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!
Last year, the WATG Board chose the theme “Hands On - Minds On” for our annual fall conference. Little did we know how prescient that choice was to be!
As 2020 has unfolded, we began to realize that this year was going to be a “Hands On - Minds On” year, now more than ever, and so we amended our conference’s theme to be “Hands On - Minds On: Now More Than Ever!” More than that, we amended so many ways that we do things as a board.
Now more than ever, we as a board are meeting virtually and often, and have many, many projects in the works which require many minds and many hands. Let us share some of our highlights.
As many of you probably know, our conference will be October 18-20, and will be presented virtually. This has required much new learning, and we are all growing because of it. The behind-the-scenes work of a virtual conference has stretched board members and our amazing executive assistant to collaborate in ways that are new and exciting. We will be offering two thought-provoking keynote addresses: Dr. Marcia Gentry will speak on “Equity in Wisconsin” and will address our state reports cards concerning access and equity in gifted identification and programming. Dr. Brian Housand’s keynote address is entitled “Where Do We Go From Here? Charting the Course Ahead for Gifted Education,” and he will focus on identifying some of gifted education’s greatest challenges and re-examine them as opportunities for growth. Complementing these thought-provoking keynote addresses will be a myriad of outstanding breakout sessions, chat opportunities, a lobby, exhibitors’ presentations, a zoom “unconference, social get-together,” a zoom facilitated parent discussion room, a teen conference, and many other surprises. This is going to be a premiere conference like no other! Registration information will be announced very soon, so stay tuned and plan to join us.
While our Programming Committee has been exceptionally busy, other committees have been equally engaged in “Hands On - Minds On” work.
Our Legislative and Government Action Committee has been closely following developments in the state and national arenas, and is poised to act when the timing is right. We maintain informational and working relationships with legislators on issues that pertain to gifted education, and look for your help when we mobilize for action.
Our Membership Committee has been developing a comprehensive list of potential members, partners and supporters of gifted education in Wisconsin, and is in contact with them, growing relationships and suggesting ways that we can help each other during these new and challenging times. If you have ideas for potential collaborations, please contact us with your suggestions.
Our Acceleration Team has recently finished an extremely comprehensive report entitled “Advanced Learning and Accelerated Learning in Wisconsin: Moving Wisconsin Students FORWARD.” This report reflects several years of hard work by a highly dedicated team, and will be made public during the first week of August. You will want to check the WATG website, watg.org, to examine this report. Plans are being made to disseminate the report, present findings at various gatherings, and organize future informational sessions. Again, stay tuned!
WATG board members have also been highly active in many other arenas. We have been engaged with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the WI Gifted and Talented Consultant, Mark Schwingle, on zoom meetings to discuss the “Education Forward: Reopening Wisconsin’s Schools” report. We are especially pleased to see that gifted education has been showcased in this report. See pages 77-79 for the specific recommendations.
Additionally, board members have been active and presenting at various conferences, workshops, and webinars locally and nationally. Some of these include WPEN (the Wisconsin Public Education Network), SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted), and NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Affiliate and Leadership workshops.
An upcoming webinar entitled “Meeting the Needs of Gifted Children in Your Classroom” will be presented by WATG board advisor Jackie Drummer on August 18, 7:30-8:30pm. Jackie brings decades of work as a gifted coordinator and differentiation specialist to this presentation. Registration details are available at Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted.
Finally, WATG Board members remain committed to serving the needs of our constituents on a daily basis. We often field calls for information and support. We do our best to act as “conduit” between our constituents and solutions that fit their needs. As you might imagine, we have had many conversations lately!
All of the work of the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted is possible because dedicated volunteers share their brilliant minds and their serving hands. We welcome new board members, and others who want to partner with us for short-term or long-term projects. Again, contact us at watg.org. Now, MORE THAN EVER, the time is right to volunteer to make a difference for gifted learners in our state!
