Have you ever in your life wondered what was “behind the curtain?” Perhaps you were at a theater production, or a concert, and have wondered “what’s really going on behind that curtain? I can’t wait for it to open.” Perhaps you’ve looked at a completed project and wondered, “What’s “behind the curtain?” How was that accomplished so well? Who was responsible? How did they make it happen?” If you are a person who wonders about what is “behind the curtain,” then this article is for you.
As an organization, there is lots of activity going on “behind the WATG curtain.” We now know that many, many of you read our monthly newsletters and are aware of our many initiatives and the many hours that are spent on them. But are you aware of the reasons for the work? What beliefs and values underpin our work? Who is responsible for the work? What research guides our work? How can you help?
To more fully understand the scope of our work, you will want to check out our website at www.watg.org. The headline banners there provide a glimpse into the vast work that we are doing.
One of the banners that you will see is our justice for all banner. In June of 2020, in response to the events that were unfolding in the United States, our board of directors crafted this statement, ““Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou. “As our nation faces the grave consequences of long standing and systemic racism, the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted remains committed to equity and justice for all. As an organization, we are cognizant of the inequities in identification and educational programming for gifted students of color. We remain committed to examining these inequities, and rectifying these inequities. We pledge to do our part to dismantle structural and institutional racism. We invite partnerships with other institutions, groups, and individuals to share conversations about the impacts of race, and will work to listen, learn, and support each other in this critical process of changing our world.” Each month our justice for all task force meets to examine our work as a board through lenses of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Most recently, we have been working with Mark Schwingle, the gifted and talented consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Education to align our efforts with the work of DPI. If you choose the Equity tab on the menu bar, it will take you to a long list of resources that you may find helpful as well. Our task force is using these resources to guide our work.
Another banner provides information about our upcoming Townhall Meetings. Each month, WATG hosts a Townhall Meeting, open to all interested people. This is a relatively new offering, and is gaining momentum each month. Questions are posed, and participants are invited to share their ideas and resources. Topics in the past have included basic gifted education information, leadership, and most recently, growing gifted girls. What other topics would you like to see offered at our Townhall Meetings? We are always open to suggestions.
Yet another banner highlights our annual fall conference. This banner, and the banner on the accompanying Teen Conference, which is held in conjunction with our adult conference, will keep you updated on information regarding our conferences. These banners are almost like “sneak previews”, and are designed to whet your appetite for more learning.
With the help of our intern Everett, WATG has recently begun recording podcasts on a wide variety of topics of interest to educators and families. The podcast banner on our website will get you easily connected to our series of podcasts. In today’s busy world, podcasts are often a prime source of information. Again, we welcome suggestions regarding topics for future podcasts.
Logo contests and scholarship information are advertised in other banners on our website. These are opportunities for our young people to grow and show their talents. We invite you to explore these with your children or students.
Often we at WATG are asked about resources for programming for gifted students. Our resource page, newly developed, is packed with resource ideas on topics such as advocacy, artistic domain, assessment and identification, creativity domain, coordination, program development & evaluation, curriculum and instruction, equity, homeschooling, intellectual domain, leadership domain, parenting, parent-community-school partnerships, specific academic domain, social and emotional wellness, summer opportunities, and Wisconsin Gifted 101. It is a great place to find information, whether you are an educator, a parent, or a student. We highly recommend that you check out this section!
Our final banners encourage you to join WATG, and outline the many benefits of membership. You can also see photos of our hardworking board members, all volunteers.
Two newly added features that have recently been added to our website are the flip-open Membership Brochure, which highlights all of the benefits of WATG membership, partnership, and sponsorship, and a flip-book of our long-awaited Acceleration Report. We thank our intern, Camryn, for her work on incorporating these documents on our website.
Finally, our website is the place where we archive all of our newsletter items, articles, and blogs. This is a great place to “get the pulse” of gifted education, and to read up on gifted issues locally, in our state, our nation, and our world.
Now that you’ve been “behind the curtain,” we encourage you to stay for the show(s). Keep viewing our website, as the “show” changes frequently. Share the “show” with your friends and family, and consider sampling many of the “acts” that we provide. If you have an “act” to share, please send us your “script.” We’d love to have you on the stage with us!
