Welcome to My Inaugural Blog
I recently retired after 32 years of teaching. Now haven’t we all experienced the world of education for what may seem like eons? For me, when you combine my years in elementary and secondary school, undergraduate, graduate and a wee bit of post graduate with my years of teaching, you get over a half century of familiarity with our educational system. Now that’s a long time to be dodging the principal!
But schools have been evading a different kind of principal. Somewhere in the past 5 decades, school administrators have been shirking the most basic of principles…that all children have a right to learn new material in a time and manner that matches their educational needs. Somewhere between Sputnik and Snapchat, educational priorities have changed.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the start of my educational journey occurred during the age of the Sputnik education reform movement. At that time, students were encouraged to learn at the fastest rate possible and those who were academically able (there was no gifted label then in my school) were given special opportunities to nurture their abilities. As I entered the junior high years, I don’t recall the term “nerd” being used. In fact, I have distinct memories of the highly intelligent being held in esteem. A clear recollection involves when two fellow classmates, quiet, reserved and undeniably smart, took to the front of the classroom and demonstrated the workings of a table-sized computer they had constructed. We all sat in utter amazement, admiring them for their ability to complete this feat, as most of us at that time in the early 1970’s had only heard of the term computer, never actually having seen one ourselves.
Fast forward to today. With the advent of a very egalitarian mindset toward education and the framework of teaching inspired by the “No Child Left Behind Act,” gifted education has become known as “elitist.” The pedagogy required to meet the demands of this current attitude appears to be that we should all learn exactly what everyone else does at the same speed. Never mind if we already knew it. Never mind what else we could accomplish.
While “No Child Left Behind” has a noble goal; that is, that all students have a right to be able to expect public schools to ensure that they will graduate and be ready to participate in a knowledge-based society; it leaves out a very important segment of a school’s population. Gifted students are not reaching their potential in many schools because they are required to know only a fraction of what they could learn. Schools must carefully look through the lens of capacity when measuring the degree of being “left behind.”
It is my hope through commentary on this blog that ideas are shared regarding how to best meet the social, emotional and academic needs of gifted learners in today’s society. Through discussions, information can be conveyed, stakeholders can be inspired, and the gifted can become empowered to reach every ounce of their potential. The educational principle of this new age that we must all adopt is succinctly communicated in a phrase of one of my colleagues: Let no child go unchallenged. Let’s make sure that the years our gifted children spend in this educational institution of ours encourages them not to sit passively on the launch pad of learning, but as in the days of Sputnik, be spurred to take flight.