As current events surrounding racial justice unfolded in our nation, the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted Board of Directors, on June 5, 2020, united with this public 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. As always, we are dedicated to examining and rectifying these discrepancies. 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.”
As an affiliate of NAGC.org, the National Association for Gifted Children, the Board of Directors of WATG supports their public statement, NAGC Denounces Racism and Stands for Social Justice, and mirrors their call for action: “We must do our part to confront systemic and institutional racism. Action is being taken now on collecting and developing resources that address the issues of racism and racial injustice for gifted students. Plans are also being developed with the Board of Directors on additional actions NAGC can take to further address issues of social justice, underserved populations, and supporting Black gifted students and scholars.“
In both vision and mission, WATG and NAGC share common goals, shared vision and shared mission. However, now the time has come to support our words with action, and WATG is committed to shared further action.
To give you an idea of some of the steps WATG has taken in the past, and some recommendations for the present and future, please refer to our,NEWS FROM THE BOARD article of December 2019 entitled “Equity and Excellence.” As a Board, we recognize that our work is ongoing, and will never be completely done. We are grateful for the opportunity to grow. Here are some of the steps that we are committed to taking in the present and future to help us grow:
First, WATG continues to take deliberate steps to share resources that address the issues of racism and racial injustice. During the month of June, on our Facebook page, we shared lists of resources to encourage conversations about these topics. Here are some of the links:
Books to Help Kids Talk About Racism,
20 Picture Books for 2020: Readings to Embrace Race, Provide Solace & Do Good
We also suggested, for adults, resources to begin discussions about race, racism, and social justice. Some of the resources featured included:
Stamped From the Beginning,
How to Be an Anti-Racist,
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,
Just Mercy, and
Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century
While we realize that there are many more resources specifically targeting the conversations around gifted individuals and social justice, these resources offer ways to encourage the critical and difficult conversations that underpin the work that must be done. We will continue to share resources that support doing our part in gifted education, and we invite you to do the same. If something moves you and speaks to your heart, please share it with us. If some research becomes available, if some injustice is uncovered, if some group or individual exemplifies best practice in social justice, please share it with us. We are called to act together.
At this writing, we at WATG are currently in the process of planning our Annual Fall Conference, though this year it will be a virtual conference offered on October 19th and 20th, 2020. Our theme this year is, “Hands On, Minds On: Now More Than Ever,” and our keynote speakers are Dr. Marcia Gentry and Dr. Brian Housand. Dr. Gentry’s keynote, “Equity in Wisconsin” will address our state report cards concerning access, equity, and “missingness” in gifted education. Her findings are timely, important, and matter to students from underserved groups and their educators. Dr. Housand’s keynote, “Where Do We Go From Here? Charting the Course Ahead for Gifted Education” will identify some of gifted education’s greatest challenges, and reexamine them as opportunities for growth. He will explore a roadmap of ways to reverse the long history of underrepresented populations in gifted programs, outline strategies for developing more critical consumers of information and media, and develop meaningful learning experiences designed to challenge gifted students in a variety of learning environments. We are currently finalizing our lineup of breakout sessions, some of which will address racism and injustice in gifted education, so expect much food for thought, and much opportunity for action. Our goal is to stimulate and activate our conference attendees!
Finally, as we at WATG further our mission to raise public awareness about the unique needs of gifted individuals, we vow to remain vigilant in pursuing social justice for all so that our work reflects sensitivity, passion, and commitment. We welcome your help, your calling us to task, your commitment to having difficult conversations, and your willingness to support us in our efforts. We welcome learning and growing together, for it’s only when we share vision, mission, and action that real and lasting change happens.
The “indefinite present” moment that we are currently experiencing during this pandemic has certainly given us more time and space to read, and ponder, think, and plan. It is often during these times of paused reflection that we can analyze some of the best ideas emerging from the great thinkers in our world, and generate ideas and plans for the future. This is true for individuals as well as for organizations.
