Martha Lopez, WATG President-Elect
Learning to deal with the emotional intensity of a gifted and talented child or adolescent takes a lot of energy, time, patience, and understanding. Eventually, parents learn to accept their son or daughter’s emotional quirkiness. Parents and teachers need to keep in mind that cognitive strength and cognitive complexity give rise to emotional depth and profound feelings that the child or adolescent needs to express, or rather, is compelled to talk about in detail. In other words, gifted children not only think differently—more quickly and profoundly—but their feelings have a more vivid and encompassing quality of intensity that needs to be expressed and listened to. For example, when your preschooler says goodbye to you, she behaves like she is falling apart because she imagines that you will never return. But your child will calm down. Or when a young gifted child sees a homeless person, he feels and thinks that he needs to save the homeless person or solve the problem of homelessness.
I liken the parenting process of raising a gifted kid to training for a high-strung marathon. I say this because as gifted and as precocious your child is, (unfortunately or fortunately), and as intense as he may become in any given situation, you both can experience emotional confusion and stress. The gifted child needs a parent who will help him calm down and refocus, and is there for the marathon of learning to manage feelings.
Emotionally intense children can present a serious challenge. It is truly a steep learning curve that parents must navigate as they try to give their son or daughter the tools they will need to reach their potential. There is no one-size-fits-all direction that all parents can follow at all times. But, in general, alongside calmness and structure at home, appropriate schooling and socialization are obviously crucial tools. Without a doubt, I can say it is not as easy for parents of gifted kids to find a school and social match as it is for the neighbor’s children, who may have an easier time fitting in.
While the intensity of a spirited gifted child is common and predictable, the degree of his or her emotional reactivity can be confusing to parents, teachers, and specialists. In desperation to end the confusion about emotional reactivity, this gifted problem is often misunderstood and mislabeled. Books and internet articles are written on the differences between gifted children’s behaviors, autistic spectrum disorder, and attention deficit disorder, because children who have intense feelings are often singled out as having difficult-to-handle emotional and behavioral problems. Social-emotional and learning issues of gifted children are very different from issues of children with autism or hyperactivity. Correct diagnostic labels are critical because they prescribe the school and home environment that best fits the child’s special learning needs. For example, boredom in gifted children who are perfectionistic can lead to underachievement. Most people do not understand that boredom in gifted kids is common when they are not in the right school environment. Teachers and administrators very often misunderstand underachievement, as “this child is just not as smart as his/her parents think.” Additionally, difficulty making friends and being bullied—socialization issues—are very common among gifted kids, and evolve out of feeling misunderstood by peers, not developmental delays related to autistic spectrum disorder.
The spirited child’s sensitivity to people and events around them can be alarming to the uninformed and uneducated teacher, parent, or any other person who gets a glimpse of their intense feelings and “over the top behavior.” The gifted and spirited kid’s behavior and mood is often called over-reactive and lacking in perspective because of the depth of feelings that are manifested in a simple situation. “David, you need to brush your teeth now,” can become an opportunity for war with his parents if David does not want to stop what he is doing. Likewise, “Susie, you need to complete your school work,” can become a very nonsensical position for a parent to request if the child finds homework boring or meaningless. “Maria, let’s turn out the lights and go to bed,” is an impossible simple task if Maria suffers from intense separation anxiety and truly believes that she cannot be alone.
To make matters worse and more confusing for parents of the quick and astute child, the child sometimes actually knows when he/she is creating problems, stops misbehaving, and helps out mom or dad. Temporarily, the child’s reasonable and empathic behavior allows the parent to feel relieved and happy. The exhausted and frustrated parent has a glimmer of hope and thinks that her child is not a manipulative tyrant. David decides he can brush his teeth. Susie gets started on her homework. Maria goes to sleep in her own room. The roller coaster is on the level part of the track. But quickly the child forgets to be empathic to her parents and reverts back to her original position wanting their own way. Graceful behavior goes by the wayside, and tyrannical attitudes take over again. This rollercoaster behavior recommences.
