Monday, October 15, 2012

Sylvia Rimm OAGC Keynote Blog

As I wasn't sure what to expect, I went into today's keynote at the Ohio Association for Gifted Children prepared to just take notes.  The presentation was so good I went back and put the notes into a live-blog format.

Sylvia Rimm Keynote

Advanced organizers when thinking about gifted students.
  • Expectations need to be high but not unreachable
  • Gifted students need to develop a work ethic in order to continue to advance their giftedness (this is a component of Carol Dweck's work in Mindset and also shows up in Carol Tomblinson's work on differentiation)
  • Teach Competitive Resilience - Gifted kids get a lot of praise.  Help them to understand that dealing with not being #1 all the time is important.
  • Gifted kids can also be disabled (twice-exceptional)
  • Curriculum for gifted kids has to be appropriate MOST of the time (just like it should be for all students).  The point is, if things are too easy or too hard on a consistent basis, gifted kids learn bad habits (In other words, where is the sweet spot in the zone of proximal development in the lesson plan?)
  • From middle school on, peer environments matter.  The high gifted child is so far advanced that s/he can have trouble relating.  Pay attention to the environment you create/foster/maintain as a classroom teacher.
  • Parents need to be on the same page with each other when it comes to their gifted child (easier said than done).
  • Parents need to be advocates for their children in a responsible, adult fashion (again, easier said than done).  This means adult to adult conversations between the parents and the teacher without involving the student.  If students see their parents as adversarial with the teacher, the student becomes empowered to act the same way.  Parents who truly care about their child’s learning have to be respectful of teachers and civil, even during times of disagreement.  Ignoring this powerful social/emotional component can have grave consequences for the student.
  • Gifted students need appropriate role models who value work.
  • A reasonable balance needs to be struck between achievement and relationships in order to help gifted students flourish and be prepared to interact with others in the workplace after they leave the cocoon of formal schooling.
  • Encourage gifted kids to embrace arriving at the wrong answer or conclusion, as this is one of the most powerful ways people learn.
  • When parents reach out (no matter how difficult they are), an alliance has to be formed, because otherwise the child will fail to learn at a high level.

The Inner Circle Of Achievers

  • Gifted kids who achieve are predominantly motivated and have a strong sense of self-efficacy (the inner knowledge that by effort they can succeed).
  • In order for gifted students to not underachieve, it is critical that while they may like to win, they understand that they don’t have to win in order to consider themselves successful.
  • Anxious gifted children need parents and teachers who are sensitive, yet resist the impulse to do too much for the child.  The more these types of students are coddled, the less they will do for themselves, and the slippier the slope is toward depression.
  • Sometimes education is about getting through the work.  Learning to do boring things (memorizing math facts for example) is a part of getting an education.  Giftedness does not excuse a student from this.

Tips for dealing with a dominant personality
  • Dominant kids argue at home and at school.
  • In the classroom, don’t engage the dominant student in from of his/her peers.  Simply say something like, “I love your creative ideas for how you want to solve these math problems your own way.  Let’s meet after class so you can tell me about it”.
  • LISTEN to what the student has to say.  Verbal communication patterns give students a sense of control.  Listen between the lines for nuggets of truth.
  • COMPROMISE where appropriate.  For example, in the case of math you can have the student perform the odd number problems his way and the even numbered ones your way.
  • DOCUMENT any agreement you put into place, and keep a copy for yourself.
  • Over time, dominant students will see that we are on their side and the challenges will diminish.
  • Forming an alliance with a dominant personality student creates teachable moments that helps him/her understand that there are tradeoffs to choices, and that not everything can be unique and interesting all of the time.  The possibility of an alliance is dashed if process and produce outcomes in a classroom become a clash of wills between the teacher and the student.

When we treat all kids like they have to conform to our system or model, conflict inevitably happens with dependent and dominant learners.  The goal is to help students discover that effort pays off, and flexibility in this process is sometimes just what the doctor ordered when dealing with gifted kids who act like squeaky wheels.