A recent lengthy report in the newsletter from the World Gifted Organization has given us much to think about. The article, entitled Delegate Discourse, contains a brief synopsis of current issues, plans, and best future thinking of 23 countries in the realm of gifted education. These countries include Algeria, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
While all of these countries are in different places in the development of gifted and talented research and programming, all are committed to serving the needs of high end learners. Here are some of the highlights from some of the countries:
Algeria reported that “attention to research (about gifted and talented students) has increased...The Algerian Association for the Gifted and Talented has also been advocating for the gifted by preparing a guide for the association, conducting radio and television interviews, and using the written press.”
Along with reports from various gifted associations around their country, Australian delegates reported that “State and territory education ministers have recently agreed on a revised national declaration on education goals for young Australians (2019). These goals are (1) The Australian education system will promote excellence and equity (2) All young Australians will become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community.”
Canadian delegates reported these emerging and ongoing issues: “Historical underprovision for First Nations (indigenous) learners also includes gifted students in this population who are also much less likely to be identified than non-First Nations gifted students; this problem is receiving increased attention across the nation. Gifted learners are part of the Special Education array, but teacher pre- and post-certification courses tend strongly to focus on the other areas of special education such as autism, learning disabilities, and mental health/behavioral canada World Gifted newsletter May 2020 page 10 issues. As a result, new teachers receive very little preparation and develop little understanding of the needs of gifted learners. Therefore, they often fail to recognize gifted students in classrooms. If they do become aware of these learners, their repertoire of responses is very limited in comparison to the strategies for other special needs students. Increasingly, parents are raising issues of inappropriate responses from schools regarding their gifted children, and their interest in establishing parent advocacy groups is growing. Interest is also growing in advocating for giftedness as an area of increased emphasis in teacher education programs. Additionally, there are signs of growing interest and activity among researchers, teachers, and parents in two areas with respect to gifted learners: social emotional development, and effective responses to support complex twice-exceptional learners.”
Delegates from the Czech Republic shared some of the current frustration with programming for gifted students in their country with these words: “Of course, there are a number of public schools that are of high quality despite the current problems. However, the number of applicants for admission to these schools significantly exceeds their capacity. Therefore, many parents who want to provide quality education to their children create private schools. This situation is unfavorable for those gifted children who do not have the opportunity to attend a school capable of working with them.”
Though the delegate from Denmark spoke highly of many services for gifted students, he also expressed this concern, “Just before Christmas, the new Social Democratic government, elected in June 2019, sent a sad message for the gifted and talented in Denmark when it announced that the 65 million Danish Crowns allocated for talent projects and research in Denmark will be taken away from talent funding and instead used to lift the general educational system. Many students, professionals, and parents have expressed concern that gifted students will be lost in an egalitarian political system where we are perceived as all being the same. We will have to think creatively in the future.”
Germany’s delegate focused on many facets of the German educational system, but closed with these words, “ Some states (in Germany) have no figures at all on grade skipping, the most common form of acceleration, and have never had them, let alone on any other form of acceleration. There is very little teacher training on it, so few teachers and schools know how to select, prepare, and support children for whom this form of education is the best option. Therefore, it is no surprise that it sometimes goes wrong, leading teachers to assume that ‘acceleration is no good.’” Acceleration will be a focus in German gifted education.
Hong Kong highlighted their ongoing project entitled GIFT (Giftedness Into Flourishing Talents). According to the reporting delegate, “The project has had an impact on the Hong Kong community and the field of gifted education through building the capacity of educators to enhance the strengths of all students and, in particular, to identify and nurture students with giftedness and talents. The fundamental principles underpinning the project are to enable students to understand their own interests and strengths, develop their gifts and talents to actualize their potential, and empower parents to understand the characteristics and needs of their gifted children and provide appropriate support. The project also has a focus on developing evidence-based assessment and intervention programs and practices, together with curriculum and learning resources for school-based implementation.”
