Monthly Archives: March 2012

No, Your “Gifted” Child isn’t a Prodigy

Let me stress yet again that I am not a fan of labels, especially where children are concerned.  When you label a child that child becomes the label.  Consider the difference in “my child has autism” and “my autistic child“.  The former suggests a human being has a certain condition whereas the latter allows “autism” to swallow the child’s being whole. Sometimes a child with autism may express an incredible talent that is not typical of autism.  Such people are labelled idiot savant (talented idiot).  How’s that for a label? Kim Peek: Idiot Savant

There are many labels that annoy me (probably all of them) although I understand why they are used and why they are necessary:

  1. If we don’t know the condition we cannot devise a strategy of assistance for the child in school (rather like a doctor trying to treat an illness without knowing all of the symptoms)
  2. IPRC’s will not result in funding to assist children with special needs without an identification (a label)

IRPC is an acronym for Identificati0n Placement Review Committee.  Every school is legally required to have one in order to provide funding for necessary programs for children with special needs.  For instance if a child needs an assistive device to record responses to classroom teachings, the funding for this device comes via the interventi0n of the IPRC. The IPRC meets annually to discuss a child’s progress and to determine if ongoing funding is needed.

Before I digress too far however let me emphasize the reasons I am not fond of “gifted” as a label:

  1. We all have gifts.  We all have something to offer the this world, certainly our loved ones, our friends and hopefully ourselves.  We all matter.
  2. Many people are confused about the difference between gifted and prodigy.  Gifted in educational terms means the child is performing at an academic level above his or her current grade level.  It doesn’t mean your child is Mozart.  Your child is NOT a genius.  Einstein he or she is not.  Capiche?

If you had a brilliant child on your hands, you would likely have figured that one out by the time your little one was 2 or 3.  In fact, children with a brilliant IQ begin to process complexities before the age of 1. Yep, that early.  Such children can do miraculous things like listen to a classical piece of music on the radio once then sit down at a piano and play it back n0te for note as if they were Mozart, perhaps.  I’m willing to bet that is not your child.

It used to be schools moved exceptionally bright children forward a grade or even two.  However when issues with social skills became apparent, the system changed and now the Challenge Program or French Immersion is offered to a “gifted” child who remains at the current grade level.

Don’t get me wrong.  A child who performs well above grade level is blessed (not gifted).  They are advanced, if you will.  The future is bright and that’s a wonderful thing.  But don’t expect him or her to invent the better mouse trap for you anytime soon.Amazing 15 year old headed to Harvard


Facebook + Teachers = Failing Grade

15 years after social media exploded onto the internet scene resulting in professional scandals aplenty, teachers still have to be warned about what they post on Facebook, including very personal pics.  From what I’ve heard it is somehow possible to hack into someone’s private conversations with their friends and find out all sorts of juicy information.

What baffles me is who is stupid enough to post a picture of herself in lingerie, a bikini, or flat-on-your-face drunk at a costume party dressed in a tutu and carrying a wand?  Yet people do and then later they wonder why they are on suspension and at risk of losing their jobs (or actually do lose their jobs).  Watch Bikini-wearing teacher fired.

Social media provides artillery from student to teacher: an American student and her friends went onto a teacher’s MySpace page and typed comments about the teacher being a “lesbian,” and stating they “hated her“. When the school board found out, the comments were removed and the student was reprimanded but the damage was done: the school community knew about the postings and many people had seen them.  Read 16 Indian students suspended after rude Facebook comments on teacher

I use Facebook.  I use it very carefully.  There are no pics of me on my page.  There are pics of my family (decent, respectable) but no pics of me.  Period.  My profile information is not entirely true either (obviously I won’t stay which information is false). I use it to stay in touch with high school friends and indeed I have reunited with a number of them.  Facebook has valid uses.

However educators are hardly the only people who need to use social meda with care: many people are fired in different industries for posting seemingly innocuous comments.  Watch Teenager fired for commenting on Facebook at work how she was bored.  Not only did this woman post disparaging comments about her job, she did so during company time when she was supposed to be working.  Um, really now.

Teachers are public figures, like it or not.  To choose to become an educator is to choose to forever live your life under intense social scrutiny. That doesn’t sound fun.  It doesn’t sound fair.  But following the unwritten rule pays off when teachers remain within ethical boundaries, avoiding legal trouble, providing role models to children and most importantly, staying employed.Watch Superintendent reacts to Teacher Facebook Pages.

Hot for Teacher

Today I’m afraid to be a teacher.  We had a staff meeting this evening after school today.  OECTA (Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association) submitted a video for all of the schoolteachers on staff.  It was rough.  The above video gives you an idea of why.

