It is often the case that as we go through life, we lose track of people who were once very important to us. People such as a childhood friend, our friend groups in middle school and high school, college buddies, adult friends, and others. Sometimes losing track of these friends leaves one wondering about a particular person for many years. Now, with the wide use of social media, it may be easier than ever to find long lost friends and rekindle friendships, but that is not always the case.
While speaking with a friend, I recently learned of the life path of several children with whom I worked who are now adults. Now grown, they graduated high school and college, and entered the workforce and adult life. These children were important to each other as friends as they maneuvered life in the community together. They were in some of the same community activities: youth sports, county fair, church, scouts, and library activities, to name a few. While they did not attend the same schools, they saw each other often at activities outside of school.
A few of the children who were not readily accepted by the whole group were gifted children who stuck together during these activities. Most of them were either not identified as being gifted, or were misidentified as needing special education services. It was interesting to learn of the lifepath some of the children have taken. Most of the larger group either found a job or joined the military reserve after high school, remained near their home town, and are still pursuing those endeavors today. A few went to college and returned home to find a job, most outside of their major area of study. The gifted youth, who were not accepted by the larger group growing up and thought to be a bit odd, all went on to college across the country and pursued STEM study, graduated from or are in graduate school now, and have careers with major companies where they are thriving working in complex high-level fields. These were the children and youth who did not fit in, who most adults and children in the community and school thought were rather slow and were not going to amount to much.
I am not judging any person’s path to adulthood nor their effort to work and make a life for themselves and their family. All of us generally do the best we can. What strikes me, however, about learning about these gifted children who are now adults, is the striking difference in their path compared to their peers. What also strikes me is that even though most people, kids and adults alike, thought these gifted children and youth would never amount to anything because they didn’t fit in; clearly they were wrong. It is another example of gifted children and youth being misunderstood, underestimated, misdiagnosed, and yet overcoming how everyone else treated them to go on and follow their interests and their own path. They persisted and persevered because their innate giftedness would allow nothing less.
My message for us is to remember that each person has value, and children and youth who don’t fit in should not be judged or underestimated. They could have gifted abilities that preconceived judgments miss. Each child and youth should be given opportunities to thrive, especially those who others may think are not gifted.
Last year at this time, we were starting to hear about the pandemic. Many people were hopeful that after a few months of closing down, we would be able to get back to “normal” and life would go on. Here it is a year later, and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. One of the institutions that has been affected in a major way is our schools.
Parents have had a choice in how to educate their children for many years in WI, the details of which depend upon where one lives. February 1 started the state-wide open enrollment period, the time when parents can apply for their children to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. The open enrollment period is from February 1 to 4:00 p.m. on April 30, 2021. Open enrollment is one way that parents can determine where and how their children attend school. I recommend carefully reading the DPI website on public school open enrollment to learn about it, download a brochure, get deadlines and requirements, and obtain an application. The website is: https://dpi.wi.gov/open-enrollment
Generally, there are two types of schools in open enrollment: a regular public school, or virtual charter schools operated through public schools. During the pandemic, much has been said about virtual learning. One of the problems of virtual learning during the pandemic is that most public schools were unprepared to implement virtual learning full-time. Issues of reliable Internet and device hardware access were magnified. Both teachers and students did not know how to do virtual teaching and learning effectively. Teachers were not trained to provide instruction online, students were not taught how to learn online, and families were not oriented to the features of virtual learning. In a virtual school -- where online learning is done well and teachers, students, and families are taught how to do it successfully-- students can thrive and succeed in ways they never did in a face-to-face classroom. This is especially true of gifted students in the right virtual school, where they are empowered to learn at their own depth, breadth, and rate, with good teachers who know how to teach gifted learners.
