Canadian Aboriginal Students: What They Can Teach Us All about Gifted Education

rsz alanis-obomsawin-photo

‘We are gifted and very talented. But you’re not going to find out the way you are asking us your questions.’ Alanis Obomsawin, award-winning filmmaker of Abenaki descent.[i]

Although I haven’t been able to find solid numbers on the participation of Canadian students from Aboriginal backgrounds in gifted education programs, there are many indications that it’s lower than we’d see in kids from non-Native communities. The lower participation rates are partly a result of the poverty of educational opportunities experienced by many of the children growing up in Aboriginal communities, as well as the social and economic conditions their families experience. There are, however, other factors operating here, too, factors that suggest that Native perspectives on giftedness and talent development have something to teach mainstream educators about gifted education. Read more

Love, Play, Reflect; Passion, Gratitude, and Grit: Parenting for Success and Happiness across the Lifespan

Love, play, reflect; passion, gratitude, and grit; a blog by Dona Matthews

Childhood giftedness is a great start, but it doesn’t predict happiness, success, or fulfillment across the life span. What does the research say about parents’ roles in helping their kids become happily productive adults?

1.       Love:

The single most important ingredient in the early days, weeks, and months of life is the security of a home environment characterized by loving warmth. Infants who develop an early attachment to a caregiver—usually a mother—do a lot better over the life span than those who don’t.  Parenting characteristics of a secure and loving environment include emotional attunement, reassurance and comfort, holding and snuggling, and listening and responding to children’s needs.

Kids do best whose early home experience includes warmth, acceptance, sensitivity, stimulation, and engaged conversation. That means limiting electronic (and other) distractions when you’re spending time with your kids. Device-focused parents don’t look their kids in the eye as often, hear what they have to say, pick up on their feelings, or transmit that sparkle in the eye that makes children (and adults) feel valued. Read more

How Parents Can Help Kids Build Their Intelligence

How Parents Can Help Their Kids Build Their Intelligence

Children don’t start off smart. They become that way over time, with the right kinds of supports and learning opportunities at the right times in their lives. Here are four ways parents can actively participate in their child building a foundation for his or her intelligence:

1.      Appreciate your child’s unique profile of abilities:

  • Recognize that children’s abilities vary by domain—math, music, language, social, etc.—and that each child has a unique profile of intelligences. A child who’s highly capable in one area may have learning challenges in another area.
  • Pay attention to your child’s changing abilities, goals, attitudes, and interests.
  • Use different kinds of information sources, including school grades, and your own and others’ observations of your child’s interests, concerns, persistence, and motivation.
  • By appreciating individual developmental differences, you increase your child’s engagement in learning and intrinsic motivation, which leads to better learning outcomes, greater self-efficacy, and stronger likelihood of happy productivity across her life span.

Read more

Thoughts about Intelligence-Building

I recently reread an article written by fellow Canadian Lannie Kanevsky, published in Gifted Child Quarterly (Vol. 55, #4, Fall 2011, pp. 280-299). She writes,

“Students come to school to learn more than just subject matter; they come to learn to be learners. …self-knowledge is essential to effective, autonomous, life-long learning” (p. 296).

The focus of Kanevsky’s article is differentiation, and she discusses what educators should aspire toward in their classrooms. She talks about the importance of honouring children’s interests and preferences, and emphasizes the merits of collaborating with students in relation to program design and instruction (while still adhering to curriculum and professional standards, of course). Creativity, respect, and professionalism are integral to good teaching.

But what responsibility do students have for their intellectual growth?  The best learning happens when kids are ready and willing to put forth the concerted effort that’s required so they can think, act, and grow in positive ways. What’s involved? They have to be persistent, learn from mistakes, ask relevant questions, and invest time and energy in practice. Kanevsky states that children have to “learn to be learners.” Yes, subject matter is important, but hard work, resilience, and passion are what fuels intellectual growth and well-being. This holds true at school, home, within the community, and elsewhere.

Kanevsky also talks about self-knowledge, and the importance of helping kids become more aware of their own habits of mind, aspirations, and capabilities. This kind of self-awareness takes place over time. It demands patience, reflection, encouragement, and support. Self-knowledge also accrues from lessons about these capacities, and teachers and parents are well positioned to model them.

Teachers, parents, and kids can work together to make intelligence-building meaningful, and in the end children will find that not only are they better learners, but down the road, they’re come to be more competent adults as well.