Parents of gifted kids are sometimes told that raising their child looks easy, especially because learning comes so easily to gifted kids. Parents of gifted kids, however, (especially those who deal with quirky kids), know differently...
My name is Ayman Napsy Isahaku and I am currently a freshman at The Ohio State University studying Neuroscience. As an eighth-grade student five long years ago, I possessed a deep curiosity for discovery and finding innovative solutions to problems. It was during the beginning of my freshman year of high school that I realized that science was the perfect outlet for my curiosity and drive to innovate. However, although I knew I wanted to become involved in science, I didn’t know how. Of course, I took my basic science classes in school like every other student, but I constantly found myself questioning things I was learning and wanting to understand things further than the level at which we were being taught. I wanted to be more involved in science and be able to contribute, rather than just reading textbooks and taking tests. I wanted to see science in action outside of a controlled classroom lab where the teacher already knew what was going to happen. I decided that I wanted to one day be one of the people that students learn about in school for their contributions to how humans understand the world we live in.
Later that year, my biology teacher provided me with an opportunity that I will forever be grateful for, Science Fair. Science fair is a competition that encourages students to conduct their own scientific research projects to test their own unique hypotheses and predictions about how something works, or to find a new, innovative way to do something. After the projects have been completed, students present their research to panels of judges who are experts is a vast array of scientific fields, competing to see who has the best project. For me, a young student very interested in science and very competitive, I saw it as a golden opportunity. My first year of high school I did an engineering project where I tried to use magnetism and a computer fan to create a perpetual energy device. (This is physically impossible as stated in numerous laws of physics). Unsurprisingly, my project failed miserably. I didn’t get anything to work, my research paper was subpar, and I did not win at the school fair. Devastated, I thought “Oh well, I guess I was wrong, science isn’t for me.” I completely trashed the idea of making a project the next year and joined the school robotics team instead. However, during my junior year, I took AP Biology with Mrs. Jennifer Bault at Nicolet High School, and she reignited my passion for science. In her class I remembered everything that I loved about research and discovery, and decided to give science fair another try. My junior year, I did a project where I measured heavy metal concentration in various water sources and experimented to see the effect of these metals on fish behavior. I began my investigation the same way I had during my freshman year by myself, but quickly realized that if I wanted to be better, I would need help. So, I talked to teachers at my school and was connected with Dr. Michael Carvan, the head of a research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. He mentored me throughout my project that year, giving me access to his lab to use tools and learn research strategies that are on the cutting edge of modern science. That year I was successful at the Nicolet High School fair and qualified for the Wisconsin State Science Fair. Although I did not place in the top three in my category at the state fair, just being there as one of the top projects in the state thrilled me and made me want more.
My senior year was the last year that I would be eligible to compete in science fair, so I wanted to go big. I crafted my project again with the help of Dr. Carvan, “Metformin as a Novel Neurogenic Method of Methylmercury Neurotoxicity Symptom Mitigation in Danio rerio as a Model for Human Fetuses.” Essentially my project was to discover a way that the diabetes drug, Metformin, can potentially help treat problems that occur in the brains of developing children as a result of exposure to mercury. It was a lot of hard work, having to work at least 14 hours a week for about 4 months straight. But I was enjoying it and in the end, it paid off. I placed first at the Nicolet fair that year and again qualified for the Wisconsin State Fair where I won the first prize, qualifying me for the International Science and Engineering Fair, ISEF, where I competed against the top 1,800 high school projects from over eighty countries around the world. At ISEF, I placed first and won best in category. In addition, I was honored with an expense paid trip to India to meet with researchers about my research and represent the United States at the Indian national science fair. It was and still is by far my greatest achievement and it has opened many doors for me. As a result of my success at ISEF, I was granted admission to many universities across the country and received many scholarships. I eventually accepted a full-ride scholarship to The Ohio State University to continue studying neuroscience which was the field of my science fair project.
