Empathy: Healing the Awkward Heart

Have you ever been “outside” of the group? Gifted kids feel outside of the norm, because quite frankly, they are.  As fierce allies to gifted learners it is up to parents and teachers to help heal the awkwardness they feel using empathy.  This vlog offers strategies for using empathy to heal to help gifted learners navigate their differences and feel good about who they are.

 

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

Stewardship is the ability to hold something in trust for another.

For our family, servant leadership plays out every weekend when we take our motorcycles to the mountains to ride.  As the most experienced rider, my husband is the steward of our time, talent, and resources.  He knows everyone’s riding level and chooses trails that will challenge, but not frustrate the family.  He has chosen the best bike for each person based on their size, riding ability, and the type of riding we are doing that day.  It is a joy to watch our son’s take care of one another on the trail and the teamwork and collaboration they demonstrate are beautiful.  If one goes over, the other is there immediately to check on the person and give them a hand up.  Just this weekend my teenager lost his sprocket going about 30 miles an hour.  His back tire locked up and he lost control of the bike and crashed but had no major injuries.  It was a freak accident and we were in the middle of nowhere with a disabled bike and the potential for a great lesson in stewardship.

Time-  In this case, time was on our side.  It was still early in the day and although it was chilly, we had lots of daylight left and plenty of time to plan on how we were going to fix the bike and get everyone back to the staging area.  Time was our friend because there were no major injuries and the day was young.

Talent-  My husband was the only person with the talent necessary to fix the sprocket so we could ride out.  Although he was the only one with the mechanical talent to fix the bike, the rest of us had work to do too.  My oldest was the muscle and helped with the physical aspects of fixing the bike.  My youngest son and I were in charge of finding the missing sprocket and the bolt along the trail.

Resources- The necessary resources was the biggest challenge we faced.  We were about 3o minutes from the truck, which held most of the tools we needed to fix the bike.  With only 3 bikes that were working, my husband took my oldest back to the truck to get both tools to either fix the bike or rope to tow it back.  I stayed in the mountains with my youngest, to watch over the bikes while they were gone.

I am happy to report that we worked together to get the bike off the mountain.  Gravity was on our side, and we jerry-rigged a solution to get the disabled bike back down to the truck.  We relied on leadership from our most experienced rider/mechanic and the talents of the other people within the family.

Servant leaders are stewards of their gifted student’s time, talents, and resources.  Below are 4 stewardship strategies teachers (and parents) can leverage to become a fierce ally to the gifted learners they serve.

Holding all aspects of the learning in trust- Holding all aspects of the learning in trust means the teacher oversees the student’s time,
resources, space, learning, etc in the utmost confidence of the learner. This requires a great deal of trust because they must be able to match the needs of the student with the content they are teaching.  This requires an ability to individualize.  In future articles, I will share how technology can transform learning and help a teacher differentiate lessons for all learners.  Teachers need to be willing to give control of the learning experiences over to their students and then respond to the unique need of each learner.  This approach empowers the student with an appropriate level of freedom to explore his or her own learning objectives.

Foster joint decision making- Servant teachers exercise stewardship by fostering joint decision making.  Sharing the power over decisions creates a shared passion for the outcome of the process. Shared thinking takes place and the experience benefits from the input of both the teacher and the student.  This mutuality is important because it balances out the learning experience.

Give the students what they need, no more, no less- When practiced, the teacher offers guidance for the students but does not take on the learning. The teacher one source of learning, but brings together the best human, print, and digital resources for the student to make meaning of the content and make it their own.

Be a fierce steward of educational time, student’s talent, and classroom resources-  As a fierce steward of time, the gifted teacher might assess a student’s prior knowledge and design curriculum around the student’s passions and interests because they have already mastered within the prescribed curriculum.  As a steward of talent, the teacher must assess each student’s abilities and match the content to the learner’s individual needs.  As a steward of resources, the teacher must assess the needs of each learner to bring forward the best human, print, and digital resources to meet each child’s needs.

When the teacher has a servant’s heart and puts the student’s needs first, students can reach their full potential.  In the comments below, or on your favorite social media using the hashtag #giftedresources, please share how you are stewarding the time, talents, and resources of the gifted students in your life.

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

 

Foresight is the is the ability to know where you want to go, but also possessing the tools and vision to get there.

 

Welcome Mandie, a former gifted student of mine, who is contributing to this series by sharing her experience with foresight.  You may remember last week I shared the story of how I coached Mandie toward discovering her dream.  Foresight is a characteristic related to conceptualizing, but distinct in that it is the ability to know where you want to go, but also possessing the tools and vision to get there.  Mandie shares below how she made her dream a reality.

 

I am so lucky to have Dr. Brandi Maynard as my mentor, our time together turned out to be the catalyst of setting my dreams to life. The concept of foresight as described in Dr. B’s dissertation research was “the ability to see the likely outcome of the situation” and is related to her blog last week about conceptualization.

