Over the years, I have worked with hundreds of immigrant students, many of them gifted, whose stories go beyond stereotypical narratives told by the media. Their stories, dreams and desires to succeed represent the other side of their story. The truth is that most immigrant stories are incomplete. They are incomplete because they are often told from the perspective of those who look at these students from the periphery of society. There are times when telling a story we choose what to write, which details to omit, and more importantly what image we want to portray. We live in a society of incomplete stories. Yet, it is hard to stop and think of the other side of that story. Our lives, our cultures are composed of many overlapping diverse stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. In her narrative she reflects on how telling a single story could be oppressive and lethal, especially for children.
As an educator I have learned to discover the untold stories of immigrant children whose resilience, courage and talents go beyond a label we immigrants receive upon arrival. Currently, many of these immigrant children are being overlooked and unidentified, in part because educators fail to see the other side of their stories. Patricia Gandara (The potential and Promise of Latino Students, 2007), points out that contrary to deficit perspectives, immigrant students possess a set of unique characteristics. The five characteristics that are typical of many immigrant students are a collaborative orientation to learning, resilience, immigrant optimism, multicultural perspectives, and multilingualism. Many of these characteristics are learned and developed as they try to assimilate in a heavily racialized society. For example, because immigrants cannot rely on the normal routines of their homelands and must adapt to new circumstances and expectations. Children learn to be resilient and persistent in the face of adversity. This persistence and resilience to succeed leads to deeper learning. For example, second generation immigrant students tend to outperform subsequent generations academically, in spite of language differences and cultural barriers. This phenomenon has been labeled immigrant optimism, in which these students, taking a cue from their immigrant parents, come to be true believers in the American dream and strive to realize it, exhibiting extraordinary motivation.
So what can educators do? Teachers have an amazing power to change mainstream discourse and narratives of immigrants. Teachers can nurture the assets and talents these students bring to school, such as their resiliency and the persistence they have shown in difficult circumstances. Teachers can celebrate the cultural practices that have nourished immigrant communities. Teachers can serve as the cultural brokers, empowering students and challenging distorted narratives we often hear. They can ensure that being labeled an English language learner or immigrant does not limit a student’s access to all the courses and opportunities that English speakers enjoy. But, perhaps even more importantly, what teacher should do is to avoid the danger believing and telling a single story!
This phrase has been used in marketing for years. In the 1920’s it was first used
commercially to sell the Victor Radio. Recently, it has become to mean something we
really don’t want to experience again: an overly talkative student or colleague who
frequently violates the TMI sharing rule; a lemon of a car you can’t afford to replace; an
emotion that surfaces at all the wrong times. In this season when too many things
demand our attention and the difference between giving and buying is pretty smudged,
it is worthwhile to call attention to a gift that does keep giving: curiosity.
Last year I stumbled upon a website called “The Kids Should See This.” I signed
up. Every week I receive several little videos or vignettes that reveal something totally
cool. Once it was a clip from a Charlie Chaplin movie; another time it was a video in
real time of a monarch caterpillar changing into a chrysalis. Just fascinating things in
our world that make you go “WOW!” No lessons, no morals to live by - just really cool
stuff. I would share them occasionally, but didn’t really think of them as an important
learning tool. After all, everything we do has to have a purpose, right?
Growth Mindset is the current favorite thing in pop culture and education. And I
believe that it is imperative that we all try to have one and teach it to our kids. But
shouldn’t we also try to instill a wonder and curiosity about our world? In my mind,
those two concepts go hand in hand. To have a curiosity about something will cause
one to grow.
Remember Madeline Hunter’s anticipatory set? Put a spin on it and show your
students something fantastic and exciting just for the heck of it! Show them an amazing
animal doing something in slow-motion or a painting by Cinta Vidal. Get your students
to wonder how something happens or how someone could possibly create such a
painting and why. I started to show my students things that piqued my curiosity at the
end of our group times. We look at it together for a couple minutes, and they leave our
lessons curious and talking about what we had just experienced together.
We know a lot about gifted kids and try really hard to meet their academic
challenges and social needs. Yet, I often feel that what needs fuelling is a strong
sense of curiosity. That will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Unless you were in my Economics class at Tomahawk High School, the words “Supply and Demand Challenge” probably don’t get you excited. You don’t start sweating, or shaking, or running through various economic scenarios in your head. But I can still remember how excited I was for that academic competition, and how earnestly I had prepared for it.