Science fair single handedly changed my life and put me on a path that, with continued hard work, will likely breed success. I will forever be grateful to the teachers and researchers that helped me and inspired me along the way. I strongly encourage any students, no matter how much experience they have with science, to take on the challenge and participate in science fairs. It is a lot of hard work, but like with anything in life, if you work hard at it and don’t let setbacks keep you down, you will find that you’re capable of way more than you thought possible. If someone would have told me during my freshman year that in three years I would have one of the top ten high school research projects in the world, I would not have believed that I could ever do such a thing. I encourage any student regardless of their interests to consider participating in science fairs. Aside from the immense growth that accompanies creating your own project from an academic standpoint, you will develop a stronger work ethic and problem-solving skills that will benefit you regardless of which path your life leads you down.
Thank you for listening to my story and if you have any questions regarding science fair, my personal experience with it, or just about high school in general, feel free to email me at Isahaku.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mollie Grinnell, WATG Board
When we first suspected that our daughter was gifted, we immediately started working with our local public school. When this school failed to even evaluate her, we hoped that a nearby public charter school with an established gifted and talented (GT) program offering a multi-age classroom (3rd grade- 5th grade) would provide what she needed. As a temporary measure, we homeschooled her for the remainder of the school year, then enrolled her in the charter school the next fall when she was entering 3rd grade. Within the first week, the school evaluated our daughter and classified her as gifted, confirming an independent assessment (which had identified her as profoundly gifted). Within the next few weeks she was moved into 4th grade math and put into the highest language arts group in the school (5th to 6th grade). After a month of being enrolled in this school, our daughter was also whole-grade accelerated and identified for numerous GT pull-out programs. Our meetings with the principal, teachers, and GT Coordinator were very positive—everyone seemed to have our daughter’s best interest in mind. We were hopeful about school for the first time in years. However, it did not take long for our hope to dissolve.
Even with all the accommodations the school made, our daughter was not being challenged. While she was still willing to go to school (she had refused to go to her previous school), it was clear that it was not a good learning environment for her. What she was ‘learning’ in language arts was something she had known for years, and the school did not have a strategy to challenge children who exceeded the highest level of instruction. Furthermore, our daughter was avoiding doing math and not being held accountable for not completing the work. In science, she complained of too many worksheets that held no meaning, and she was not allowed to make the project work more interesting by expanding the projects into her areas of interest. Most concerning, she started exhibiting behaviors that we knew, based on her first school, to be warning signs of social isolation and eroding self-esteem.
When it became clear that the school had implemented all of their available methods for challenging gifted children and still it was not enough, we had a candid conversation with the principal about whether the school would be able to meet our daughter’s needs. Legally, he had to say ‘yes’ but underlying his answer it was clear that it would be a continual uphill battle. This was not because the school did not want to do the right thing, but because they did not know what to do, and had never done it before. It was easy to understand why the school was struggling. Statistically, a teacher may see a student like our daughter every 35-40 years (i.e., perhaps once, if ever, during their career). Even if we lived in a major metropolitan area, the likelihood of our daughter’s teachers ever having worked with another profoundly gifted child is remote, and in a rural environment, it is next to zero.
It would be easy to say that our experience is unique and generally not relevant because our daughter is an outlier even among the gifted population. It would also be easy to say that, in the case of the second school, the accommodations the school made were reasonable and would meet most gifted learners’ needs. On one level that may be true; however, our situation emphasizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy for gifted learners, and even robust GT programs often fail gifted students. Most classroom teachers never receive training on the considerable differences in brain function in gifted children compared to that of a typical child, nor how to teach and support gifted children. Additionally, our experience at the first school is relevant to all gifted students because schools such as these—schools with no or limited GT programming—fail most, if not all, gifted students enrolled in their districts. It is all too common that the needs of gifted children are not fully met.