Israel reported focusing on these things: Teachers’ Professional Development Program, learning about the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom, meeting students’ social needs, and promoting teachers’ pedagogical skills. Additionally, Israel is focusing on musically gifted students. (About 224 musically gifted students were identified with a new tool developed especially for gifted students in music. Their school curriculum will be adjusted, and they will be entitled to enrichment hours tailored to their unique talents). Finally, Israel showcased their Online Parents Assist Center. The Division opened an online help and guidance center for parents.
Jamaica shared that, “We continue to expand and maintain our existing regular and pilot programs to promote and advance the cause of giftedness in Jamaica and this region of the world. These programs include: (i) Deokoro Magnet Schools for the Gifted and Talented elementary and high schools; (ii) the Caribbean Centre for Giftedness and Creativity (CCGC) POPIN Gifted Clubs in schools and PEP-A-STEM resource centres; (iii) the Gifted Education Consultancy for universities, colleges, schools, and teacher-associations (government and private); (iv) psycho-metric and psychoeducational screening and assessment of gifted children; (v) counseling services for parents and teachers of gifted and other exceptional students; and (vi) conference presentations and professional development workshops.”
Jordan showcased a number of their activities that centered around international competitions, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.
Lebanon reported that, “Three Lebanese universities are offering new courses at the undergraduate and the graduate levels on gifted education. There is also an increase in the number of in-service training workshops for school teachers and practitioners. At the research level, Lebanon has witnessed a growth in the amount of research conducted in the field of giftedness, especially by university graduate students. There has also been an increased interest in developing enrichment activities for gifted students, prompting a few educators to participate at Confratute during the summer.”
Mexico’s delegate shared that new schools are opening for gifted students, especially in Mexico City. At the writing of the report, a major conference was planned to showcase many of the projects of talented students. Additionally, “2019 ended the first stage of professional attention to gifted programs in Mexico. Our work expanded the development of scientific events and increased the number of success stories of talented students while also setting the stage in Mexico for the arrival of a new generation of gifted students in the next decade.”
New Zealand reported lofty goals for 2020. They include: “Implementing an extended package of support for gifted children and young people, establishing study awards to allow gifted learners to undertake extension study and projects, establishing study awards to build teacher capability in gifted education, extending current supports to early childhood education services (including the transition into primary school), increasing access to One Day Schools or similar and mentored online learning opportunities where One Day Schools cannot be accessed, and continuing to work with the gifted education expert group to monitor and evaluate the gifted learner package of supports.”
Saudi Arabia shared an emerging promising program at their University of Jeddah. It focuses on talent development over time. Here is a synopsis: “Policies, research, and pedagogical models in gifted education have mostly focused on serving and nurturing gifted students while they are in grade school. However, less attention has been paid to the persistence and sustainability of gifted education programs in higher education and beyond. The gap between how we nurture giftedness and talents in primary education and how we do so in higher education is becoming a critical issue in the gifted education system around the globe. Two questions frequently posed are, “Do students identified as gifted in schools become extraordinarily accomplished when they are adults in society? Why do we lose many bright, gifted students in adulthood?” Emerging work will center on researching and strategizing to answer these questions.
In Slovenia, though there is some support for gifted education, the model is not nationally cohesive. The delegate from Slovenia expressed this hope: “It is expected that with the new version of the White Paper on Education in the Republic of Slovenia, planned for the next couple of years, gifted education will get the opportunity to develop further in accordance with contemporary professional guidelines and empirical findings from recent CRSN (Center for Research and Promotion of Giftedness) research projects.”
The delegate from Spain reported on the work of a group from Catalonia that has been doing countless informational conferences to different Catalan schools for teachers, administrative staff, and parents, as well as round tables about Creativity and High Intellectual Abilities and Clinical Pathologies, Double Exceptionality, etc. Additionally, special commissions have been formed to deal with specific tasks. A Research Commission is going to create a resource guide for different communities to use as a reference, and to help them put pressure on their institutions. A Secondary Commission is studying reasons for a possible drop in secondary performance of students. The Expertise Committee is creating a new accreditation process for psychological experts. The Creativity Commission is working to collaborate with several schools,. Plans are being made to bring together representative professionals from various groups (gifted, AACC, dyslexia, ADHD, transgender people, etc.) to ensure that viable and practical protocols are designed and implemented for each group.