(WATG extends a huge thank you to Dr. German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our families and educators who speak Spanish. The translation can also be found on our website.)
In our last month’s newsletter, we shared that WATG’s Membership Committee sent out a survey during the month of January. The purpose of the survey was to gauge how well we are doing as your state gifted organization. We wanted to find out what we are doing well, what we need to improve, and how we can more fully serve you, our constituents. In this month’s newsletter, we’d like to share some of the results of the survey with you. In the pie chart below, you will find that of our 96 respondents, 39.6% were members of our organization, 32.3% were not, and 28.1% were not sure if they were members. When asked why they were not members, 56.7% of non-members chose the option, “I am not sure what benefits I would get if I joined.” Clearly, as an organization we need to explain the benefits of membership more fully. Members, partners, and supporters enjoy these benefits: advocacy for gifted students at the local, state and national level (and our membership numbers count when we advocate at the state level for funding), access to high quality professional development (including our conference, workshops, webinars, and podcasts) for parents and educators, coaching and consulting services, briefings on the research of gifted education issues and topics on our website and social media sites, scholarships for gifted students and educators, and networking opportunities. Essentially, we offer a knowledgeable platform for gifted students and their parents and educators in Wisconsin. As an affiliate of NAGC, the National Association for Gifted Children, we are constantly kept abreast of national and international issues in gifted education, and share this information with our members.
In examining the data from the survey, we were surprised to find out that a large percentage of our respondents did not know if they were members of WATG. Because membership dues are part of the fee structure for our annual conference, we believe that some respondents (especially those who are signed up for our conference by gifted coordinators, for instance), did not know that they actually were members, even though they attended our conference.
It also came as no surprise that many priorities changed during the pandemic. Less people attended WATG’s virtual conference than our standard in-person conferences. School districts who often paid for past conference attendance were attending to other priorities, and many educators admitted to being “zoomed out” as a result of online teaching and learning. However, most respondents shared that they still utilized many of WATG’s services.
When asked about which WATG services were used by our respondents, it became evident that our monthly newsletters (71.3%), website (69.1%), conference (67%), and webinars (22.3%) were most popular. 75.3% of our respondents indicated that they read the newsletter every month, and some had suggestions for improving both the newsletter and website. Some members asked for more information on resources, technology tools, books and classroom ideas. Others asked for advice on parenting gifted kids, and how to help gifted kids make and keep friends. Still others asked for more information/publicity regarding upcoming podcasts, webinars, conferences, and other learning opportunities. One respondent shared this comment, “We belong to CESA6 & use their resources, but I APPRECIATE the WATG newsletter & the VALUABLE information by the various authors...I also link it for parents in my district.” This is encouraging information because it greatly expands the range of our message. It would be amazing if more district gifted coordinators would share our resources widely. We highly encourage it.
One very interesting set of statistics centered around conference attendance. In the graph below, you can see that many of our conference attendees attend each year. It was somewhat disappointing to see, however, that roughly a fourth of our respondents had never attended a WATG conference. We welcome ideas on how to improve this statistic. We are very hopeful that once the pandemic is mitigated, people will be eager to get together to network and learn face-to-face. Many respondents shared this sentiment!
Our survey also asked about WATG’s presence on social media, and our respondents who used social media overwhelmingly chose Facebook as a preferred platform. It was interesting to note that 50.5% of the respondents do not follow WATG on social media, and another 19.8% do not use social media at all. Though we did not ask about what kind of social media posts would be most helpful, we will continue to analyze our social media metrics to get further insight about this.
Though webinars and podcasts are relatively new additions to our WATG services, we were surprised to find that 28.7% of the survey respondents had watched a WATG webinar, and 5.3% of the respondents had listened to a WATG podcast (a most-recently debuted service). We are definitely planning to continue these services. The feedback assured us that these offerings work very well for our constituents, and fit into our busy lives.
Frequently suggested topics for webinars and podcasts included: Building and coordinating GT policy and programming on a budget (in rural, urban, and suburban districts), collaborating with other educators regarding gifted kids and best practice strategies, equitable identification of gifted and talented learners, differentiation and high-ceiling learning for gifted learners, equity issues in gifted education, culturally responsive and anti-racist teaching, trauma informed teaching, and an examination of successful models of programming for gifted learners in Wisconsin.