By Martha A. Lopez, WATG President-Elect
Parenting is not easy, especially if you are raising a gifted and talented child. A common characteristic of a gifted and talented child is they tend to be perfectionists. One mistake and they feel they are failures. This is one of the biggest challenges of parenting gifted and talented children. Today, I want to shed light on how having a growth mindset can help. Dr. Carol Dweck and her colleagues coined the term growth mindset to describe the underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence. Research shows that parents can have a powerful impact on their children’s’ mindsets. The language you use and the actions you take show your children what you expect. Giving process praise, talking about the brain, and accepting mistakes as learning opportunities are all practices you can begin using today.
Develop a Growth Mindset in Children
The way we praise our children can have a profound impact on their mindset. Research on praise and mindsets shows that when we praise children for being smart, it promotes a fixed mindset. It sends a message that their accomplishments are trait-based, and tied to something innate. In contrast, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset. It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success. Here are 10 What Questions to Develop a Growth Mindset in Children by Twinkl Educational Publishing.
Talk About the Brain
Our brain is far more plastic than we once thought. Teaching our kids that they actually have control over growing their brains through the actions they take is empowering! Tell your children that when they work hard, their neurons are making strong connections. The dendrites are reaching out to other dendrites, that is, they are connecting to make a stronger brain. What strengthens those connections is practice, asking questions, and actively participating in learning. When children learn that their brains physically change with effort, it leads to increased motivation and achievement.
Learning Opportunities versus Accepting Mistakes
Finally, one of the best ways you can model a growth mindset is to speak candidly about the mistakes you’ve made, and what you’ve learned from them. Speak positively about your mistakes and struggles. This will show your children that taking risks and making mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Explain to your children that trying hard things is what helps us grow, and you cannot be perfect when you try something hard!
Here are some great videos to learn more about growth mindset:
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUWn_TJTrnU
Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck (animated book summary) – Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyIF5VUOJc0
Developing a Growth Mindset! Dr. Nagler’s Laboratory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivKLEVPI6mM
Before the holidays, a list-serv member made a post in search of lesson plans related to architecture. Specifically, she was interested if anyone could point her to activities that incorporated scale, similarity, or proportions and were appropriate for grades 7 and 8. What began as a casual search during my lunch break led to an hour or more of browsing and discovering what others have put together on the topic.
Full disclosure: I’m an engineer (not an architect), but I often work closely with architects, and there is a great deal of overlap between the types of problems we encounter and the critical thinking skills we use everyday in our jobs. In an effort to be helpful, but not strain myself too hard, I decided to first simply Google (used as a verb) “architecture grade school lessons” and see what it returned. Links to the NEA’s website and a STEM group in Idaho initially caught my eye, but I then remembered that Wisconsin is home to a few local AIA chapters. The AIA (The American Institute of Architects) is a non-profit professional organization that offers its nearly 93,000 members help with education, licensing, networking, professional development, ethics training, and so on. It didn’t take long before I discovered the AIA’s K-12 Initiatives. In addition to student scholarships and grant support for local chapters, there were two topics that captured my attention -- “The Scan” and “The Connectory.”
The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion K–12 Architecture and Design Education Scan (a.k.a. The Scan) was a national survey the AIA conducted in 2015 to see what opportunities were available for K-12 students interested in architecture. The study tried to identify best-practices, find potential gaps in regions or programs being offered, and then create a directory for teachers, administrators, and parents to connect with the programs. The AIA assessment looked at who was offering the programs, which grade levels participated, and if programs were held during or after school. The study was completed in August 2017 and included 50 U.S. cities and 700 members (none of them in Wisconsin, unfortunately). The final paper and its results are available on the AIA’s website.
The Connectory is a free, searchable, online database of STEM programs and organizations. It began in late 2009 when Time Warner Cable announced the “Connect a Million Minds” initiative. According to their website, the site began as two separate resources -- a directory for The Coalition for Science After School and a directory aimed at parents called Time Warner Cable's Connectory. In 2015, the databases merged with a third group, the National Girls Collaborative. The Connectory is now managed by the National Girls Collaborative in collaboration with:
The site allows its members to create a listing for their group and promote their activities, workshops, and community events. There’s also the ability for volunteers to sign up and find opportunities in their surrounding area.