Sweden reported that, “During the second half of 2019, some important steps have been made in the progress of gifted education in Sweden. In June, the Swedish government gave the Swedish National Agency of Education (SNAE) an assignment to propose how schools can improve the support and stimulation of students of all ages who easily reach the curriculum benchmarks. The purpose is to improve realistic opportunities for enrichment and acceleration for these students, regardless of where they live in the country. In the assignment, the government specifically mentions opportunities to accelerate and to take courses and earn grades at the next level of the education system. For example, a primary school student could take mathematics at the secondary level, an upper secondary school student could take English at the university level, etc.”
The delegate from Switzerland shared that Switzerland has, for the last 15 years had, “a research and scientific-based and practical program for the continuous education of teachers to become specialists or experts in gifted education and talent development.” He also reported that, “The schools in Zurich restructured their programs in gifted education. The new model presents an arrangement of ongoing and gapless promotion activities and formats from inclusive gifted education to pull-out-programs within the schools to out-of-school activities, with a research center for high achievers and mentoring programs.” Additionally, “The Swiss Teacher Association presented a position paper to the Swiss Board of Education. This paper requested that the board provide schoolwide and nationwide gifted education programs in Switzerland. The paper is very important because Switzerland, as a federalist nation with 26 different cantons, each with its own school laws and policies, does not have any national policy or regulation in gifted education. The position paper asks for the implementation of talent promotion at every level of education, from toddler to tertiary level); specialized staff, targeted training and further education of teachers; school and teaching development processes for the design, implementation, and evaluation of talent promotion; capturing potential through multi-stage, pedagogical, and goal-oriented procedures; and composing talent promotion from different and individualized opportunities and activities.”
From the United Arab Emirates delegate comes this report, “Gifted and talented education is relatively new in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The country’s vision calls for a first-rate education. As a result, many organizations have introduced new initiatives to support and reach the country’s vision... For example, the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance, based in Dubai, has introduced a national plan for gifted and talented education, the first of its kind in UAE. In 2015, in line with the 2015 year of innovation in UAE, the Hamdan Foundation established the “Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Giftedness and Creativity.” The delegate further described some of the work of this foundation.
News from the United Kingdom included these remarks, “Looking ahead, we are planning to host another Above and Beyond awards ceremony, celebrating those who go above and beyond with gifted education students and supporting their needs. Work will continue on DME (Dual and Multiple Exceptionality) and on raising awareness and training occupational therapists. We are also looking at an initiative on alternative forms of education for gifted and talented children, spearheaded by the Nisai Educational Trust, which has been established to explore how to support non-traditional education models, including home education.”
Finally, the delegates from the United States, Laurie Croft, Shelagh Gallager, and Ann Robinson reported on a national survey about practices in gifted education. The results present a snapshot of the patchwork quilt of approaches to gifted education used across the US, with a particular emphasis on issues related to equity. You can read more at this Education Week link, Gifted Education: Results of a National Survey. They then continued with this, “Few issues in US gifted education are more critical, or more challenging, than the underrepresentation of low income gifted students and gifted students of color. Across the nation, the education news is full of accounts of calls to dismantle gifted programs because of disparities in identification.” They detailed the work of the North Carolina Association for Gifted and Talented in presenting “a day of many voices that welcomed different perspectives on the problem of under-representation in gifted programs. A majority of invitees represented organizations invested in improving education for low-income students or students of color but uninvolved in gifted education, including early childhood educators, after school coordinators, school-to-college program directors, leaders in the faith community, education policy specialists, and civil rights advocates.” Calling this day an experiment in ‘outward facing advocacy,’ participants proved that this demonstrates that support for gifted may be more robust than detractors claim and that there are many organizations ready to engage in a broader advocacy coalition on behalf of low-income gifted students and gifted students of color.”
