TED Conversations

Heidi Williams

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All of us have a "genius." I propose we honor the diversity of our children and stop LABELING them as "gifted." vs what..."not gifted?"

In doing an extensive search on the definition of "giftedness," I have come to the realization that an agreed upon definition does not exist...because there is NOT one. All of us have our own unique gifts and talents, and as a STRETCh (Striving To Reach Every Talented Child) Instructor, I help ALL children find and exploit those gifts and talents.

Our system of education must go under radical change and begin to honor the diversity we have within our children. Let's start focusing on what students CAN do instead of what they can't do.

Stop telling our children..."Great job, you are in the "GT program," and "Way to Go, you are so smart!" Let's start placing students in their strength areas with other students who have the same strength area regardless of their "date of manufacture (Sir Ken)." This way we can push all students and provide feedback that will help them all grow.

Many times those LABELED as GT are afraid of failure and take the easy way out, for fear that they would not be judged as "smart." We need to teach all children how to struggle, hit the wall, dust themselves off and gain the new skills needed to...as Sir Ken Robinson likes to say "give it a go" again!

I would love to see the world truly shift the paradigm of education! Provide all students with the opportunity to discover their gifts and talents and give parents the voice they need to be able to hold the school system accountable for meeting their child's needs. The question should not be "Is my child gifted"...but "Are my child's needs being met?"

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Closing Statement from Heidi Williams

I am unsure as to why this conversation closed so quickly...I fear that it was because I change my posting title and introduction too many times...? However, like any good educator, I model for my students the revision process. This is the first closing statement I have written, and I find it ironic that it asks "how my idea has evolved or been shaped...by contributions."

For those following my posts, I have done just that! Based upon feedback and conversations, I went in and edited my post as our conversations continued.

ED - I must reply to your comment: Do you think just because you didn't qualilfy (throuogh a labeling process) you wouldn't have enjoyed or been succesful at "those classes the eggheads took?" I think A LOT of undeveloped talented goes unnoticed because a student doesn't have the right test score to qualify. Why not open the class to anyone who wants to try! Why can't it be okay to have a student say...opps TOO hard. It would then let us know as educators that we are truly pushing at the top end....because it is too hard for some.

Many respondents mentioned learning pace and differentiation. Why would we need to label students (one the high or low end) if the educational system differentiated individually for all? I think that is why many of the MOOC's are so successful. As a learner, I can go at my own pace and receive the instant feedback I need to move forward. How can we build upon this type of environment in the classroom?

I would love to continue sharing ideas with others on this topic! Please consider joining a movement to STRETCh all our children! Continue to take part in the conversation!!

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/103j6Hd

Website: www.stretchinstructor.com

  • Dec 21 2012: "All of us have a "genius." "

    Not true, some people just don't excel in anything useful, and why should they, most people end up working in non-challenging dead-end jobs anyway.

    I do wish to add that a child's entire development (including motivation and the quality of teachers, text books, etc...) counts towards results later in life, you don't have to be born a genius to end up in cerebral, even scientific, lines of work. If you have identical twins and one gets to go to a good school, gets exposed to multiple languages, is encouraged to read non-fiction material and so on, and the other gets dropped in front of the tv to watch cartoons all day and goes to a shitty school then when the twins are adults one of them will come across significantly smarter than the other one, even score higher on an IQ test.
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    Dec 21 2012: Does anyone officially label youngsters "Non-gifted"? Any examples?
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      Dec 22 2012: I know I have never heard of such a thing, Ed. What you do see in many school districts is a separation of students according to the speed with which they can pick up new ideas in an area. Thus some students may be labeled academically gifted or accelerated or some other label people in education understand, while others are in classes without such a label. One reason putting kids of quite different ages together in a classroom can be a problem is that if they are placed in accordance only with what they know already in a subject, this does not necessarily imply that their rate of learning in that subject will be the same.

      Differentiating instruction to meet the needs of kids with different talents, speed of learning, or learning style is not at all the same as denying anyone's promise. It is about cultivating every child's promise.
    • Dec 22 2012: To a student sitting in a classroom where some students get pulled out to do a "gifted" activity... from years of experience in the classroom...many internalize and figure they must not be gifted. How much talent has gone undeveloped?
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        Dec 22 2012: I guess it's like being labeled by not being labeled? Do you advocate not recognizing exceptional ability in individuals to avoid negatively affecting those who are not so recognized? Conversely, do you advocate not recognizing special needs for those who require them to avoid negatively affecting the others? I always envied those eggheads who qualified for, and profited from, accelerated or honors curriculums, but I didn't want the program cancelled because I didn't qualify. Is that wrong?
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    Dec 21 2012: What respects diversity most, including differences in the rate at which children may reach understanding in a content area, is to differentiate instruction to honor those differences rather than to assume such differences do not exist.
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    Dec 21 2012: Heidi, you make many excellent points.

    I completely agree that our current system of education needs radical improvement and modification. I also agree that directly labeling children (and adults, for that matter) is not the best way group them.

    However, I think that another important aspect of this paradigm shift should be teaching children how to apply their natural talents towards something productive. We are currently dealing with a generation who was told "you can do anything you want" or "do what makes you happy" coming of age and lacking the education and skills to support themselves and contribute to society as productive adults. While the individual's priorities ultimately dictate how their life will be spent, I think that children need to be taught the consequences of entering a profession that is interesting to them but impractical.
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    Dec 21 2012: Heidi, I love your initial question, but when I go to read your text explaining your question, it's too dense, as here it is one o'clock in the morning. I'll attempt to get to it later, or can you summarize it more briefly?
    • Dec 21 2012: Greg...great comments. I have gone back and made some changes. Please provide me with the feedback I need to grow as a learner! Did I improve upon my posting? - A working example of what our students need :-)
  • Dec 21 2012: Okay but I have a problem with the idea of labels and everything has to be positive. Of course, there has to be sorting for skill levels. Certainly, this is done most strongly in sports.
    • Dec 21 2012: George...I have made some revisions to my original post. If you saw it as being "everything has to be positive," I did not articulate my point clearly. In honoring diversity, that means that students will have to accept that they might not be good at something - just like sport.

      For example, as a student I might have to realize that I am not good at reading and have to be with students much younger than myself because we are working on the same skills and that is OKAY! However, I might be a passionate, talented artist and find myself among older students. This would provide me with an education that would strengthen what I am good and and have a passion for, while helping me to compensate and function with my weakness.

      Our traditional system would say...this kid can't read and pull them from art classes in order to work on strengthening reading skills with "grade level" peers. Expectations and skills they may NOT be ready for yet. As an educational coach...yes reading is important...however I want to exploit those art skills because that is where the talent and passion and ENGAGEMENT are. If I graduate high school with adequate reading skills to function in life and leave actually enjoying reading because I could develop at my own pace...wouldn't it be a win/win for society and individuals?