During our coaching session, I was given the gift of foresight. When talking me through my dreams, my desires, and most importantly helping me find my ‘why’ I had a true moment of understanding and excitement when I learned another way. Dr. B was so engaged in what I was saying, and with each answer, she had a follow-up question that continued to lead me to ideas that truly excited me.I had already been accepted into my doctoral program, but was so hesitant to spend another four years in school and continued to question my decision.

Prior to my time with Dr. B, I believed continuing in school was the only way I could make sure I was making a positive impact in the life of online students. I have seen students, parents, and teachers feeling so isolated in the online environment, and I want to expand upon creating positive virtual communities because I see how it motivates at-risk students to actually want to graduate high school. I have seen these strategies change lives and I wanted to expand this knowledge to other schools that may be struggling with cultivating the joy needed to support students. Dr. B saw that passion in me and continued to pull threads until we could both see the end goal of what would be known as hello edu.

With the inspiration from Dr. B and a new buzz of motivation and energy- it was time to get to work. This was not just a chat about dreams or career adviceit was followed up with concrete steps that were needed to make this dream a reality. I started to brainstorm a company name that very day as I was reading through the business plan examples and researching the licensing I would need to obtain. Without the manageable bite-sized pieces, it would have been too overwhelming. However, when I ran into hurdles, I would go back to the notes she sent me after our call, and I looked at her email with the guide to making a business plan. With each obstacle, I could look back and feel a sense of calm by knowing that this will work out because there is a guide I can work from if I start to feel lost.

This has made the process enjoyable because I could see this as a series of steps that needed to be completed instead of an abstract dream. The big picture of hello edu is to help others and make the world a better place, and I think it is beautiful that I would not have gone this route without Dr. B’s guidance and servant leadership.

Thank you to Mandie for sharing her story…I am very proud of her.  Servant leaders can help gifted learners plot out the necessary steps required to reach their envisioned future.  Below are three foresight strategies teachers (and parents) can leverage to become a fierce ally to the gifted learners they serve.

Anticipate the unique needs of the student- Anticipating the unique needs of the student is an intuition a teacher possesses that knows just the right time to introduce a concept so it connects to previous learning.  Timing is everything!

Possess the intuition to know when to turn the learning over to the student- Having the intuition to know when to turn the learning over to the kids is the ability to release control of the learning at the moment when the child can drive it themselves. They no longer need you and will do well on their own.

Promote out of the box thinking while keeping the end in minds- Promoting out of the box thinking while keeping the end in mind allows the teacher to question the learner to move the understanding forward while keeping the goal of the learning in mind.

When used together, these two characteristics will help students dream big dreams and reach those goals through a thoughtful, step by step process.  Servant leaders are the catalyst in this dream to reality 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.

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.

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

The greatest advice I can offer is to discover that one thing in life that you love, become really good at it, and find someone to pay you to do it.

My area of expertise is how to leverage free technology apps to differentiate the curriculum for gifted learners. Leading professional development workshops, I have come to learn that for many teachers understanding giftedness, knowing how to use technology tools, and differentiating the curriculum to meet the needs of every student are unfamiliar and unchartered territories leading to fear and trepidation.

When teachers join my professional development sessions, it is my responsibility to be the best steward of their time, talent, and resources by listening and empathizing with their needs, being aware of what is needed, persuading them to become lifelong learners, and fully committing to their growth.

The characteristics outlined above align with the servant leadership characteristics needed to become a fierce ally for those you teach. The purpose of this article is to help you build a high level of awareness in order to grow and develop the students you serve.

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

Below are three strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students.

Acknowledge personal areas of weakness: Acknowledging areas of weakness allows the teacher to be human and acknowledge their shortcomings. This level of awareness requires bravery to search and find those areas of your life you may not want to come face to face with. One needs to investigate all parts of themselves in order to be able to help others do the same. Facing each day with a lack of ego and focusing on what is best for the students is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. This means that you must be willing to come alongside your students and learn from them. Students sometimes know more than their teacher and that is okay.

Know students enough to meet them where they are in the learning process- Knowing students enough to meet them where they are in the learning process is the ability to be keenly aware of each child in order to make educational decisions based on the needs of the learner at that moment. This requires you to build a relationship with the student. Students want relationships with teachers that care about them. Show you care by asking questions coupled with a deep desire to listen to what is being said, and in some cases, what is left unsaid.

Teach to a child’s strength- Teaching to a person’s strengths allows the student to build on skills they already possess and have a natural talent toward. Imagine if people were encouraged to work on those areas where they are already functioning in the top 75th percentile. These are the areas that are going to give people the greatest leverage in post-secondary aspirations. I will never compete as an Olympic level gymnast, no matter how much support I receive, but I can outperform others in delivering an engaging training session. Gifted students are exceptional in at least one area. Help them find a coach or mentor who can guide them in that area and the payoff in post-secondary opportunities that come from that focused time and attention will be tremendous.

Over the next three months, join me as we learn to leverage Servant Leadership characteristics to become a fierce ally to the gifted students. Cheers to a vibrant, interactive school year.