Hello from sunny San Jose, California! We are so glad to be spending the weekend at the 2014 annual SENG Conference with parents, gifted adults and children, and educators of the gifted, to discuss the social and emotional issues related to being gifted. The presentations that we have attended so far have been uniformly knowledgeable, insightful, and useful.
We were glad to be able to squeeze in the room for the founder of SENG, James Webb‘s session, Searching for Meaning, in which he discussed his book of the same name dedicated toward helping parents and educators support students struggling with existential depression and the search for meaningfulness. We loved Dr. Grace Malonai’s session on helping gifted kids cope with anxiety and depression, for her practical tips and advice on better understanding and supporting gifted children’s common struggles with developing healthy coping strategies. You can also find her at the Gifted Identity Project. We were also glad to explore the resources from HeartMath from Dr. Dan Peters and Larry Davis.
We were also so excited to get to offer our own presentation on a topic we feel strongly about: educational disengagement among gifted students. We discussed the controversy around use of the term “underachievement,” given that “achievement” can be extremely difficult to measure and can sometimes lock students into what feels like a pattern from which they cannot escape. We talked about why it matters that our students are disengaged, from a global perspective, and what they might be able to accomplish if they are engaged. To help parents and teachers support students in overcoming educational disengagement, we discussed some strategies like providing students with an outlet to explore their interests, whether in or outside of school. Individualized learning experiences are also key to helping students feel some control over their learning and also to help them take responsibility for their education. We shared some case studies and a list of characteristics of disengagement that we compiled, and finally, some tools that we hope will help parents, teachers, and students themselves, re-engage with their education through encouraging independent study and meta-cognition. Our favorite part about the presentation, however, was the discussion it engendered. One thing we have loved about the SENG conference is the audience’s willingness to chime in with their own tips and experiences. It truly feels like a collective learning experience, instead of a static lecture-style conference, and we have been having a great time.
Below is the Prezi of our presentation. Please feel free to contact us if you’d like more information or electronic copies of the handouts. You are welcome to use and share the handouts we have created, as long as you give us credit and don’t sell them, please.
If you’d like more information and support around disengagement, we recommend you check out the newly-formed Gifted Underachievers group on Facebook. Connecting with other parents and educators who work with underachieving gifted students can provide some helpful ideas to how to motivate them.