What If Every Class Was Based Upon The Gifted Education Model?

Imagine a school, where each classroom was based upon the belief that “every child is gifted”.  This does make a difference.  For what we believe is often what we see!

There have been numerous studies related to teacher’s expectations and student performance; many of which replicate the research from the 1960’s conducted by Rosenthal; when a group of teachers was told specific students were “gifted”. Based upon Merton’s earlier work, associated with “self-fulfilling prophecy”, Rosenthal’s studies highlighted the following:  teachers were informed that their students “had high IQ scores”; creating a new set of higher expectations.   As a result, there were a number of behavioral changes demonstrated by the teachers due to their belief that the identified students were “gifted”.  According to a recent NPR article, the following insights were highlighted within Rosenthal’s research: “Teachers give the students that they expect to succeed more time to answer questions, more specific feedback, and more approval: They consistently touch, nod and smile at those kids more”. However, in real time, these so-called identified students were randomly selected; and were not truly higher functioning or gifted. For more information on this, here’s a recent article about Rosenthal’s work: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/09/18/161159263/teachers-expectations-can-influence-how-students-perform

So what do we learn from these studies?  Simply, what we believe is what we see.   And our expectations adjust based upon our preconceived beliefs of our students.

Getting back to the question: “Imagine a school where each classroom was based upon the belief that “every child was gifted”; I propose the following: What if we truly believed that every child presented a gift, a talent, an extraordinary contribution, and it was our responsibility as educators to seek out, nurture, inspire, and promote the development of these emerging gifts?   Now, we do this on some levels: For example, when a student presents a propensity toward music at an unusually young age, we often use the phrase, “Like Mozart” as if there is an innate talent emerging.  Same for students who present an unusual knack for math or science, we often use the phrase, “Baby Einstein”.  And once again, comments are often shared related to the natural giftedness of these students.  Instead of these characteristics being learned, they are often thought of as “god-given” or “born with”.

So I ask the question, what if we thought of every child as gifted; born with an extraordinary emergence of potential?  And instead of thinking of school as a place where we fill up empty minds with knowledge, highlighting the Common Core or standards-based learning, what if as every child walks in to the K-12 system, we invest our perceptions and beliefs in the idea that “every child is a gift to the world” and all of our efforts go into supporting the emergence of these unique and special talents within every child?  I believe this would present something all together different.  Instead of a whole system limited by developmentally inappropriate academic expectations, and frustrated by the students who fail to meet these standards, we would likely create a whole new understanding of each child as well as reinvent education as we know it.  By focusing on the emergence of the natural gifts within, rather than believing the “empty vessel” theory, true educational reform will unfold. And it would cost absolutely nothing to do so.  Just a matter of rethinking what we believe.  It’s as simple as having faith that every child, K-12, has a gift, a talent, and promise within in contrast to being “good or bad”, above-standard, or failing, or special needs or gifted.

And by doing so, I believe the educational system will change.  What was once bureaucratic, formulaic, and inflexible, will evolve into a child-centered, fluid, and inspirational system.  As a former coordinator of Gifted Education programs in school districts, I know what happens first-hand when teachers see their students as gifted; creativity increases, deeper-meaning associated with learning takes place, and less emphasis on testing unfolds. In fact, fun happens in many of these programs, especially at the elementary level.  Then, a waiting-list is established for more students want to access interesting classes, with many more bells and whistles.  This is what happens when you see your students as gifted. Within the traditional model, not all students are gifted.  But what if?  What if we DID see every child as gifted and worked from this perspective?

So from my stand-point, it’s in everyone’s best interest to see every child as a gift; an emergence of brilliance, the extraordinary, and something special to behold.  For what we believe is what we see!  It’s the foundation for unconditional love and understanding.  And that’s a true best practice.

For more information, contact Larry at specialeducationadvocacy.org or read his latest book, “Love, Understanding, and Other Best Practices” available on Amazon.

Relationship, Relevance, and Resilience: When the Honeymoon is Over!

Honeymoon: A period of unusual harmony especially following the establishment of a new relationship … With each new school year, there is an established “honeymoon” period; where the students [as well as teachers] appear to be on their best behavior due to the notion of a fresh start.  In many cases, this period lasts fourContinue Reading

Relationship, Relevance, and Resilience: The New Three Rs!

Sometimes we forget what it was like being a child, and specifically, being a student.  For most of us, we barely remember what the day to day experience was like and most often, we have no clue what we learned in school. But we NEVER forget the teacher who made a difference in our lives.Continue Reading

Back to School Tip: Wear a Smile, Not New Clothes!

As we cycle through routines from year to year; for many parents, August is Back to School season with all of it’s rituals including new clothes, new supplies, and other essentials.  This year, I highly recommend experiencing new thoughts, new emotions, and overall, a fresh attitude when considering the upcoming school year.  How about seeing theContinue Reading

“Least Restrictive Setting” and How It is Misused 42 Years Later …

In 1975, federal law was passed protecting the rights of students with disabilities and PL 94-172 has been the guiding light ever since.  Parents, educators, and advocates have been on this vigilant path for 42 years and continue to work toward providing opportunities for students identified with disabilities and other conditions which impact their lives.Continue Reading

Down the Homestretch: Lessons from the Kentucky Derby; It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish!

I always associate the homestretch of the school year with the Kentucky Derby for both come at the same time; early May.  Taking this metaphor further, it’s not about how you start the school year, nor the Derby, it’s more about how you finish.  And in light of students with executive function gaps, ADD/ADHD, orContinue Reading

Being Present “Here and Now” Instead of Preparing for the Future Then, There, and Everywhere!

“Being Present …” “Staying in the moment …” “Keeping calm ….” “Being in the here and now.”   Likely, these Yoga-like phrases are familiar to you.  They are helpful when we need mental reminders leading to a form of relaxation and stress reduction.  However, in my thirty-plus years working in the school environment, I don’t recallContinue Reading

Is There an Elephant in the Room During Your Child’s IEP Meeting?: Funding Programs With Peanuts

Elephants are best observed in their natural habitat.  Or in the zoo.  Then again, there are still a number of elephants found in the circus.  However, within special education meetings, sometimes, elephants are also in the room.  Here’s what I am talking about: Recently, I participated in five IEP meetings which featured the following scenario:Continue Reading

Smiley Faces, Emojis, and Reward Systems: Another Perspective on Behavior

Building success upon “what already works” is the way to go when it comes to motivation, reward systems, and inspiring the best from our children.  They are no different than the larger, older forms of humanity; we all like positive feedback and respond accordingly. However, I am writing about the use of Smiley Faces withinContinue Reading

How Often Do You Have Autism-Like Moments In Your Life?

What I am trying to do here is share a perspective: Autism is part of the human experience. We all share similar behaviors and responses, especially, when stress, anxiety, or the general feeling of being over-whelmed is at the core. From my point of view, the intensity of the response, as well as the duration,Continue Reading

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