Another 2e? Being Gifted and LGBTQ

Some of you may have noticed that my intent to post every other week was optimistic. This may or may not have been affected by the start of my accelerated graduate courses.

Yes, I have a full-time teaching job and made the decision to begin my Master’s degree this year. Am I crazy? Probably. The Master’s program runs summer-to-summer because that was the fastest, most efficient way to do it. This has kept me quite busy and reminds me I could do with some speed-reading lessons.  Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of material covered daily in 5-8 week classes. My new goal is to write in between writing for my classes when possible.

Reviewing articles about current studies in the field of gifted education has been a focus of several of my classes. This requires that I spend quite a bit of time skimming multiple articles in search of one to write about for a class. While completing an assignment in one of my courses, I came across a journal article with some information that I think warrants discussion.

The article was entitled “Social Coping Strategies of Gifted and LGBTQ Adolescents” and can be found in the 2014 Journal for the Education of the Gifted.  (Consider searching for it on Google Scholar with the DOI in the reference below.  I do not have permission to link the full study here.) This study examined social coping strategies of students that are gifted and LGBTQ.

There were some limitations to the study: students interviewed were from the same elite college, all belonged to the school’s Gay Straight Alliance organization, all were already identified in some way as gifted, and all were undergraduate students who had already “come out”.

What I found interesting was that the coping strategies shared by the study participants were very similar to their coping strategies as a gifted student. Some strategies that participants reported using were:  establishing groups of friends that were supportive or finding supportive teachers, hiding their LGBTQ identity and/or researching the topic of LGBTQ identity to better understand it, and expressing themselves through writing, leadership, and musical endeavors.  Another interesting thing to note was that participants expressed the belief that their giftedness motivated and enabled them to seek out and create areas that were safe in order to cope due to their LGBTQ identity. Suggestions were provided by participants regarding school cultures and policies that would be inclusive and welcoming to gifted and LGBTQ individuals.

There is a lot of literature currently available that discusses the importance of identifying and serving underrepresented populations and twice exceptional students. Underrepresented populations typically include students from poverty, students of color, and students learning English as a second language, as these students are often missed or are hard to identify with current procedures in many gifted programs. Twice exceptional students typically include gifted students that have an additional challenge they face, such as ADHD or a learning disability. As a result, there are efforts to improve gifted identification methods and put systems in place to support these students.

In my opinion, the LGBTQ gifted student isn’t included enough in many of these discussions.  The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) does, however, have several resources for teachers and parents of gifted LGBTQ youth on their website. I think further attention to these students’ needs is warranted. In addition, when considering the social and emotional challenges that many gifted students face, if we add to those challenges identifying as LGBTQ, we may have another twice-exceptional designation that needs unique and differentiated support.  It is important, I think, to consider the 2e status of the gifted LGBTQ student and their specific social and emotional needs for healthy development. I also believe that these marginalized students need to be fully included in conversations about gifted education.

This topic is intriguing to me and I am interested in seeing what other work has been done in this area to determine the best way to support this gifted population beyond simple acknowledgement.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above!

Reference

Hutcheson, V. H., & Tieso, C. L. (2014). Social coping of gifted and LGBTQ adolescents. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(4), 355-377. doi:10.1177/0162353214552563

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). LGBTQ diversity toolbox for parents. Retrieved from: https://www.nagc.org/lgbtq-diversity-toolbox-parents-introduction

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). LGBTQ diversity toolbox for teachers. Retrieved from: https://www.nagc.org/lgbtq-diversity-toolbox-teachers-introduction

 

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Finding Like-minded Peers, A Coming Home

Recently, I realized that I actively seek out like-minded individuals who can teach me something. As an adult, my passion for learning and the need to understand manifests as deep-diving into a topic, sometimes to the exclusion of all else, and finding others to learn from, that have knowledge and experience in that topic. Discovering fellow lifelong learners who share my sense of humor, passions, and even outlook is an added bonus that is very fulfilling. I have developed many strong friendships this way because these are my people. When I find them, I feel a sense of coming home. Conversations are easy while simultaneously challenging, and I feel comfortable being exactly who I am, however weird, quirky, or intense that may be.