Check out the DPI website about virtual charter schools to learn more if you are considering open enrollment in a virtual school:
The website has a list of virtual charter schools that operated during the 2020-2021 academic year, and is a useful guide for applying to a virtual school via open enrollment. As with any open enrollment, it is worth considering the year the virtual school opened, attending their information sessions, and talking with teachers and parents of currently enrolled students. Virtual schools that do it well do not have students spending hours a day at the computer. Learning is done in a variety of ways, including face-to-face interaction with field trips, and other events. It is important to note that enrolling in a virtual charter school is different from homeschooling. Virtual charter schools have licensed teachers who direct the education of the students, whereas when homeschooling, the parent is solely responsible for the curriculum and all other aspects of education for the student.
The reasons for choosing open enrollment are many, and it is a very individualized decision for each family; however, it can be a good solution for students who need a different school to better meet their needs. Each February I write a blog post about open enrollment with tips, and other information. For previous blog posts, please see the archives in the blog post menu, “Ask the Doctor.”
While the end of the year brings a time to reflect upon events from the past year, the new year often brings resolutions to perhaps do things to improve oneself, to spend more time doing an activity, or to change a habit, among other things. Given the fact that over the past year we have lived through very different times navigating a pandemic, there are lots of stories to tell.
Over the past few months, I have read many oral histories describing how people have coped during the pandemic. These included stories about New York City and various other geographic areas, patients and staff in health care facilities, people in specific jobs, stories about teaching and learning, and personal stories from many individuals. Many of the people told how their experience provided time for personal growth.
I have always known about the power of stories to reach people and aid learning, but it wasn’t until two years ago when I started work on an oral history project with a colleague that I became aware of the formal discipline of oral history. The Oral History Association is a great resource from which to learn. Universities, libraries, government agencies, and others are involved in gathering oral history (see links below). Even school children can gather oral history stories.
Gifted learners are often very sensitive to current events such as the pandemic. They care about how such an event impacts people, including their family and others, and can be quite affected by their intense emotions, anxiety, worry, stress, and behaviors. Perhaps doing something to document the experience during the pandemic would help them feel some sense of control over their environment. Gifted students may want to create an oral history of their own family, their neighborhood, their class, or school. It doesn’t have to be a big project; it can be accomplished with just one or two people. This may help gifted students feel as though they have some impact in the midst of our current situation.
Below are some examples of oral history projects, hints and tips for gathering oral history, and resources for teachers and students to help with an oral history project. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of resources, and there are many more resources available for you to investigate on your own.
Happy New Year and best wishes on beginning an oral history project!
Pandemic Oral History Project
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute
Pandemic Oral History Project
Smithsonian Pandemic Oral History Project Interviews
DEMI, Pandemic Oral History Project, Archives of American Art, 2020
Linda Lomahaftewa, Pandemic Oral History Project
Kay WalkingStick, Pandemic Oral History Project, Archives of American Art, 2020
Oral History Project: Pandemic Stories, St. Joseph Public Library, St. Joseph, MO
Oral History Project: Pandemic Stories
NYC COVID-19 Oral History, Narrative and Memory Archive — INCITE
Oral History Society, University of London
Advice on oral history interviewing during the Covid-19 pandemic
Oral History Society, University of London
A guide to oral history for schools and youth groups
COVID-19 Oral History Project, Tufts University
COVID-19 Sample Oral History Questions | DCA
The Oral History Review, Vol. 47, Issue 2, 2020
Socially Engaged Oral History Pedagogy amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Tell Us Your Pandemic Stories for Our Oral History
Oral History Program, UW-Madison
Oral History Program | UW Archives and Records Management
Oral History Association (OHA)
Oral History Association
Oral History Association Resources:
Technology: Oral History in the Digital Age
Web Guides to Doing Oral History
Oral History Association Educator's Resource (Examples and Sample Lesson Plans)
Oral History, Grades K-5
Oral History: A Writing Workshop Teaching Guide
Oral History: A Writing Workshop
Oral History Interview Guide and Worksheet
Supporting Your Gifted Child During COVID-19