Also high on the list were parenting strategies, parenting and educating young gifted children, social and emotional needs of gifted children and adolescents, advocacy (both for individual children and for gifted programming), twice exceptional (2E) gifted kids, underachievement, motivation, and engagement in gifted kids, and homeschooling advice and ideas.
Finally, several respondents asked to hear success stories from students. How is gifted programming helping them, or how did gifted programming help them? What are their stories? This is great feedback, since human interest stories appeal to wide audiences. We will take this advice into consideration as we plan future programming.
When asked about what other events WATG could offer, in addition to ideas offered above, here are some suggestions we received:
Our organization has gleaned some very useful information from this survey, and we want to thank all of you who participated. We will be using this information as we prioritize and strategically plan future initiatives.
As promised, we randomly chose five respondents to receive a year’s free membership to WATG. WATG is pleased to announce these winners: M. Kennedy, P. Merrifeld, C. Henricks, S. Calhoun, and G. Schiller. Congratulations, winners!
In the meantime, everyone, please keep your suggestions coming. You can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are eager to hear from you and to grow with your help.
NEWS FROM THE BOARD
Excitement is definitely in the air at the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted. We are beginning this new year with much energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to our important work. We recently welcomed three new board members, Cory Jennerjohn, Dr. Sharon Alexander, and Christine Wyatt, who will bring new ideas and new perspectives to our work. We thank them for their commitment to gifted children, and their willingness to share their time and talents. As wise people know, “many hands make light work,” and as our board grows in numbers and expertise we are able to tackle more projects and make more progress in gifted education in Wisconsin.
Along with three new board members, WATG welcomes two outstanding young interns. Camryn Ballweg and Everett Harmelink came “on board” recently, and we are already in awe of their talents and energy. It is delightful to have such great young people share their expertise in marketing, web design, podcasts, and many other areas. They are definitely bringing our board into the 21st century, and planting new ideas! We are sure that you will see their footprints on our organization!
You may have also noticed that WATG is making great efforts to extend our inclusivity. We have begun a great partnership with Drs. Martha Lopez and German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools to have many of our materials translated into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking constituents. We extend our gratitude to Martha and German for their willingness to contribute to this endeavor. It is our hope that we can continue to reach out to other groups by securing additional people able and willing to translate; one hope is to reach out to the Hmong community with materials in their language, since Hmong is spoken in many parts of our state. If you or others are knowledgeable and willing, please contact us at email@example.com.
Another way that we at WATG are reaching out to our community is through this newsletter. Each month board members and others contribute to the newsletter with articles related to gifted education. We share ideas about parenting, tools for educating gifted children, research, book reviews, information about upcoming events, and other information pertinent to the world of gifted education. Here’s where you come in; perhaps you’ve read a book and would like to share a review; perhaps you have a tool or an idea that you’d like to share with other educators; perhaps you have some research you’d like to highlight or share; maybe you have an idea for parenting gifted children; maybe you are a gifted child with a poem or other work to share. The possibilities are endless. We invite you to submit your work to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ideas will be reviewed, and editing help will be provided if needed. The deadline for each month’s newsletter is the last Sunday of each month. It would be great to hear from you!
During the months of December and January, the WATG board solicited ideas from our constituents about how we could be more effective as a state organization. We asked questions about our current services, and about possible future services. At this writing, we are still receiving replies, and will be compiling the results in the very near future. We will share those results with you in our newsletter. We are hoping that your feedback will give us much to think about, and will help us plan to meet your needs more fully.
Finally, at WATG we have begun to carefully prioritize our work. There is always so much to do! One way that our membership committee has prioritized their work is to decide which groups, agencies, or individuals need to be given a top priority, and will help further our organization’s mission most effectively. We’ve begun plans to collaborate more effectively with our state’s twelve CESAs (Cooperative Educational Services Areas) to disseminate information about gifted education. We’re also engaging with other organizations, such as the Wisconsin School Counselors’ Association, and will be presenting at their conferences. We are working to establish more effective partnerships, collaborations, and membership in our organization.
In a similar manner, our government action committee has prioritized the next election for state superintendent of schools. It is important to us to have a state leader who understands the educational needs of gifted and talented students.
