just how important teaching and providing these steps is. Time and time again this last week I heard the following from the campers -- “I always wanted to learn [something new], but I didn’t know the steps. You taught me the steps.” Regardless of whether this referred to learning chess, communication, or something seemingly insignificant, the effects of learning the steps to accomplishing something was powerful for the campers.
I believe this lesson also applies to parents and educators of gifted students as they advocate for gifted education. Sometimes it is important to combat frustration, and start at the beginning with step one. Learning how to advocate using a step-by-step approach can help individuals advocate for gifted education in a more sustainable way. Moreover, teaching people how to advocate using steps can help them understand the process and overcome the challenges faced with trying to advocate. As the school year approaches, do not be afraid to go back to step one, and, just as we should encourage gifted kids to practice and learn in steps, we should do the same for each other. Encourage one another to take things step-by-step in our fight for advocacy and representation for gifted students.