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.