Additionally, the United States delegates posted the winners of the Jacob K. Javits 2019 awards and their focus. The list can also be found in the link above.
For those of you who have read this far into this article, BRAVI TUTTI! We hope that you’ve found this global thinking stimulating and provocative. Though we may be suspended in time for the near future, we must all think about the future of gifted education. As a state organization, we will be doing just that, as we move into strategic planning for our organization. What do you think should be our focus? How does this fit into a local perspective, a national perspective, or a global perspective? Most of all, how does it serve gifted students, their educators, and their families?
Please share your ideas with us; we look forward to your perspective.
As the events of COVID-19 unfold around us, many of us at the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted are undoubtedly sharing many of the same emotions as those of you at home. We are worried for the health of our friends and family; we are devastated by the news from our cities, country, and other corners of our world. We may feel anxious about our jobs or financial health, or worried about the health and safety and livelihoods of others. We may be grieving the way things were, and are feeling what the Germans refer to as “Weltschmerz,” or the pain of the world.
Those of us who are educators are missing our students deeply, and are hoping and praying that they are safe and secure. We are doing our best to meet their learning needs and their social and emotional needs while we also attend to the needs of ourselves and our own families. We are adjusting to this enormous disruption of school as we once knew it; we are innovating daily, and many of us are admittedly overwhelmed. We are, however, most thankful for those of you who are parents and guardians and are carrying extra loads -- tending to your own jobs (or unemployment) and mental health, the daily needs of your family, and assuming the new (and sometimes scary) role as teacher/mom or teacher/dad. We see daily evidence of families figuring out ways to make this all work -- with grace, creativity, and humor.
Finally, there are our children, and our students -- they are lively, curious, thoughtful, insightful, scared, questioning, trying, joyful, confused. We are all trying to find the words and actions which balance their concerns with their need for hope and normalcy. And though there are many encouraging signs of hope, the resolution to this crisis is not clear or immediate. It is as though we are suspended in a huge moment of pause, grand pause.
If you are a musician, you may be familiar with the term Grand Pause, or G.P., or caesura, sometimes known as “railroad tracks,” or “tram tracks,” designated by two slash marks, like this: //. When these are indicated in a musical score, the sound stops, and there is time for echo, absorption of sound and emotion, reflection, and anticipation of the resumption of the music. There is often curiosity and wonder during this repose; there is usually a sense of impending change.
It seems possible that we are in a time of Grand Pause right now. Undoubtedly, things will never be the same, but they might become even better than they were. We might become better parents, neighbors, friends, citizens. So many of us are using this Grand Pause to reimagine ourselves, and to transcend ourselves. We read daily about ingenious ways that people are coping and thriving. We see numerous testimonies to the grace, and the compassion, and the creativity of people. We see communities banding together, celebrating and thanking health care professionals. We see food banks asking for and receiving tremendously generous donations. We see neighbors anonymously leaving gift certificates for ice cream, or groceries or wine or masks, or pictures on others’ doorsteps. We see people sharing food. We see nursing home workers dressing up in costume to entertain their residents. We see teachers caravaning through school neighborhoods, waving to their beloved students. We see countries offering donations of money and supplies to each other. We see international scientists and medical professionals working tirelessly together. We see children offering hearts and pictures and words of comfort and chalk drawings on sidewalks. We are, indubitably seeing better versions of ourselves emerge, and have time to evaluate the meaning of this metamorphosis during this Grand Pause.
Inevitably, this Grand Pause moment will be over, and our lives will move on, and the music of life will begin again in earnest. However, the burning questions will remain -- what do we want to carry forward with us? What really are the most important things in life? Can we sustain the lessons that we have learned? Will we emerge from all of this as more compassionate, more wise, more selfless? Our children will undoubtedly be watching, just as they have been all along. The moments of the Grand Pause should give them hope; the moments of the Grand Pause should give ALL of us hope.