As part of this adventure, I also reached out to local AIA chapters in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Madison, to inquire about any programs or events they might offer or be planning to offer in the future. I haven’t heard back yet, but I assume the holidays might have had something to do with that. If and when I hear back, I’ll be sure to share it with the group. Keep an eye on the list-serv for any updates, and thanks for reading. Additional resources and links are available below.
Business & STEM Representative, WATG
When youth are engaged in their communities, they bring radical imagination to help move their communities forward. WATG organized an interactive session for Wisconsin Youth through our annual teen conference. Students from various middle and high schools in WI had a great opportunity to participate in this conference and learn how they can ensure their voices are heard on the issues that matter to them.
Thanks to Oregon High School students for participating in this conference and sharing their action plan with WATG. We wish them best of luck with their efforts.
ACTION PLAN by Oregon High School Students:
What is the problem?
Oregon High School does not offer enough classes that include only advanced learners (students with like minds to help each other learn) who want to go more in depth and at a faster pace than their peers in a non-stressful environment.
What does research say about this problem?
Some possible solutions that we have come up with include:
Steps you are going to take to solve this problem?
“Miss Anjana, we like you, but if you are ever boring, we are outta here.”
One sentence I heard 3 months before my college graduation brought more truth and humility into my life than 4 years of higher education. As a GT student in Wisconsin I was challenged to think outside of the box starting in elementary school. That mindset served me well as a college student as I learned about human behavior and the current state of our education system from new anthropological and psychological perspectives. But my skills were truly put to the test by a group of 9-year-olds who lived in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Pittsburgh during my final semester of college.
Six years ago I started teaching chess to girls in my hometown of Milwaukee, WI to address the gender disparity in the sport, and now, having mentored over 500 girls through six different camps, the number of female chess players in Wisconsin has doubled! When I started college at the University of Pittsburgh, I found that the city lacked a vibrant chess culture, so I decided to share my passion for the game by starting something new—explaining chess to people through the life lessons, such as teamwork and critical reasoning, I learned from the chessboard.
This past spring semester I volunteered for 10 weeks (once a week for 2 hours) at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA and implemented lessons plans for a chess-to-life learning curriculum that I created. On my very first day, I had an impromptu meeting with the 22 kids in the after-school program (9-13 year olds) and they very frankly told me, “Miss Anjana, we like you, but if you are ever boring, we are outta here.” Taking their words very seriously, I knew I had to be innovative with my chess curriculum. These kids had never played chess before and were hesitant to even learn the game because they thought it was “nerdy.” They would rather pursue their passions in singing and dancing than be bored with a complicated game. So I struck a deal with the kids—we would create a music video (one of their biggest dreams) AND have loads of fun every Friday all while learning chess.
Through 10-weeks of programming the kids not only learned how to play chess, but also participated in a chess Winter Olympics (to learn teamwork), painted Resilience Murals about their personal stories of perseverance (while learning about the pawn to queen promotion in chess), 3D-printed their own chess pieces, created (and ate) an edible chessboard, and produced a “Chess Do It” music video to teach the world how to play chess and show everyone that even a “nerdy” game like chess can be as “cool” as rap (the instrumental background of the song is to Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE”).
I initially played chess just to beat the boys who didn’t think girls were smart enough to play, but I now teach chess to boys and girls alike to instill in them values of perseverance and critical engagement while discussing life experiences in discrimination and resilience. Who knew you could learn so much in 64 squares?
While I was technically the “adult” in the room, the kids of Homewood taught me to be a better student. A student learns from the lessons taught in a classroom, but a better student learns lessons from her teacher and her peers (even if they are half her age). A student learns to paint within the lines, but a better student dares to channel her inner Jackson Pollock and express herself outside of conventional norms. A student learns to challenge her brain to do the impossible, but a better student challenges her teacher to teach the impossible. And most importantly, a student learns to make good grades, but a better student learns for the love of learning.
Please watch “Chess Do It”—you may learn that there is more to chess than meets the eye!
