NAGC follow-up

The National Association For Gifted Children’s conference was amazing and wonderful. Not only were there great speakers and panels, but there was a rare chance to meet some of the luminaries in the field. We heard Stephanie Tolan, and got to express our appreciation of her in a brief hallway conversation. Laura had lunch with Susan Jackson, and I had lunch with Linda Silverman. This last was particularly amazing for me, as I found out in talking with her that she’s been a teacher or colleague of pretty much every educator who’s made an impact on my life in the gifted education field. It was wonderful to tell someone that Suzie Perry was my teacher and have that person know exactly what that means.

Best of all, prompted by Laura I thrust a hard copy of the previous post into the hands of Jim DeLisle, who followed up by email with an unbelievably kind and nurturing response. He’s working with me to help it find a larger audience, which I find more than mildly astonishing.

I came out of this experience inspired. What I learned at that conference is that the split between achievement and emotional support isn’t just among parents of the gifted — it is deeply embedded in the current state of the field. In fact, NAGC just came out with a highly controversial new definition of giftedness, which moves away from the holistic approach towards an emphasis on talent development. By focusing on educational outcomes rather than psychology, this new definition would seem to justify everything that has been disturbing me about Stargate.

Lucky for me, my story at least is shaping up to have a pretty happy ending. Laura and I met with the Gifted Specialist at Stargate (Kathryn Kyd), who was incredibly sympathetic to our viewpoint, and together we came up with some ideas about how to improve Dante’s experience. Essentially, we’re creating a gifted pullout program within our gifted charter school! We spoke to the Head Of School, who we love (he was the previous HOS’s lieutenant), and he was completely receptive to the idea. He said he came back from the NAGC conference and started asking himself whether Stargate was doing the right thing to meet all the needs of gifted students — hearing the presentations expanded his viewpoint of what was useful and what was possible. However dysfunctional and schismatic it might be, I have many reasons to thank the NAGC.

So now Dante is being pulled out of class once a week for a couple of hours. Right now it’s just him and Kathryn, but they plan to invite more students within the next couple of sessions. He’s already been twice, and absolutely loves it. He picked the Middle Ages from a long list of ideas for what to study first, and they built a catapult together. His homework is to test it using various kinds of ammunition against paper castles, and according to him that is home fun, not homework. Never heard him say THAT before!

In fact, when I described to him the idea that he might have a special class at Stargate where he could choose what he wanted to learn, he said, “That sounds great, but I don’t understand how it can be school?” That’s how I knew I was on the right track.

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