Admittedly, these reactions weren’t totally unique. Of course I’d studied before, and felt nervous before exams. That can be attributed to my garden-variety test anxiety. No matter how hard I studied, there was always the possibility that I’d have an of” day, one 50-minute period of time where I’d drop the ball, lose focus or draw a blank, and it would irreparably ruin my high school record. But this piece isn’t about grades and how much I loathe them. In fact, the Supply and Demand Challenge had nothing to do with grades.
It wasn’t an exam of any kind, just a way for us to study. All we “had” to do was participate and give an honest effort, but preparation outside of class was optional. Those who dropped out of the competition immediately after one round were given the same participation grade as those who won the whole thing.
There wasn’t an explicit incentive to training for the Supply and Demand Challenge, not even extra credit. Doing well in the challenge only meant doing more work, doing more supply-demand problems, drawing more graphs. Winning was some reward in of itself, I guess, but so was getting to sit through a class period and relax for an hour. So, then, why were most of my peers and I so excited, so driven to do well in this challenge, when all it entailed was working harder?
Because for once, the kids who wanted to try hard were getting MORE attention, not less.
Funny how it’s usually the other way around, right? But it makes sense: if one student isn’t doing their work and the rest of the students are, that one student’s going to get most of the teacher’s attention. Not because they’ve done anything to deserve it, but because the teacher has to keep class moving and make sure no one gets left behind.
And take two students who are both struggling in the same class. The first student studies the material on their own time, looks up videos online, and takes practice tests, and the second student doesn’t. Ideally the teacher would be able to reach out to both struggling students, but if they only have time for one, they’ll go to the second student. Again, only because it’s necessary, not because it’s fair.
I know that’s an oversimplification, and I’m not trying to throw any shade on teachers for looking after struggling students. It’s their job, after all, and most teachers are superb at it. But at the end of the day, the more a student is able to accomplish on their own--whether by natural ability, extra effort, or some combination of the two--the less the teacher needs to do for them. And that’s perfectly fine...if all you’re concerned about is grades. If a teacher’s attention was divided based on willingness to learn, regardless of where the student fell on the bell curve, I think it would be a different story.
Which is why The Supply and Demand Challenge was so special and exciting, even if I didn’t know exactly why at the time. The students who didn’t care, who learned just enough to pass the test and nothing more, fell out of the competition right away. No punishment, no grade penalty, they just weren’t able to compete anymore.
And with those students out of the way, the rest of us were able to run wild. We went up to the whiteboard over and over again, racing to shave another second off our graph-drawing time and advance up the roster of teams. It didn’t matter how good we were at it; every team was duking it out with each other, scrambling for split-second victories. By the end of the class, we were screaming and jumping out of our desks, immersed in the thrall of basic supply and demand principles.
And the grand prize? Nothing more than the team roster itself, a piece of paper with your team’s name in the coveted ‘champion’ blank. Yeah, winning was fun, but it was the experience that was the real prize. No one from that class remembers which teams won, but I guarantee we all remember the competition itself.
Economics was a class every senior had to take. Some of us might’ve opted to take the class even if it wasn’t required, but I’m guessing that most students weren’t jumping at the opportunity. Since it was a required class, I wasn’t expecting to be challenged very much. No matter how “advanced” a class was, it was always limited by the student who tried the least. And since everyone in my grade was taking this class, the odds of getting put in a class with someone who didn’t try at all was depressingly high.
Looking back, the only reason that class was, and remains, one of my favorites was how the teacher handled this type of student. Yes, of course the teacher set aside extra time for students who were struggling, but they also bypassed the students who didn’t try at all. The student got a warning, an offer of help, and that was it. I think I speak for the rest of the class when I say how much of a relief that was. We could come into class every day knowing that we’d accomplish something, not get hung up on a single problem student who hadn’t yet decided to start caring.
Economics was a class for people who wanted to try. The Supply and Demand Challenge was the most tangible evidence of that: it relied entirely on people wanting to challenge themselves just for the sake of a challenge.
The biggest thing I learned from that class is that, thankfully, most students do care. They want to learn, and they want to be challenged. They just need the opportunity.
Book Review: An Aid to Advocacy: Getting to Yes with Yourself by William Ury - Lorie Raihala, WATG Board Member
For parents, advocating for an academically gifted child can be a highly emotional affair. Your child’s welfare hangs in the balance, but administrators often have little time and resources to spend on children who’ve already met grade-level standards and benchmarks. Teachers working to serve wide ranges of learning needs may see you as “ambitious parents” pushing their progeny to race through material to win “advanced” status. Educators at school don’t see what mothers and fathers witness at home, and they may not recognize the social and emotional toll that the “regular school program” takes on your child. To them, your child looks fine. But you see the once vibrant youngster withdrawn and lethargic, or cranky and angry, or lonely and desperate from school days spent trapped in “age appropriate” instruction, discussion, and activities–week in, week out, year after year.