I created Kids Tales five years ago when I was thirteen; I am its Founder and Executive Director. Kids Tales is a nonprofit venture that brings summer creative writing workshops to 8 to 12 year old kids around the globe who do not have access to writing experiences outside of school. During a Kids Tales workshop, kids spend one week brainstorming, writing, and editing their own short story. At the end of the week, the stories are assembled in a collection and published as an anthology, a real book. All of Kids Tales’ instructors are teenagers.
Kids Tales gives kids from underserved communities the opportunity to tell their story and become a published author. I didn’t start Kids Tales knowing it would become a nonprofit. I started it because I love to write and wanted to share my passion for writing with other kids. But at the end of our first workshop, a girl named Alana told me, “Thank you for letting me have a voice. No one has ever done that for me before.” Alana’s parents were divorced and she never had the opportunity to write and share her thoughts. Kids Tales gave her that chance. I knew Kids Tales had to grow to give more kids, like Alana, the opportunity to find their voices.
Kids Tales has grown more than I could ever have imagined! More than 1200 kids across twelve U.S. cities and nine countries including Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Guatemala, Honduras, Taiwan, and a refugee camp in Hungary have participated in Kids Tales, and we have engaged over 300 teen teachers. Since Kids Tales was founded in 2013, we have published 65 anthologies, real books, written by Kids Tales Student Writers.
During Kids Tales first summer, I taught our workshops. As we grew, I trained teens that love to write and are passionate about sharing writing with younger kids to teach Kids Tales. Our teen instructors tell us teaching Kids Tales transforms them; they are empowered to continue giving back to their communities. All teen instructors are trained to teach Kids Tales workshops via virtual training sessions and a written Kids Tales workshop curriculum. The time commitment for teen instructors is three to four hours of teacher training, plus one week during the summer to teach a Kids Tales workshop. If you are a teen who loves to write and are passionate about helping younger kids, please consider joining us and becoming a Kids Tales instructor this summer. We need more Kids Tales teen teachers!
To become a Kids Tales teacher, fill out our application: http://kidstales.org/apply-now/
If you have any questions or want more information, please email me, Katie@KidsTales.org.
This resource list is a comprehensive, although certainly not exhaustive, compilation of articles, books, websites, and other media that address the wide range of issues facing families and schools dealing with Twice Exceptionality.
“Twice Exceptional” is one label to refer to children who meet criteria for Gifted Programs as well as criteria for educational accommodations and/or special education interventions. Sometimes “2e” is used an abbreviation, or “GT/LD” is used, short for “Gifted/Talented with Learning Disabilities.” Regardless of label, these children are a complex mix of shine and struggle; tap into their high interest areas and scaffold their challenges to guide them toward their full potential.
The list starts off with articles which do a great job laying out how to explain “Twice Exceptional” traits to schools and what legal protections these students have. Next there are articles addressing general guidelines. And then articles on specific issues, like slow processing speed and executive functioning. Following that are sections to list out teaching strategies and specific curricula (with links to ebooks, pdf pages, websites); a section on books and chapters in books; a section listing out websites to include official organizations along with blogs; sections sampling relevant podcasts and a few films; and rounding out with sections on Academic Centers and a sampling of Experts.
If more people (and especially more schools) are aware of 2e students, then more 2e students will have opportunities to thrive. These students are so vulnerable to frustration or underachievement when their needs go unmet, yet they have so much potential. In this spirit, may this resource list contribute to creative collaborations which will improve outcomes for 2e students.
Cathi McCutchan is mom to a 2e teen and former mental health professional. She practiced Dance/Movement Therapy for 10 years. She has also done professional editing and research, especially in regard to the Creative Arts Therapies. Cathi completed the WI Partners in Advocacy program in 2014. Her areas of expertise include food allergies, diabetes, expressive language disorders, Down syndrome, ADHD, Asperger’s, and Section 504. She is still getting up to speed on 2e and writing disorders.
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!
Student and Parent Voices
Hear from and about gifted and talented students and parents across the state Wisconsin.