In pondering this, it brought to mind the real need gifted children have to be with their gifted peers, in classrooms or out of them. Gifted students tend to enjoy focusing intently on a topic, a question, or a passion and want someone to share that intensity, to share the excitement that often comes with knowledge discovery. They don’t have the need for others to love their topic, just to understand their passion for it. It is a need to find the like-minded, a reflection of themselves, if you will, and the passionate pursuers of knowledge and the critical thinkers that they are.

If you have ever worked with gifted students or been in a classroom where these students are grouped together, the like-mindedness is very evident. There is an inherent and beautiful support for: intense passions, a weird sense of humor, skill in making puns, and having brain blasts (or loudly stated connections). It can be noisy and chaotic at times, but the sense of camaraderie is there. These students need to be around others like them and that make them feel comfortable being who they really are. Since there may only be a few gifted students in a classroom, or many times only one, gifted students may spend most of their day feeling like an outsider. Being with others that think the way they do or that can be as intense as they are, in feelings or intellectual interests, validates gifted students and gives them a sense of belonging.

In schools, the practice of clustering gifted students in classrooms helps, but designating pull-out class time, when they are with many like-minded gifted students, is a great way to support their social and emotional well-being, their intellectual growth, and their resiliency. As Dr. Tracy Riley states “Gifted and talented students have the opportunity to learn how to learn, take risks and develop resiliency when learning with like-minded peers. Knowing how to think – not what to think – is what really matters.”

Here are some articles to read regarding ways gifted children differ in thinking and how that might be supported.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above!

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“Those All Important Executive Skills, Where Are They?”

It seems to me, the more I learn, the bigger thirst for knowledge I have. As I begin my Master’s studies this year, focusing on a more in-depth look at educational psychology through the lens of giftedness, I know that I will have to find a balance between home, my teaching job, and my studies. The days will be even longer and it will be even more important to manage deadlines, keep to schedules and routines, while still making time for rest and recharging. As I go to bed exhausted each night, I know I will wake up with a running list in my head of all that needs to get done, ready to face a new day with new challenges.

It has taken time to develop the skills I need to juggle all that I do: being a teacher, running a household, blogging, and now being a student again. Our children and students need to understand that these skills, so important to organizing your life, reaching your goals, and getting things done, don’t arrive overnight. Many of these executive skills are developed in school and while managing schoolwork expectations.

In pondering this, I came across a recent article in a special preconference issue of Tempo, the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented journal, that discusses the acquiring of executive skills when learning. Drs. Eleonoor van Gerven notes in “Preventing and Overcoming Underachievement in Gifted Primary School Students” that not every gifted student has well-developed executive skills. She suggests that the development of executive functions “are being hindered” in some circumstances where the gifted student:

  • is not challenged to develop more complex thinking skills
  • is allowed to withdraw from experiences that aren’t “fun”
  • is not required to reach or stretch, limiting or negating any true learning

(paraphrasing is mine)

In the learning environment, it is important to create a balance between what a student is capable of learning, the level of content offered (offering a “stretch”), and the necessary support to help them be successful. They need opportunities to develop their ability to:

  • Sustain attention to the task
  • Flexibly shift attention from one thing to another productively
  • Store new knowledge and connect it to previously acquired information
  • Plan and prioritize
  • Organize and manage time
  • Persist towards a goal

These abilities are needed for more complex mental work, so providing activities and learning environments where these abilities are called upon more often gives the gifted student continuous opportunities to hone these skills across time.

As students follow their own passions and interests, it is as important to help them learn how to manage that pursuit to help them be successful and enjoy the journey!

(references to Tempo, Volume 38, Issue 3, 2017)

Please note: for those of you in the Texas area, it looks like Drs. Van Gerven will be at TAGT in Fort Worth this year.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above. If you would like to subscribe enter your email to the right and don’t forget to follow me on twitter!