In late November I read an article about the new class of Rhodes Scholars that was recently announced. There are 32 U.S. students who were selected as Rhodes Scholars for 2021. Among the new Rhodes Scholars is Santiago Potes from Miami, Florida who graduated from Columbia University in May 2020. He has a broad background, with a major in Asian Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and interests in physics, philosophy, social psychology, neuroscience, leadership, and languages. He also has published widely about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
The main point that struck me about Santiago was what he said about his elementary school gifted and talented teacher who worked with him from second through fifth grades. He credits this teacher with the success he has had throughout his life because she exposed him to a rigorous education, even though Santiago was classified as a DACA student under American immigration policies. As a child of illegal immigrants, Santiago was educated and succeeded in Miami because, in part, his elementary gifted and talented teacher recognized his gifts and helped him flourish. The fact that Santiago publicly credits his GT teacher with his success is such a gift to his teacher. Most teachers toil daily and seldom hear about the outcomes of their efforts with students. GT students may stay in touch with teachers who had meaning to them more than other students, but still most teachers never hear from their students. It is touching that this young man, now a Rhodes Scholar, gives credit to his elementary GT teacher and urges a national discussion about the importance of elementary school teachers, since they have such an influence, either positive or negative, over young minds.
As we try to identify and reach gifted students who have diverse culture, language, disability, race and ethnicity, religion, gender, age, socioeconomic status, immigration status, sexual orientation, or other characteristics, it is important to remember that the effort is worth it, for if we reach even one student like Santiago, just imagine the impact on the world. We can improve the lives of others in exponential ways we will never know. That is the essence of teaching, and working together with students and parents -- our collective impact on others to improve their life is assured.
During these challenging times, given how we must teach and learn during a pandemic, take heart that teachers and parents are of value, and are working together to influence our children and youth. They are always watching.
I wish you and yours a blessed and joyful holiday season.
American Rhodes Scholars-elect for 2021
Santiago Potes, District 7, Florida
Many students who are gifted have an incessant curiosity for knowing how things work. For many, it is not just a curiosity, but a vital need from deep within. These students explore everything until they know or figure out how it works. If you live with one of them, you know what I mean. It is exhausting to parent them as children because they may not consider danger in their explorations, they just need to know how things work. Anything that isn’t locked down or off-limits is fair game to them, and often being locked down or off-limits is meaningless, (or an additional challenge). In my household we learned very early on, (in toddlerhood), that we should keep shelves of items that were available to be taken apart at kid height, and other things that we needed intact had to be hidden away. Curiously, we found that everything that was taken apart was put back together correctly, or it was improved upon.
This week I saw a news story and video about an historic building in Shanghai that was moved to a new location to preserve its historic value, rather than knocking it down to make way for a new commercial center. The headline read that the building ‘walked’ to its new home. That intrigued me because I knew the move was an engineering marvel and required an enormous amount of advanced physics, math, and other technical skills. It is incredible to me that any building can be moved, but to see this 5-story concrete building ‘walking’ down the curved street was truly astonishing. Having an engineer in the household (all that taking apart led to a career), I knew that the brain power, technology, and skills that were used to move the building were astounding.
I thought about the learning that students could experience once they viewed the video and read about the task. This is the type of story that motivates students to delve deeper into STEM subjects and real-life uses of ordinary classes they have every day, classes that often become boring and tedious. Courses like algebra and physics are essential to moving a building, and related equations would be much more engaging than pages of worksheets. Working on a challenge to move something in their classroom or outside, or to simply figure out how the engineers accomplished it in Shanghai could provide the motivation for students to relate their learning to real-life problems. Even elementary students learn algebraic and physics concepts. Of course, advanced STEM skills were used, but the challenge for all students, including those who are gifted, is to figure out how things are done, and apply it to their world. Other experts were also involved, so subjects beyond STEM could also be involved in an interdisciplinary study. After all, someone had to dream up the idea of moving the building, write proposals to gain the permits, write the story and shoot the video for the news, among other tasks.
