Ally O’Rourke-Barrett, as our families know, will wear many different hats at Grayson this year, much to our delight and benefit. No matter what task she has in front of her, however, it will be approached through the lens of her experience a Belin-Blank Fellow in gifted education. What is that, exactly? Here’s how she explains it:
A Belin-Blank Fellow is someone who is lucky enough to spend a week at the University of Iowa learning from the foremost experts in the field of gifted education. I had the pleasure of studying with Drs. Susan Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, Megan Foley Nicpon, Laurie Croft, and Randy Lange. The top five things I learned about gifted education were:
1. Giftedness can look different for different students. There is no one right way to be gifted. Some students excel in creative arts, others in language arts, and others in STEM fields. The gifted umbrella is wide enough for all of these talents.
2. Acceleration is an excellent method of differentiation for gifted students who need more challenging material. Although some parents fear that students will be isolated by moving into a different age group, research shows that gifted children are more likely to make meaningful connections when they have true intellectual peers.
3. Addressing the needs of gifted students MUST include addressing their complex social and emotional needs. A complete gifted education will include training in mindfulness, effective communication, conflict resolution, and interpersonal relationship skills.
4. Gifted minds flourish with access to creative, differentiated, and student centered lessons. Not all gifted students will learn at the same rate. Having highly differentiated lessons will address the needs of each student in the class. Creative lessons will naturally lead to better student engagement.
5. Sensitivity to cultural diversity is crucial in determining who is gifted. Some populations are historically under-served in gifted education. Giftedness can look different across cultural boundaries. Differences in access should not be confused for differences in ability.