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“Wait! But that means…!” When Gifted Kids Make the Connection

I think a visit to the land of the positive side of being gifted is in order. As both a teacher and a mother, I love working and being around these children. I have many stories about those “ah-ha!” moments, that for a gifted child, are so very thrilling.

This ah-ha exclamation is heard often when gifted children get excited about a sudden connection they have made. It is usually blurted out loudly and can be followed by, “I know the answer!” with possibly a raised hand which is waving wildly and most assuredly a bouncing in the seat. That is, if they can keep their seat in their excitement to share what they just discovered. In the classroom, this might not typically be welcome. Teachers work hard to manage classroom behavior since they have so many students and so little time to cover material before the next period, activity, or subject area. Much time initially is spent setting expectations for what is allowed with the intent to have a safe, welcoming, productive space for all students. Blurting out and interrupting are not usually encouraged. This is not to say that all teachers frown on this, but it can be seen as an unnecessary disruption during a lesson.

Personally, I welcome the controlled chaos because I understand this is how these students think. They move fastest when they are bouncing ideas off of each other and this can seem like things are out of control. The joy on their face because they. just. learned. something. is a beautiful thing. Let me say that again. They just learned something. It is amazing! Do you see it too? They need to tell everyone!

To these students, knowledge is everything. They live and breathe it and find joy in the acquiring of it. Many times these children are so far ahead of their peers in class that they have had to come to terms with the fact that school in many ways can be quite boring. It is no wonder that their excitement bubbles over when they figure out something new.

Teaching with the intent to challenge a room full of students who may know varying amounts of your accelerated subject is exciting and requires an enormous ability to think on your feet and be flexible. Seeing their excitement when they are learning something new and contrarily watching the struggle for that knowledge is very fulfilling. Having them thank you for the challenging lesson or for the fact that they finally learned something is alternately satisfying and a little sad at the same time. I will write later about giftedness in school and the challenges that brings.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment above!

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What Is Giftedness?

If you found your way to my blog, chances are you have already heard about the term gifted. You may be a parent or a teacher of gifted children. Perhaps you wonder if you are gifted or you have been told that you are. Maybe you think all children are gifted and we shouldn’t use that term at all. I would like to explain the term and how it is currently used in order to move on to discussing it and those that are gifted in all their complexities.

The term has been around for many years and has been used to describe children or adults that learn at a much faster rate and make connections quickly when learning, including grasping abstract ideas and concepts developmentally early, both of which can cause them to be 1-4 years ahead of their age peers. Additionally, the term gifted is used in the field of education as a way to identify those students who are, or have a high potential for being, advanced academically, creatively, or intellectually. Programs specifically designed for these students can be designated by different acronyms such as GT or GATE (gifted and talented), TAG (talented and gifted) or others. Whatever the name, these enrichment programs strive to address the academic or creative needs of this group.

Experts in the field believe that being gifted is more than just being able to learn at an accelerated rate. Gifted children do have the ability to make connections quicker than their age peers, grasp the abstract very early, and tend to be divergent, non-linear thinkers. But the more complete answer of “what is giftedness?” would have to include the emotional and intellectual intensities that come along with being gifted. These intensities can make these children a challenge to teach and to parent. Some of the characteristics that make them gifted can also isolate them socially, making them feel like outsiders.

I will discuss both of sides of being gifted in this blog as they relate to my experience as a teacher of gifted students and a mother of gifted children. My continued study of the topic has informed and deepened my understanding of the unique needs and capabilities of gifted children and adults.

If your child has been identified for a gifted program, it can be very helpful to learn more about giftedness. Whatever measure may have been used to select your child for an enrichment or accelerated program, understanding their needs and potential with regards to their giftedness is very important.

There are many good sources for information about giftedness. Both the National Association for Gifted Children and S.E.N.G. Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted are a good place to start.

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) – http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) – http://sengifted.org/about-seng/

 

I would love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Please feel free to comment!

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