Our programming committee has prioritized our annual fall conference, and is beginning to firm up keynote speakers and specialized presenters. They are pleased to share that our conference, “Leading the World into the Future,” will be held on October 4 & 5 at the Wilderness Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. Featured will be Dr. Gloria Billings-Ladson, Dr. Jonathan Plucker, and Alonzo Kelly, an expert on leadership. Additionally, our programming committee will be featuring learning events such as webinars and podcasts throughout the year.
All in all, 2021 is indeed shaping up to be an exhilarating time. We have much talent “on board,” and look forward to combining our talent with your ideas. Please consider ways that you can be part of the adventure!
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found in our website blogs.)
NEWS FROM THE BOARD
Happy New Year from the WATG board! After the unforgettable year of 2020, we truly hope that 2021 is a fresh start for all of us, and the WI Association for Talented and Gifted also looks forward to new ideas and fresh starts.
One of the ways that WATG has begun to look at the new year is to reimagine some of the ways that we work together as a board. Our strength as an organization relies on our Executive Assistant and a highly dedicated group of volunteer board members who work tirelessly on behalf of gifted individuals in Wisconsin. We also rely on volunteers who choose to work with us on shorter term projects as well. An example of this is the cadre of fabulous speakers who join us every year to present at our fall annual conference, and we are truly thankful for them. Another example is the group of people who volunteer to translate portions of our newsletter into Spanish for our Spanish speaking constituents. We are truly grateful to them as well.
As our board met in late 2020 to envision our future, we decided to tap further into the talent, wisdom, and commitment of additional volunteers who are willing to work on shorter term projects with us. As we envisioned this change, we created a number of task forces -- groups of people, headed by a “point person” on the WATG board -- who would tackle shorter term projects, sharing their skill sets and interests. Some of these task forces will work in short but repeated bursts; others will work briefly on projects that occur only during certain times of the year. Still others may require sustained effort over time. Each of these task forces was created to share the work of the board, and to invite more talent to the table. For 2021, our task forces include these:
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found below.)
(WATG desea extender un gran agradecimiento al Dr. German Díaz de las escuelas de Milwaukee por traducir este artículo al español para nuestras familias y educadores de habla hispana. La traducción también se puede encontrar en nuestros blogs de sitio web.)
During November, the WATG Board finished debriefing our highly successful virtual conference in October “Hands On, Minds On: Now More Than Ever,” and began crafting concrete plans for the future. There is much work to do, and we have a core group of dedicated board members, all volunteers, to lead the way. Since 1972, the mission of WATG has been to raise public awareness about the unique needs of gifted individuals, and our committee goals reflect this.
Our Programming Committee is charged with developing and presenting programming regarding gifted education and gifted students in our state. The committee goals for 2021 are:
Our Government Action Committee committed to these goals:
Our Membership Committee goals include the following:
Additionally, as a Board we decided to create dedicated Task Forces to tackle short-term, but highly important projects during the coming year. These Task Forces will complement the work of the board, and will help us fulfill our mission. Our Task Forces include:
As with all important work, much can be accomplished when many minds, hands, and hearts work together. If you have time and talent to share to help us accomplish our goals, please contact us at www.watg.org. This would be a lovely holiday gift to the children in Wisconsin (and to yourself), and we’d love to have you “on board.” Please consider joining us. Together we can touch the future.
(WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to German Diaz of Milwaukee Public Schools for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators.)
As we reflect on our Virtual Fall Conference, “Hands On - Minds On: Now More Than Ever,” we are grateful, now, more than ever, for all of the hands and minds that it took to make this conference a great success.
A huge thank you goes out to our keynote speakers, Dr. Marcia Gentry and Dr. Brian Housand, who gave us some clear insight into the state of gifted education in Wisconsin. Their presentations were coupled with many concrete suggestions, and with much inspiration as we continue on our journey of inclusion and diversity. We have a long way to go, but our heads, our hands, and our hearts are dedicated to this work, and we invite all of you to join with us.
Another huge thank you goes out to our breakout session speakers. With over 40 great offerings to choose from, these speakers gave us valuable and timely information, and shared many ideas of what is working well in Wisconsin. They all rocked it! We can’t thank them enough for their willingness to join us on this virtual journey, and to learn and grow with us.
