By Martha Lopez, WATG Board Member
As a former classroom teacher of 12 years, I have had the great fortune of teaching incredibly exceptional bilingual students. Jessica Ojeda-Barojas is one of those students. In December of 2019, Wisconsin State Senator Tim Carpenter (3rd District), who sponsored her for this program, announced that Jessica was accepted to participate in the Wisconsin Senate Scholar Program. This program is an elite program designed to challenge Wisconsin's best students with an advanced government curriculum that includes classroom instruction, roundtable discussion sections, and a lab component. This highly competitive program only selects 33 students.
Allow me to share who Jessica is and why her acceptance is so important. She is currently a senior in the iForward Online Public Charter School where she is on track to becoming the class of 2020 valedictorian. But, my relationship with her began years ago. I met her eleven years ago when I was her 1st and 3rd grade teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools. Since she was very young, it was evident that she was a highly gifted learner, and she consistently demonstrated excellence throughout her educational career. Besides her intellectual capability, she has a strong desire for social justice issues and a passion to serve the Latino community. She offers a cultural perspective and representation that we desperately need in government. Jessica has an exceptional ability to understand logical connections that allow her to detect inconsistencies. As a result, she possesses the critical thinking skills necessary to effectively solve problems, regardless of their complexity. Jessica demonstrates the ability to solve a variety of problems in conventional and innovative ways. She has shown she can identify and ask the important questions which clarify conflicting views from either side to provide the best solutions. For example, I have seen Jessica engage in emotionally charged conversations, critically examine the issue, and consistently respond in a logical and constructive manner. She always offers an acceptable and appropriate solution, and is respectful of others’ ideas and opinions. These are all skills we expect our elected officials to possess and carry out on behalf of their constituents.
Why is her acceptance into this program so important? As of today, there are 36 Latinos in the House of Representatives (out of 435 representatives total), and four in the Senate (out of 100 senators), yet Latinos make up 17.8% of the US population. In recent years, there are more Latino politicians in congress than in prior elections. However, there is still a lack of matched representation. If we sought for perfect Latino representation, we would expect about 77 House members and 18 senators. Unfortunately, we are far from matched representation. As you can see, Jessica’s participation is important because she represents the 6% of Wisconsin’s Latino population. Thanks to the Senate Scholar Program, this opportunity creates a pathway for minority students to engage in politics and possibly help increase minority representation in the US government.
Jessica is one of the 33 exceptional young leaders that will participate in this program in 2020. Congratulations to all of the juniors and seniors that will be working with Senators, legislative staff and the University of Wisconsin faculty. The Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted applauds your accomplishments!
“The Senate Scholar Program is an intensive week-long educational program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. Admission to the program is highly competitive and is limited to 33 academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from around Wisconsin. Each Senate Scholar receives a hands-on, up-close view of the Legislature’s role in our democracy.” For more information, visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ssgt/senatescholar.
Maria Katsaros-Molzahn, Ed.D
Ever since Carol Dweck wrote Mindset: The New Psychology for Success (2006), the educational community has focused on the importance of teaching perseverance to all students. Dweck discovered that all people fall somewhere within the mindset range from fixed to growth. According to the research, 40% of all people fall within the growth mindset, another 40% the fixed, and 20% are somewhere down the middle.
People with a growth mindset understand that learning requires effort. Rather than having an idealistic outlook, these people tend to be pragmatists. They recognize that hard work does pay off. Conversely, people with a fixed mindset view traits and talents as bestowed, or fixed, at an early age. For fixed mindset personalities, practice might lead to a better outcome, but it is fraught with frustration. Most importantly, when a fixed mindset person fails at something, the fault is attributed to external variables, and not to the effort of the individual.
Interestingly, many gifted students tend to exhibit fixed mindset characteristics. Thinking about this population of children, this observation makes sense. Gifted children often possess a heightened awareness of perfection within a given domain. Further, their cognitive abilities usually mean their reasoning skills are at odds with their fine motor capabilities. They know how a product should appear, but may lack the appropriate skill set to ensure success. This can result in frustration and resignation... (“I just am not good at this.”)
Parenting (and teaching) gifted students is filled with joys and challenges. These kids have insights that go deep, and often beyond their years. However, when fixed mindset kicks in, they can lose sight of reason. Luckily, however, growth mindset thinking is teachable. With a bit of practice, students and parents can develop growth mindset thinking. Here are some tips to facilitate the process:
Tip #1: Talk about the brain as a muscle. All muscles need exercise, a healthy diet, and healthy habits to grow strong.
Tip #2: Model making mistakes! Children need to see adults in the process of cleaning up after mistakes. They need to hear phrases such as, “Oops, I just __________, this is frustrating. Now I have to______________.”
Tip #3: Differentiate between too easy, too hard, and just right. Growth mindset does not mean one can walk into an operating room and be the doctor. Instead, growth mindset means, if someone desires to work in the medical field, he/she sets forth the motions and extended effort to get accepted into the medical field, do the work, and continue to improve with practice.
Tip #4: Use real-life examples to teach about mindsets. Arguably, growth mindset existed long before Dwek named it. Reading books about real people from varying backgrounds allows children to view the inner lives of important people, and to vicariously experience the joys and challenges that they experienced as they learned to apply growth mindset practices. Some of my favorites include Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Latham, 1955), Wilma Unlimited (Krull and Diaz, 2000), and Heart of A Samurai (Preus, 2012).
Tip #5: Take the mindset quiz (available online).
Remember, the growth mindset strategies do not guarantee success; instead, they make arriving at success easier.
Working for the Oregon School District, Maria has 25 years of experience in the field of gifted education. Ever since reading and teaching about Growth Mindset, Maria discovered students were more comfortable accepting challenges!
Published:February 28, 2006
Publisher:Random House Publishing Group
Author:Carol S. Dweck
When I joined the WATG Board, I promised my ten-year-old daughter that she would have an opportunity for her voice to be heard about what it was like to be gifted, and to give her perspective on what gifted children need from their teachers and schools. To this end, I interviewed my daughter. This is what she wants people to know about being gifted and in school:
As my final interview question, I asked her what she would do if she were “queen of education.” She said she would make a new law. If someone is identified as being potentially gifted, the school would test the student and accommodate the student’s learning needs. The school would have to help the student. She wanted to make it so that there was no way around the law to help gifted students.
In our gifted classrooms, it is important to keep pace with the students to avoid boredom as well as to balance their skill learning with emotional development and activities of interest. One way to allow gifted teens to dig deeper into the issues that they care about is to use technology to encourage creative problem solving and create social awareness.
On Friday, October 4, twenty-eight gifted teens from ten different school districts in WI participated in the WATG Teen Conference. It was truly fascinating to see these young researchers, artists, writers, programmers, and caring individuals team up to create online games and board games.
The creative process: Teams of students brainstormed a list of different issues that they cared about and voted for the top five topics. Then, each team worked to research one of the five topics. The goal was to design a video game that focused on building social awareness of their topic.To learn more about the rules and instructions of game play, the students played various board games. At the end, they presented their game idea to other participants. What a neat idea for students to build personal knowledge of their chosen topics and bring awareness through online games to change the world!
The five issues that the teens worked on are:
● Civilian Casualties in War
● Personal Safety and Bullying
● Pollution and Environment
● Distribution of Wealth
A big thank you to Stacy Read, Web and Software instructor at Waukesha County Technical College for sharing her knowledge with these students! You can check out their game creations at:
Student and Parent Voices
Hear from and about gifted and talented students and parents across the state Wisconsin.