Conceptualization: 3 Strategies Teachers (and Parents) Can Leverage To Become a Fierce Ally to Gifted Learners

Conceptualization is the creative process of knitting ideas together.

I love the messiness of fragmented thoughts winding together to form something extraordinary.  To me, the greatest gift is when someone invites me to collaborate on the conceptualization of an idea.  It has been an honor to go through this process many times and share in the success of others when their ideas come to fruition.  The following is a unique story of how a former gifted student invited me to help her conceptualize her dream.

Several years ago, summer was nearly over and back to school professional development was in full swing.  I was kicking off the school year with a group of teachers in Portland, Oregon when a bright-eyed millennial walked up to me giddy to say hello.  The beautiful young lady gave me a hug and I realized the young lady embracing me was Mandie, my former gifted student that was now all grown up.  That day was the beginning of a delightful mentoring relationship that I hadn’t expected.

Several years had passed and our friendship blossomed.  I watched Mandie grow both personally and professionally.  For nearly a year she told me she wanted to start her own school and enroll in a Ph.D. program.  Through deeply listening, I sensed a mismatch between what she was saying and where her heart was really wanting to take her.   I invited her to grab some time on my calendar so we could find congruence between her heart’s desire and her giftedness.

Our coaching call had a familiar cadence.  Mandie spoke logically about enrolling in a Ph.D. program and using the research from her dissertation to start a charter school.  After a few open-ended questions, the conversation took an interesting turn and Mandie became more and more animated describing how she would equip the leaders in her virtual school with the necessary skills to build a strong sense of community and belonging among the student body.   Like peeling back the layers of an onion, the spirit of that spunky 10-year-old gifted child I remembered began to emerge as she described how to masterfully create school culture using a unique blend of social media and grassroots student leadership development.  In that instant, it became crystal clear to both of us that Mandie’s mission in life was to share her successful formula for equipping and empowering virtual schools to create invaluable human connections in the online environment.  It was in that moment that hello edu was born.

Mandie invited me to come alongside her and help conceptualize her dream, a dream that doesn’t require a Ph.D. or a charter school of her own.  Like all dreams, it starts with an idea followed closely with a carefully executed plan.  Next week, I have invited Mandie to continue this story by sharing the foresight one needs to make a dream come to fruition.

Servant leaders can help gifted learners knit together their ideas to create their envisioned future.  Below are three conceptualization strategies teachers (and parents) can leverage to become a fierce ally to the gifted learners they serve.

Boldly seek innovative solutions- Teachers need to help young people boldly seek innovative solutions.  These solutions may or may not have been explored in the past, and sometimes the servant leader needs to point out the path that the child may have overlooked, a new and different way of reaching a potential solution.

Creating a well-designed learning experience-  Creating a well-designed learning experience allows the student to participate in lessons that begin with the end in mind.  Servant leaders help students begin with a clear understanding of the end result and then begin to lay the foundation of what is necessary to reach the desired outcome.

Making decisions between what is good, and what is best for students- Making decisions between what is good, and what is best for students, means differentiating between the two.  A servant leader’s role is to help the learner see where they have come from and where they are going.  The wisdom of an adult, coupled with a servant’s heart, can illuminate a young person’s path in ways they cannot see on their own.  This wisdom helps differentiate a good path, from the best path.

Servant leaders help learners with both conceptualization and foresight.  Conceptualization is the creative process people go through to cast their envisioned future.  Foresight is the logical steps necessary to reach the end goal.  When leveraged properly, conceptualization and foresight will help students dream big dreams and reach those goals through a thoughtful, step by step process.

In the comments below, or on your favorite social media using the hashtag #giftedresources, please share stories of students you know who are reaching their dreams.

Listening: 3 Strategies Teachers (and Parents) Can Leverage To Become a Fierce Ally to Gifted Learners

Listen to those things being said, as well as those things not being said.

On September 13th, 2017 our community was shaken to the core to learn of a school shooting at Freeman High School, a small rural community south of Spokane, Washington.  Freeman Scotties are the epitome of small-town USA and parents from the Spokane area are known to choose to place their children into this school district over their local school district.  In Freeman, everyone knows everyone, people look out for one another, and students have deep relationships with their teachers and peers.  The school is the heartbeat of this community and on this fateful day, people were saying over and over “not here.”  Not in our town.  These things do not happen here.  Our community is different—not here.

