Round Two: Things Get Messy and Even More Questions

Posted by KATHERINE (KATY) CAUGHRAN on 6/7/2016 4:45:00 PM

Institute for Innovation: Round Two Blog Update!

     Happy to announce that the grant was accepted and we can continue on with our learning journey! Round Two: Mission Collaboration is is unique and innovative because it is unlike other proposals and asks for continuous learning of a group that has the potential to impact learning at all levels for all students of our school district. We will build on our knowledge and adapt it to fit each student.

     Part of the opportunity this grant gives the enrichment teachers in our district, including myself, is the chance to go to UCONN's Confratute. This will allow us to explore and deepen our understanding of gifted education and how to adapt the ideas of Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis to fit our student population and culture in Mountain Brook. I attended this conference last year and it was an intense learning experience that answered questions, but also led me to ask more than I started with on my journey.

     Renzulli and Reis believe that enrichment models should not look the same across the board because the students in every single school and system around he world have different needs and cultures. One size does not fit all. Confratute is about a lot more than simply learning how to implement Schoolwide Enrichment. The conference allows sessions on critical thinking, creativity, social and emotional issues, content areas, strategies for all educators, administrative roles and personalized time with experts to talk about your own unique school and start planning. The experience is invaluable.

     Next summer, July 2017, we will travel to Storrs CT for a week of immersion in all of the learning Confratute has to offer. We will have time to attend various workshops and share knowledge with one another. We will have time to ask questions and push our thinking. We will have time to work with Renzulli, Reis and other professionals. We will have time to form a bond as a PLC with new teachers and process our new learning together. We will also be able to think forward to the progress MBS is making and how our learning fits in with the direction we are all going.

     While our mission is to make gains to improve our own PAGE program as a whole and at individual schools, we will consider ALL students in our district and how gifted education plays a role in education overall for MBS students. I know I speak for all of the PAGE teachers in thanking The Mountain Brook Foundation and each of our principals for making this dream a reality.

     Institute for Innovation has truly given me the opportunity to not only ignite passion in my students, but in myself. I am more motivated and excited now than I have ever been in my ten years of teaching. I am honored to be a part of a school system that genuinely encourages personal and professional growth.

Some questions and thoughts about giftedness and identification...

     We give a gifted screener and look for gifted characteristics in second grade to make sure we are not missing children, but then think we need to reserve specific learning opportunities for those deemed gifted. Why would we not expose ALL children to the same types of learning environments and opportunities to see who needs and wants more?

     There is no way to deny the fact that there are children (and adults) who learn and think differently. Social and emotional development, critical and creative thinking skills, intellectual ability, task commitment and motivation are all key parts to the discussion. I cannot help but think that all children learn and think differently.

     Even students who are given the title of gifted do not fit in one neatly labeled box. As a society, we do not agree on one hard and fast definition for gifted. There is not just one characteristic for a gifted child. We miss kids who should be identified. Could we spend more time and money on the focus of training teachers on building relationships with kids, differentiation and customization and less on testing and identifying kids? Teachers need to be able to focus on the needs of each child and less on if checking off certain boxes to align with a group.