These are the types of student activities teachers should consider for lessons and units. Through them, students will learn, apply, and use STEM subjects. It is always within your purview to make a suggestion to your student’s teacher. Better yet, let your student work up a plan for an interdisciplinary unit, using a story such as the ‘walking building’ to delve deeper into STEM and other subjects. Encourage your child to share the plan with his/her teachers. Imagine all the learning and differentiation that could occur in this type of exploration!
1) Old Chinese Building ‘walks’ to New Location to Make Way for Shanghai’s New Commercial Centre
South China Morning Post
2) A 5-Story Building in Shanghai ‘walks’ to a New Location
CNN Style, Architecture
Jessie Yeung, CNN
Serenitie Wang, CNN
by Dr. Wanda Routier
Have you heard about this year’s WATG fall conference, Hands On-Minds On: Now More Than Ever? In a few short weeks the WATG fall conference will go virtual. The fall conference is always a time to meet new people, reconnect with friends and colleagues, and to learn some new tips and strategies for working with and/or parenting students who are gifted.
The virtual format will be a bit different from past years, but it still promises to provide the same opportunities for learning and renewal. Have you previewed the conference yet? If not, I recommend you visit the website at: https://www.watg.org/annual-conference.html There you will find tabs on the left to explore registration information, a conference schedule, keynote speaker bios, other highlights, and information about the parent to parent session and teen conference-both on Sunday. The teen conference focuses on Engineering Design Using the Arduino Uno and is facilitated by Maria Isabel Mendiola Ramirez, an award-winning teacher from Mexico, and Peter Haydock, a former teacher and curriculum developer who worked for National Geographic and Smithsonian.
There are many sessions on a variety of topics including differentiation, social-emotional learning, STEM topics, equity and diversity issues, and creativity. This year’s keynote speakers are Dr. Marcia Gentry speaking about Equity in Wisconsin on Monday, and Dr. Brian Housand speaking about the future of gifted education on Tuesday. There are three different registration levels which provide broader access to attend.
Mark your calendar for Sunday through Tuesday, October 18, 19, & 20, 2020, and go to www.watg.org to register. Enjoy the conference!
One of the things that many gifted students, parents, and teachers have mentioned to me over the summer is how they have been communicating with others, near and far, when we can’t always be together due to COVID-19. Families, friends, individuals, partners, teachers, students, relatives, and people in the community have been finding ways to communicate even though our plans may have drastically changed over the past few months.
It is important to remember that communication is highly valued even if we are not face-to-face. Many people have used Zoom, FaceTime, or other streaming apps to keep contact going over these months. Others talk on the phone more often. Still others use written or voice communication. It doesn’t matter which method you use, what does matter is that you keep in touch with people.
This is especially true as teachers and students return to school. Regardless of how students and teachers return to school, excellent communication is key to success. Communications should include the schedule of your school (whether in the classroom or online) and the schedule for school assigned work (e.g., whether students need to be in class online at a specific time or if they can work on assignments in their own way and on their own timeframe). If your family will not return to school at all and has chosen home-schooling, this also requires communication with the school.
As we begin the new school year, let’s all remember to continue to communicate with each other. We are all living, working, and playing in this changing time. Our lives are moving forward, and schooling is moving forward. A little understanding, and empathy goes a long way as we communicate with each other on a daily basis. I have added some resources to help you communicate with your child’s teacher/s and school. Have a wonderful year!