Nobody is immune and school violence can happen anywhere.  The alleged shooter sent disturbing notes to friends threatening to commit acts of violence.  His friends listened and the notes were turned over to the school counselor.  The school followed protocol and he was suspended for three days and could not return until he had passed a mental health evaluation. September 13th was his first day back to school after being suspended and he shot four students, killing one.

We believe teachers and parents must rise up as servant leaders in classrooms, and in their own homes, to care for all children.  One way to do that is deeply listening to kids.  I can only imagine the difficult conversations families were having after the shooting.  I can image parents holding their children close and listening to their concerns, answering their questions the best they can, and being fully present as they worked through the emotions after a traumatic event.

The servant-leader has the ability to listen deeply to students and address cognitive, social, and emotional concerns.  Gifted students tend to have heightened sensitivity, known as overexcitabilities, which causes them to feel things more intensely.   Listening is a critical teacher attribute that can transform a community of learners.

The purpose of this article is to share three listening strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students.  These strategies can be used by parents also to build improve their relationship with their child.

Knowing when to speak and when to listen- Knowing when to speak and when to listen is important because in stillness comes reflection.  An invitation to children to share what they are thinking comes through deep listening, and wait time.  Sometimes, in silence, comes a gentle invitation to say more.

Lifelong learning and intense curiosity- Lifelong learning and intense curiosity allows the teacher to continue to listen to students and grow from those interactions.  Gifted students ask complex questions about the world around them.  Deeply listening and helping them find the best human, print, and digital resources is a gift teachers can offer their students.

Seek to Understand- A servant leader listens with their eyes and their ears. “Listen” intently to help the child move toward the learning goal.  Listen to those things being said, as well as those things not being said.  Seeing what the student is sharing, posting to social media, and talking with their friends about can offer a perspective on how that student is really doing on a social and emotional level.

Listening is one disposition of a servant leader when leveraged properly, can heal the hearts of gifted children.  In honor of Sam Strahan, the victim who died in the Freeman High School Shooting, practice one of these listening strategies to become a fierce ally to the children you serve.  Share the results in the comments below or on social media using the hashtag #giftedresources I am looking forward to hearing more about how you are transforming education for the students you serve.

If you feel led to donate to the Go Fund Me account set up in Sam’s name, you can do that here.



Healing: 4 Strategies Teachers (and Parents) Can Leverage To Become a Fierce Ally to Gifted Learners

I vividly remember the morning of 9/11/2001 and the days that followed.  Every morning I gathered for a morning meeting with the gifted students in my K-5 gifted pullout program.  We would gather together on the colorful rug in the classroom library and reconnect after a week apart, sharing pieces of ourselves, and HEALING.

These young gifted students came to school after watching the news with tears in their eyes, and the weight of the world on their shoulders because of all of the destruction of the terror attack on US soil.  With a heightened awareness of the world around them, these images left them feeling powerless because they wanted to help but felt unable to do anything at all.  Their minds were grown up but trapped in an eight-year-old body with a sense of very little power to make a difference.

I think about the gifted children in the classrooms around the world today and the teachers who will help them heal.  In the United States students are seeing pictures of the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the destruction from wildfires in the western states, plus monsoon flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.  And these are just the weather related incidents and do not account for the massive earthquake in Mexico, Kim Jung-un, and pictures of 9/11 anniversary video.  These images are outside of their immediate influence but there is also the pain occurring within their communities, schools, families, and even within themselves.  Young people are hurting and teachers are in a unique position to heal their hearts so they can learn, grow, and develop into self-reliant young adults.

The servant-leader has the ability to transform the situation and create a classroom community of healing.  An ability to understand the cognitive, social, and emotional needs facing today’s gifted students, is a critical teacher attribute that can help teachers create a safe classroom environment where students are nurtured and healing occurs. The purpose of this article is to share four healing strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students.  These strategies can be used by parents also to build improve their relationship with their child.

Respond in a healing manner when problems arise- Responding in a healing manner when problems arise comes from listening and responding to the needs of each student in a way that promotes healing body, mind, or spirit.  Through words of encouragement and a calm presence, the teacher can encourage healing, perhaps healing brokenness caused by years of feeling alienated and radically different from their age appropriate peers.

Conveying understanding through body language- Conveying understanding through body language is part of intensely listening and focusing on the person. People will respond to not only your words but how you present yourself.  Mirror their body language to create a connection and make time to be with them through the difficult emotions.