Our virtual teen conference was also an outstanding success, with over 50 students and some very supportive parents and teachers in attendance. We know that these teens will benefit from this experience, and will enjoy the Arduino kits that they received for years to come. We extend our thanks to all who made this wonderful learning adventure possible!
Once again our parent conference was well received and appreciated by our participants. Thank you to all of the parents who shared their wisdom, and adapted well to our virtual format; though the format was different, the sharing was, as always, authentic and heartfelt. Thank you for supporting each other in the parenting journey.
This year we chose to invite pre-service educators from our state’s colleges and universities to attend our conference free of charge. They brought enthusiasm, and fresh perspectives to our conference, and we thank them for accepting our invitation. We know that we will continue to include students in our conferences in the future!
It was reported that some of our unconference zoom rooms, our informal gathering, went on well into the evening. This was a testimony to the need for all of us to stay connected, even during a pandemic. We are glad that so many of you took us up on that opportunity! Staying connected is important, now more than ever.
We thank all of you, our participants, for your questions, your patience, and your willingness to go on this virtual conference journey with us. Though the format was different, the spirit of learning, and sharing, and questioning remained evident. Here in Wisconsin we’ve built a great network of educators and parents who are committed to gifted individuals in our state, and it was heartwarming to be together.
Finally, we’d like to extend a huge thank you to our exhibitors, who ventured into this virtual format with energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to try out new ways of sharing. We thank you for your time, expertise, and commitment to gifted learners. We hope that you had a successful experience this year, and we look forward to working with you again next year, in whatever format is possible.
As a reminder, many of our sessions were recorded, and, depending on the conference registration level that you chose, you will be able to view them at your leisure until the middle of December. For those of you who are extremely busy during these unusual times, we are sure that this feature is most welcome, and we urge you to catch up on sessions that you might have missed and want to view.
As a board, this virtual conference provided us with many challenges and deep learning experiences. Like many of you who are braving the joys and challenges of online learning, we on the WATG Board had a steep learning curve. We pivoted to planning this conference virtually in April when we realized that a face-to-face conference would not be feasible. We spent most of the spring, summer, and early fall exploring, formulating, reformulating, and refining our plans. We had a lot of learning to do! Just as online teaching is definitely much more work than in-person teaching, we found that a virtual conference was much more time-consuming, and we learned many lessons along our journey.
First and foremost, we learned that you, our participants, were flexible and gracious people. As we inevitably had some glitches along the way, you rolled with it. You learned on a new platform, and pivoted with changes along the way. You were patient with us as we problem solved, often right before your eyes. And you remained kind and understanding. We thank you!
In retrospect, we also learned that we, as a Board, were a great team, and that we were capable of learning and growing. Board members pulled together, shared the work, and challenged each other to use our skills to make this the best conference possible in a new and unfamiliar format. If you could have peeked “behind the curtain” before and at the conference, you would have seen camaraderie, problem-solving, decision-making, and creative and critical thinking in action. You would also have seen some frustration, heartfelt encouragement, and unique (and much appreciated) senses of humor. You might have even seen a few glasses of wine... Our genuine admiration and appreciation goes out to our executive director, “General” Nancy Woodward, who handled everything with grace and infinite patience. Nancy’s skill and dedication to the WI Association for Talented and Gifted continues to be a joy to watch. We are very fortunate to have her, especially as we navigated new territory virtually.
It occurred to many of us on the Board that this year, “more than ever,” we were given a rare opportunity to grow beyond our comfort zone. At this writing, we are hoping to add several new board members to our ranks, and are looking for individuals who are willing to work hard, learn new skills, move beyond their personal comfort zone, and make a difference in the lives of gifted and talented individuals in the state of Wisconsin. We are looking for people who have a “Hands On -- Minds On” attitude, and a “Heart On” dedication to service. Maybe that’s you? If it is, please contact us at www.watg.org. We’d love to talk to you about this opportunity. We promise that you, too, will learn and grow!
As we move into this fall season of 2020, we acknowledge that many of you are feeling swamped. We know that you may be dealing with various learning formats if you are an educator. Perhaps you are face-to-face, perhaps you are virtual, or perhaps you are in a hybrid model. The possibilities are endless, and the workload is heavy, heavier than ever before. We know that you are tired and feeling an exhaustion that you never knew was possible.