The OECTA video we watched interviewed two teachers who were falsely accused of physical and sexual assault. One was a female teacher accused of … get ready … picking up an intermediate student (grades 7 – 8) and “whipping him across the classroom“. He alleged she picked him up and threw him.  She was suspended from her job until the ridiculous allegation was cleared some weeks later; the board had no choice in the matter. Not that the board cared in particular.

Another teacher in the movie who was cleared after a false sexual allegation was made against him, informed us that the board distanced itself from him during the investigation, offering him no support.  The police were happy to inform him that he wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone under the age of 18 in any circumstance, and he couldn’t attend his 5-year-old child’s daycare to pick him up. He was a pariah because of something he did not do.

The Toronto Catholic Children’s Aid Society was against this teacher from the word “go“. They backed him into a corner, refused to detail the allegation, or to explain why it had been levied against him.  Ditto the board. And OECTA.  They took weeks to get him in the loop. In the end, the teacher never found out many crucial details about the allegation. He  wanted to quit teaching but he refused to walk away: that action would only feed into the false reputation hoisted against him. Canada’s justice system delegates that an accused person is innocent unless proven guilty; this is true in theory. In practice it is entirely the opposite. Another lie.

The students in the OECTA video suffered no recrimination for their lies, no recrimination. Their lives continued as always, without interruption. If they learned anything from their wrongdoings (and after all, school is for learning), it is that they have the constitutional power to ruin lives without conscience or culpability.  Former Teacher Says Life Ruined by Student Sex Claims

Perhaps therein lies the rub: as long as students and families are permitted to levy false allegations against educators without repercussion then this disturbing trend will continue unabated.  Perhaps teachers who are currently fighting false allegations should consider a civil lawsuit when their charges are cleared.  Perhaps this will give unstable students and their dysfunctional families pause to consider whether they really want to go down that road.  Perhaps one person is all that is needed to take a stand and instigate change. Perhaps. Perhaps not.  Read principal sues ex-students over MySpace profiles

Tomorrow I may be afraid to be a teacher.  It’s a little too hot for this teacher as of late.

Recognizing the Not-So-Obvious

We had a brief lecture by a special education consultant at our last staff meeting.  It was very informative although so much information was received I confess I couldn’t process and retain all of it – and that was exactly her point about children who struggle to learn in the classroom.

One interesting item was that of children who cannot verbalize their learning (I believe I approached that concept in my last post Odd Observations in the Classroom).  Turns out there are many reasons for this:  the child hasn’t got the linguistic ability to communicate his or her learning, (not a language barrier however), the child is slower to process incoming information so slower to reiterate it to the teacher, the child is painfully shy, the child has a genuine learning disability, although these aren’t as common as teachers might think. watch self-esteem and learning

The school psychologist is reluctant to interview children in the primary grades who seem to be struggling academically, the reason being those children learn at different rates and many are overcoming shyness and so on.  I can understand those perspectives but I can also, as a teacher, assess when a child is simply very low academically, rather than learning at a slower rate than others.

For instance I have a little child in my grade one class who doesn’t know his alphabet, is unable to spelling anything other than his name, and cannot make letter-sound associations.  Certainly by the second semester of grade one when he has been in both junior and senior kindergarten (one year was full-days), he should have progressed to a much higher level than that by now.  Even two of the Special Education Resource teachers in my school were flummoxed by his level of learning.

The video above suggests silent children benefit from working in small groups.  Sometimes.  I have observed that some silent children simply stay silent even then although they will do the work that the natural “leader” assigns to them.  However I have been impressed to see my wallflowers bloom when it’s time to present the group work to the class.  And the reality is that shy or not, children have to learn to participate in full classroom discussion.  It’s going to happen in junior and intermediate, so learning basic classroom discussion skills in primary can be very helpful. Watch Why my child won’t try

However I have formulated a tentative plan that I hope will be of some help to my shy guys (and girls):

  1. when the topic is new, don’t call on the silent students unless they volunteer an answer
  2. when the topic has been taught for a week, allow pairs of students to discuss answers to each question I ask, then call upon the occasional silent student for a response
  3. incentives, such as team contests when simply attempting answers (not getting them right because that’s what makes a silent student freeze up) gives a team a point
  4. encouragement and positive feedback when a silent student makes an answer, regardless fo the right or wrong of it  watch can we talk about self esteem?

I have no idea how this one will work out.  No doubt it won’t work for all of the shy students I have in class.  The best plaid plans of mice and (wo)men never do. That’s one of the challenges that make teaching interesting: teaching myself whenever I enter the classroom.