Ten Tips for Talking To Teachers (for students)
Dr. Jim Delisle, Judy Galbraith
How to Talk to Teachers: 10 Tips for Student Success
Talking with Your Child’s Teacher
How Two-Way Communication Can Boost Parent Engagement
10 Tips for Teachers When Working with Parents
During these past six interesting months I have had the time to read for pleasure. Normally, I don’t make the time nearly as much as I should because of work and other factors. I love reading, but the lack of time often gets in the way. This past spring, I started reading some children’s literature because I love this genre. I thought the stories would be a quick read, which would then motivate me to continue reading. I was right. I started with the children’s series, The Magic Tree House, that my own child loved, and after reading some of the newer books in the series I could see why our love for the series continues. I also enjoyed the Magic School Bus series. Some of you may know that the author of this series, Joanna Cole, passed away in July. She brought fiction/non-fiction and science to a whole new level with the stories about Mrs. Frizzle and her science class, a favorite of many children/adolescents.
While reading these books, I often thought about gifted children and adolescents and how many of them often have a voracious appetite for reading. They often begin reading early, or if reading late, they may begin by reading entire paragraphs and can read and comprehend far above their age/grade level. They can be held back in school in terms of reading selections, or may be told what they have to read. For these reasons, reading outside of school becomes especially important for them. This self-chosen reading has many names: leisure reading, recreational reading, reading for pleasure, and many more, I’m sure. The point is, it is child/adolescent driven. The child/adolescent has full control over what, when, why, where, and how they read.
Some gifted children/adolescents may prefer e-books on a tablet or cell phone because they can read anywhere. Others prefer hardcover or paperback versions because they like to feel every page. Still others prefer audio books because reading words is a tedious and difficult process. Some children/adolescents read at specific times during the day or evening and have a routine they follow. Others have specific places they read -- in their favorite bean bag chair, outside in the shade of a tree, or in a homemade sheet “tent” in the family room. Some children/adolescents read until they finish a complete chapter, while others are okay with stopping at a certain section within a chapter. Still others love to read book series and are relentless in their pursuit of reading (and perhaps collecting) every single book in the series, plus every new book in the series for the rest of their lives, regardless of how old they become. Some read one book at a time; others read many books simultaneously.
When children/adolescents are asked why they read, there are as many reasons as there are children. Some say it is because it transports them to other places or times. Others say it is their escape from people or the world for a short time, and still others have different reasons.
Some children/adolescents consider books to be almost sacred, and not to be desecrated by writing in them, annotating, or anything else; they are just to be read and savored. That is okay. Respect for these practices and beliefs is necessary.
Whatever the reason for reading, reading during childhood/adolescence is one of the best ways to develop mind, body, and spirit (it’s even good for adults). For gifted children, it may be the only time they have to use their imagination in ways very different from the real world, especially in school.
I encourage parents to give their gifted children/adolescents time during these last few weeks of summer vacation to read for pleasure -- whatever, wherever, whenever, and however they want to read (within reason, of course).
As adults, we know we are in a very stressful time this year with so much being unknown about how back to school will proceed, and how to keep children/adolescents safe and healthy. The concerns are many. Giving our children/adolescents time to immerse themselves in reading before the back-to-school rush, anxiety, and stress commence is a gift.
Below are some web links related to leisure reading. For more details, please talk with your local librarian. They have a wealth of knowledge and resources for all ages. Most libraries have online checkout, with e-books and audio books available to download, so one does not even have to go to the library and risk exposure, if that is a concern. Hopefully, library visits will be an activity we all can safely return to together sometime soon.
Leisure Reading Resources
Leisure Reading: A Joint Position Statement of the International Reading Association, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, and the National Council of Teachers of English (2014)
Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers
Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic (9/19/19)
2020 Summer Reading Lists, Birth-Grade 8
Assoc. for Library Services to Children (ALSC)
Division of the American Library Assoc. (ALA)
Topical Book Lists, Birth-Grade 8
Young Adult Library Services Assoc. (YALSA)
Division of the American Library Assoc. (ALA)
List of Children’s Book Series
List of Children’s Book Series
List by alphabetical order, age group, grade level equivalent, genre, and more
List of Children’s Book Series, Alphabetical Order
List of Children’s Book Series, Age Group (0-16+)
Ask the Doctor