Create a safe place to explore feelings- Creating a safe place to explore feelings encourages the healing process.  The servant leader understands where students are in the journey of life and help to soften the blows of rejection and failure that may come along the way.  The safe space may come as a morning meeting.  This ritual creates a classroom culture of healing, promoting authenticity, genuine caring, and respect for every student.

Help them find an intellectual peer- Helping gifted children find an intellectual peer is one of the most powerful gifts you can give a child.  Gifted students are more different from one another than they are alike, but within the school community, a teacher can likely help them find an intellectual peer with a shared affinity.  Fostering this relationship helps both children move out of isolation and become interdependent within the school community, facilitating healthy social and emotional development.

At Gifted Resources, we believe teachers are Servant Leaders in the classroom and parents are the Servant Leaders in the home.

Healing is one disposition of a servant leader that when leveraged properly, will create a classroom environment where gifted students will thrive.  This week, practice one of these strategies to become a fierce ally to the gifted students you serve.  Share the results in the comments below or on social media using the hashtag #giftedresources  I am looking forward to hearing more about how you are transforming education for the students you serve.


Commitment: 5 Strategies Teachers (and Parents) Can Leverage To Become a Fierce Ally to Gifted Learners

Commitment requires patience and persistence.

Do you remember the allure of the old Jetsons cartoon?  I used to watch that show dreaming of what my future might hold.  I thought about life with a cleaning robot like Rosie, where I could just press a button and walk away.  Just like that, many of the “chores” I would have as an adult would be gone.  Today, I took a huge leap toward that envisioned future and bought myself a robotic vacuum.  I hope it will deliver on the promise of that I can press a button and come home to a clean house.

If only life were that easy in the classroom.  It may work with household appliances, but teaching is all about positive relationships with kids and that doesn’t happen with a push of a button. It takes patience, persistence, and a deep commitment to grow, nurture, and develop the whole child.  This is especially true when working with gifted students because developing a relationship with a young person who challenges you, asks questions that you can’t answer, and needs constant intellectual stimulation can be exhausting.

Building relationship requires a teacher to know and value their students, outside of their value as a producing member of the classroom, by taking a personal interest in each child, and helping them build a positive classroom community.  This endeavor requires a high level of commitment, but the benefits can last a lifetime.  The purpose of this article is to help you commit to the growth and development of the students you serve.  Below are five commitment strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students.

The beauty of this advice is parents can adapt these strategies and use them at home to improve relationships with their gifted children.

Allow students to be responsible for the learning and become responsive to the student- Teachers who are willing to give control of the learning experiences to their students and then respond to the unique need of each learner empowers the student with an appropriate level of freedom to explore their own learning objectives.  Leveraging the power of free technology apps helps a teacher quickly and easily differentiate the readiness level and learning preferences of a variety of learners.


Fostering joint decision making-  Fostering joint decision making creates a shared passion for the outcome of the process. Shared thinking benefits from input from both the teacher and the student leading to a greater ownership for the learning on the part of the student.


Access to a variety of mentors to enhance learning- Access to a variety of mentors to enhance learning allows the student to be in community with people both inside, and outside, of the classroom to facilitate learning.  Gifted kids need mentors who understand them.  I recommend connecting younger gifted children with juniors and senior National Honor Society (NHS) members.  NHS requires students complete at least 25 community service hours and this mentoring relationship can satisfy that requirement.  The local high school can help pair up students who share similar gifts and interest areas.  Parents will be responsible for providing a safe place for them to meet and access to plenty of delicious snacks.


Creating a safe space to explore learning, relationships, roles, feelings etc.- Creating a safe space to explore learning, relationships, roles, feelings etc. allows students the freedom to try new things. When a teacher fosters a sense of community among the learners, they are providing a safe space that allowing a group of virtuous community members to practice virtues and support one another, both inside and outside of the classroom.

I compare this to a walled garden.  The students have access to everything within the garden, but the wall around it keeps them safe.  The teacher facilitates opportunities within the walls for students to explore interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, authentic feedback, and other adulting 101 experiences.  The walled garden provides the safety to practice these important skills before they are asked to do them in the real world.


Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) to support teaching gifted students-  Developing a PLN to support teaching gifted students allows the teacher to focus on supporting the gifted students in the classroom, while networking with a wider support community to guide as she develops into a masterful servant teacher.  This wider network provides a safe space to ask questions, research theory and practice, and explore the more difficult aspects of teaching gifted students.

Please share an idea below for how you commit to the growth and development of the gifted students you serve.