Does this strike a nerve? Do you feel your heart pound, your muscles clench, your stomach churn? If so, then William Ury has written the book for you: Getting to Yes with Yourself and Other Worthy Opponents (HarperCollins, 2015). If the idea of another round of school meetings makes you sweat, then Getting to Yes can help you move to “the balcony–a mental and emotional place of perspective, calm, and self-control” (21). This is the first in a series of steps that Ury has honed over years of high-stakes mediation in “boardroom battles, labor conflicts, and civil wars around the world” (dust jacket). Cofounder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, Ury draws from compelling personal and professional experience to illustrate an effective way to ground yourself and re-frame your approach to conflict and difficult conversations.
Ury’s message resonates not just as a set of tips for negotiating, but as a profoundly inspiring philosophy of life. He advises that this version of Getting to Yes should be viewed as the prequel to his earlier, widely acclaimed work with his mentor, Roger Fisher, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In (1981). The first Getting to Yes, which served as “one of the primary business texts of modern America” for three decades, offered a “proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict” (Amazon). Ury’s more recent, solo work has grown out of his meantime realization that, in the words of Walt Kelly’s insightful possum, Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” With lively and accessible prose, Ury guides his reader into a penetrating consideration of the human condition. He anchors his chapters with trenchant quotes from Goethe, Frankl, Emerson, and Wittgenstein and gives examples that range from Nelson Mandela to his own daughter. Ultimately, he offers up a way of living that cannot fail to strengthen the fabric of human existence (“win-win-win”) and move humanity in the direction of peace and redemption.
But I digress. Practically speaking, Ury’s process calls for cultivating habits that can help maintain a sense of calm and well-being in the face of potentially painful discussions–in our case, petitioning for “services or activities not ordinarily provided” from school officials who seem to hold sway over your children’s (and thus your own) health and happiness. By “getting to yes with yourself,” you will be less susceptible to emotional triggers and impulses that sabotage your child’s (and thus your own) best interests. Holding fast to the balcony and anchored in the confidence that “life is on your side,” you will be more likely to recognize spontaneous openings and act on flashes of creative inspiration, and this can unleash unexpected possibilities that satisfy both sides. From his professional work as a mediator, Ury recounts acute situations in which he has not known how the parties would ever find their way out of the wilderness of mutual hurt and hostility. Yet by maintaining his own commitment to “Yes,” he has time and again seen light break into the darkness and illuminate paths toward conciliation and relief from years of public feuding and civil war.
Intrigued? Then read! You have nothing to lose and much to gain from this highly fortifying guide.
I love the notion of a challenge and have always been eager to explore the unknown. The nature of scientific research excites and inspires me. I view the scientific method as a lifelong passion to bring about innovative and ground breaking change. I find it peaceful, satisfying and challenging all at once. Each one of us utilizes the scientific method through logical reasoning and problem solving on a daily basis. Ever since the concept was born in the 17th century, mankind has knowingly and unknowingly used the scientific method to confront and solve the many problems humanity faces. I would like to employ the scientific method to answer and solve problems dealing with the human body because I am passionate about health research and medicine. The workflow of diagnosis, treatment and the prevention of disease is one of the best practical applications of the scientific method.
Participating in science fair is a perfect opportunity to express and demonstrate my keen interest in conducting biomedical related research. Science fair participation has improved my public speaking and communication skills and enhanced my ability to present complex, scientific concepts in a concise and informative manner. I have been participating in science fair since the 8th grade. My research primarily focuses on developing novel therapeutics to combat coronary artery disease and the detrimental effects of chemotherapy upon the cardiovascular system.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to present a segment of my aforementioned research at the 2016 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Phoenix, Arizona. Having won the Best of Fair - 1st Place Grand Award at the Badger State Science and Engineering Fair (BSSEF) in March, I am excited to return again this year as a Finalist of the 2017 Intel ISEF fair in Los Angeles, California.
Participating in the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair was not only a great platform to enhance my research and academic interests but also an excellent opportunity to meet other like-minded young research scientists. A major theme exemplified in many of the keynote addresses was that as an ISEF Finalist, we were amongst our future peers and collaborators. Taking the message to heart, I was able to interact and develop rich connections with other Finalists, not only from the United States but from around the world.
