Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Questions and "aha" moments

I wish you had the opportunity I have to spend time in Seabury's classrooms.  To witness the "aha!" moments.  To hear the endless questions.  To see students engaged in discussions and debates that are often mind blowing.

Seabury's kids love learning.  We are thrilled that they often tell us they love school and they have fun every day.  And how many schools have kids crying on the last day of school because they don't want the learning to end?

It is important to understand that students’ happiness is not our ultimate goal as educators at Seabury.  It is, instead, a by-product of a program built specifically for the gifted learners we serve.  Seabury's program is different from typical public or private school programs because our kids think and learn differently.

There has been a great deal of research over the years into how gifted students learn and develop, and there are agreed upon best practices for making sure gifted students have the  same opportunities to be challenged intellectually and supported socially and emotionally as typically developing students.  Dr. Karen Rogers, one of the foremost researchers in the field has been doing meta-analyses of various program practices for gifted learners for more than 30 years, looking at the gains students make when each practice is implemented, such as subject or grade level acceleration, grouping students with intellectual peers, and giving students the chance to pursue areas of interest.  

Where many schools implement or partially implement some of these recommendations, Seabury's program has been developed around these research-based best practices.  A student who is ready for math that is three grade levels ahead can work at that level rather than being limited to an "advanced" program that only allows students to work one or two grade levels ahead.  A student who is an early reader but who is still young can read with other young early readers who share similar interests and attention spans rather than either being under challenged in a grade level class that is too easy or moved ahead with students who are older and at a different developmental level.  

Teachers are trained in working with gifted students rather than relying on the myths and stereotypes that often lead well-meaning but untrained educators to make poor educational decisions for children like ours.

During Seabury's 25th anniversary year, we are going back to basics – talking about why we do what we do for the gifted students we serve.  We know we are on the right track.  Not only because the research tells us we are and the experts we bring in each year to speak to parents congratulate us on our work.  We know we are doing the right thing because our kids are happy.  They love learning.  They continue to have millions of questions.  They want to know more. And sometimes they even cry on the last day of school. 

– Sandi Wollum

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