Perhaps you are a parent or guardian of a gifted child or adolescent, and are struggling with the new paradigms of schooling. Perhaps you are worried about your child, and are wondering how to keep your child challenged, motivated, engaged, and in love with learning. Perhaps you have sensed that educators are being asked to mitigate the effects of the emergency schooling last spring, and that your child is frustrated with the pace and content of learning so far this year.
Perhaps you are an administrator charged with educating all students, and want to ensure that all learners are learning new things every day at school, in whatever setting this is occurring.
If any, or all of these scenarios ring true, we have some great news for you! As many of you know, the fall 2020 WATG conference, “Hands On - Minds On: Now More Than Ever” has gone virtual! Being virtual offers so many positive ways to mitigate the stress of our current situations.
First of all, we will be offering the same dynamic, cutting edge, inspirational programming that you have grown accustomed to when attending our previous conferences. Check out our full schedule and registration here, and allow us to share some of the highlights.
Sunday, October 18 will feature teen events and a parent conference. The teen conference will engage students with fabulous fascinating hands-on learning presented by Gearbox Labs. Students will be coding, experimenting, and creating in their own homes with materials sent to them in advance. Now, more than ever, our teens need time to be with other teens who are interested in some of the same things.
If you are a parent or guardian, the parent conference on Sunday, October 18 will be a warm and inviting place to be. Parents will join in a facilitated zoom conference, and will share the joys and challenges of parenting gifted kids. Our facilitators, Dal and Jackie Drummer are nationally certified SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted) trainers and facilitators, and have almost 100 combined years working with gifted kids. Every year this workshop has received high acclaim. Parents find this gathering to be stimulating, comforting, humorous, and reassuring, and this year you can do it from the comfort of your own home! Now, more than ever, parents need each other.
Monday, October 19, we will kick off the remaining exciting lineup of speakers, including keynoters Dr. Marcia Gentry and Dr. Brian Housand. Dr. Gentry will speak on the topic of “missingness” in gifted education in our state, citing data, and offering concrete ways to identify and serve diverse populations. Dr. Housand will offer more concrete ways to pave the way for better and fairer services for all gifted learners. Both of our keynote speakers will offer breakout sessions on timely topics, and will share resources and materials.
Monday, October 19 and Tuesday, October 20 will feature nearly 40 sessions on topics that will offer new insights, challenge your thinking, and give you fresh perspectives and ideas. And the best thing about all of these workshops is that they, too, can be viewed from the comfort of your own home, or from your school. Most of our workshops will be recorded so that you can view them on demand, or listen to them more than once. Session recordings will be archived for 60 days. In this way, our premier virtual conference provides you with more flexibility than ever before possible. You will save travel time, hotel expenses, and can fit them into your schedule. Think of them as a treat that you give to yourself, and you can even enjoy them with a beverage of your choice! Now, more than ever, we may need inspiration and reassurance.
Perhaps you are looking for more materials or resources that are cutting-edge for your gifted learners. Our exhibitors will be ready and eager to help you, and to answer all of your questions. You can chat with them virtually, and even order materials online, saving you time and energy.
Many of you may be longing for the face-to-face camaraderie of a live convention, and for some equally lively dialog on topics related to gifted education. Maybe you just want to catch up with old friends or make new friends! Maybe you want to “pick the brains” of colleagues. We’ve got that covered too! Sunday evening, October 18 at 6:00pm, our Zoom Unconference will help to fill that void. We will be offering eight rooms to choose from, with each room focusing on one of these topics: Equity in Gifted Ed, Parenting Can Be Lonely, Twice Exceptional (2E) Students, Acceleration in Our Schools, How to Become a WATG Board Member, Advocacy Within a School, Advocacy at the State Level, and Gifted Potpourri - Bring Your Questions. Fix yourself a snack, pour yourself a beverage, put your feet up, and zoom in! It will be so good to see your faces and hear your voices, and simply be together! Now more than ever we need each other!
If this is your first time accessing a virtual conference, please don’t worry. Our platform is very accessible and intuitive, and more directions will be made available to you as you register.