As for my future goals, I have been passionate about pursuing a career in medicine ever since I can remember. I have fond memories of my father taking me on "rounds" as a child to the hospital and introducing me to the medical/graduate students, nurses and fellow physicians. Ideally, my long- term goal is to combine my love for medicine and research and pursue a MD/PhD. The thought of combining research and clinical based medicine is thrilling and poses a plethora of varied research questions. The possibilities of discovery and innovation are limitless.
By Nabeel Quryshi
University School of Milwaukee
Junior in High School
1st place at the 2017 Badger State Science and Engineering Fair
On June 11 of last year I boarded a Frankfurt-bound flight, kicking off what would end up being a 222-day odyssey abroad. To give a bit of background, my name is Emilie Lozier, and I am a third-year student at Oberlin College. With majors in French and chemistry to contend with, I devised a plan a couple years ago to find a way to go abroad, keep up with my disparate areas of study, and still somehow graduate on time. This is how it has worked out so far.
My journey is in three parts. The first phase was this summer, during which time I pursued an internship in glass chemistry at the Otto Schott Institute for Materials Research in Jena, Germany. Wanting to find a way to bring chemistry into my study abroad experience, I applied for the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst’s RISE program, which matches American, British, and Canadian undergraduates in the sciences with academic and industrial researchers throughout Germany. My project was to be completed under the supervision of a Ph.D. student, and concerned the compositional analysis of medieval window glass.
Although my German was elementary at best and my experience with glass chemistry even more tenuous, the ten weeks I spent in Jena taught me a lot about how to use what resources I had to expand my base of knowledge and overcome everyday obstacles. I had never received formal instruction in glass chemistry, but the classes I had taken thus far paired with a translated German textbook on the subject gave me all the tools I needed to move forward. And while the work I did in the lab was usually in English, my forays into grocery stores, doctors’ offices, parks, and bouldering gyms boosted my confidence with German and allowed me to make the most of my limited vocabulary.
At the end of August, after a brief interlude of travel, the second phase of my journey began. This time however, chemistry went on hold as I stepped onto the platform at the TGV station in Aix-en-Provence and sought out the woman who was to be my host mother for the next three and a half months. The program awaiting me in France offered a classic semester abroad with an increased focus on cultural and linguistic immersion. To that end I spent the entire semester as a boarder in a French family, tutored local middles schoolers, and took one of my courses directly enrolled at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, a prominent political science institution.
Throughout my time in Aix, people at home and abroad asked me if I was bored without chemistry, if the French classes I was taking weren’t rigorous enough to be satisfying. The fact of the matter was that so much of what I learned drew from the non-academic challenges I faced each time I encountered a social difference. Taken as a whole, my semester was not so much a time of book learning as it was an opportunity to develop a sense of cultural relativism. I may not have gained credits towards my chemistry major, but I never once felt that what I was doing was a waste of time, or a diversion from my career path.
In spite of this, there were times when I worried I wasn’t taking full advantage of the opportunity before me. Some evenings I would be exhausted after a day of homework and French and social missteps and decide to stay home and sleep rather than throw myself into Aix’s nightlife. Other times, I’d fumble a phrase and find myself being addressed in English, which both humiliated me and left me wondering whether my language skills had improved at all. However, the moment I left Aix to embark on the final portion of my trip, the true extent of my development emerged in high relief.
At the time of writing, I am still in the midst of this third leg, which consists of a month of travel in France, Spain, and Italy with a group of friends from Oberlin. After a few days in Paris, we made our way to Barcelona, where we spent nearly two weeks of the holiday season. Having left the city only recently, we’re now in Granada and will soon be Italy-bound. In addition to giving myself a chance to recover a bit before my return to Oberlin, this trip has given me the affirmation I had been lacking in Aix. While in Paris, my facility with French eased my group’s interactions in restaurants, grocery stores, and museums, and even during a memorable evening at the 18th arrondissement’s police prefecture. This impression was only strengthened by our transition to Spain, which highlighted how functional I had been in France, and how dependent I now was on the Spanish-speakers in our group.
When I return to the US in two weeks’ time, I’m sure that I will see changes in myself that even now are hidden. Still, there are some things that I can already tell will be different. For one thing, I’m not satisfied. My French has improved, and yet I’m even more aware of all the ways in which it could improve further. Along with this is a desire to expand my base of languages, and only travel to places where I can communicate in the local language, rather than depending on the ubiquity of English. Finally, after having lived so long abroad, I have a better understanding of how my values are not universal, and how I can adjust my behavior to respect and accommodate the cultural patterns I encounter. These are not things I could have learned if I had stayed at my home institution, and whatever the challenges, I’m grateful to have had this interlude in my studies.