During these uncertain times, we all deserve some moments of pleasure. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled
You read "Ulysses,” I'll Eat Potato Chips: Science Defends Simple Pleasures researchers in Europe found that short term hedonism may be as satisfying as long term accomplishments. Indeed, these scientists confirmed that things that bring us pleasure are exactly what we need during these difficult times. For many of us in the field of gifted education, learning and growing and sharing and being with our “tribe” are exactly the pleasures that we need right now.
So, do yourself a favor, indulge yourself, and register for the fall 2020 WATG Virtual Conference “Hands On - Minds On: Now More Than Ever.” We guarantee that now, more than ever, you will be glad that you did!
As many of you may know, the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted Board of Directors crafted this statement on social justice and equity on June 5, 2020 in the wake of the events that rocked our nation:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
“As our nation faces the grave consequences of long standing and systemic racism, the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted remains committed to equity and justice for all. As an organization, we are cognizant of the inequities in identification and educational programming for gifted students of color. We remain committed to examining these inequities, and rectifying these inequities. We pledge to do our part to dismantle structural and institutional racism. We invite partnerships with other institutions, groups, and individuals to share conversations about the impacts of race, and will work to listen, learn, and support each other in this critical process of changing our world.”
Though crafting a statement such as this may be easy, carrying out the promises and the work of the statement is the true test of intention married to commitment and follow-through.
As we have progressed through the summer, our board has dedicated conscious effort to hold ourselves accountable. At every meeting, we lift up our statement and reflect on ways that we are carrying out its intent and its promise. We ask hard questions; we seek answers. We reflect on terms such as equity and excellence; we look for evidence of them in our work. We choose to dedicate parts of our social media presence to explore what is being done to ensure fairness in identification and programming in gifted education. We explore topics such as diversity in hiring in the field of education, and ways to increase diversity on our board. We encourage and welcome speakers to our annual fall conference who will speak on topics of diversity, “missingness” in gifted education, our data regarding race and ethnicity and gifted programming, and ways to “level the playing field.” We speak at other state conferences with ideas to increase representation in gifted education. And we ask for your help in doing the social justice work in your districts, your schools, your classrooms, and your homes.
In a recent article from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) entitledAction Steps and Additional Resources: Black Lives Matter in Gifted Educationauthor Jessica Stargardter suggests ways that all of us can promote anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. She speaks, first of all, of doing the work of educating ourselves. Whether we are reading, listening, questioning, discussing, sharing ideas, we need to be informed. We need to do the anti-racist work in our own lives, and then apply it to our lives and our practices.
As educators, we must be vigilant about practices that are inclusive surrounding identification, programming, and support. When identifying, we must include families in the process and provide communication in multiple languages along the way. We must ensure that we will identify a pipeline of talent that begins with young diverse gifted students and supports them consistently along the way. We must guard against bias in identification, work critically with our colleagues, and use multiple measures that honor different ways of showing the gifts and talents of students.
When we program, we must provide talent development opportunities that begin with our youngest learners, include families along the way, and support students and families, especially during transition years (e.g., at entrance, between elementary and middle school, middle and high school, and high school and post-secondary). To program effectively for diverse learners, we must effectively attract and retain diverse teachers, for these teachers will provide understanding and role modeling for equity and excellence. Finally, we must hold governance (administration, school boards, legislators) accountable for examining and rectifying equity and justice issues.
At the classroom level, we must utilize resources that celebrate diversity, and examine history through a lens of justice and equity. We must teach creative and critical thinking skills, allow for voice and choice, and find space for students to discuss race and racism in a safe environment. We must continually assess our own progress in the quest for a more fair and just world, and share our frustration and continued commitment.
Finally, in our homes, we must have critical conversations about race and racism. We must ask hard questions of ourselves and each other. We must ask questions of our school boards, cities, states and nation, and discuss answers with our children. We must answer hard questions from our children, and know that they are often extremely insightful about these issues. Finally, we must find ways to put our words into action.
One way you can put your thoughts and words into action is to attend our WATG virtual conference, “Hands-On, Minds-On: Now More Than Ever” on October 18-20. At this conference we will open conversations, share insights, and make commitments to the hands-on work of our minds. We will pledge to do the work of promoting equity and social justice, and will ask for your help. We cannot do this work alone, and we charge all of you to do your part. We encourage you to join us on this journey, and to share your joys and challenges. The time is right for this important work -- NOW MORE THAN EVER!