Monday, May 16, 2011

The Gift of Teaching Gifted Students

The classroom is an interesting place to say the least. As teachers we are solely responsible for setting up and setting the tone for learning every day. Many of us are fortunate enough to teach a variety of subjects to a diverse group of students but not all of us have a gifted class. When I first starting teaching (um, 18 years ago) I had 35 gifted students in a social studies class and it was an eye opening and exhilarating experience. Starting my career like that really got my attention.

You know that time when you just started your first teaching job and you have a million ideas to use in your classroom? Soon some of those ideas do not turn out like you planned and you end up switching to plan B more than you expected. But then there is one class in which everything you try turns out better than expected. Why? Was it your approach? Enthusiasm? Did you reflect long enough to realize it was the chemistry of the class? For me those 35 gifted students had amazing chemistry. I quickly realized I could do anything with them as long as I included them in the learning process.

Here I am 18 years later and again have a group of students who are amazing and gifted. They are my AP World History students and they have energy and a passion for learning and life. I feed off their energy and try to meet their needs on a daily basis. The challenge is in diversifying their needs enough which will fuel their learning and keep them focused. Yes, despite them being gifted they have a variety of strengths and weaknesses that provide quite a challenge every day. The one factor they all have in common is that they "get it". They understand the value of education and are motivated to come away with a deeper knowledge of the subject not just the grade. Although there are a few who see the grade as all important, most understand the need to learn and grow as individuals. So, when I ask for their input on projects, assignments, etc. they provided great feedback that will steer their learning in the direction that best suits them.

As I look forward to next year, I want to use the experiences from this class to design, create and implement a learning environment that will allow all students to learn and grow. Therein lies the challenge. I'm confident with the feedback I receive this school year from my gifted students that I will be better prepared to meet the needs of next years classes.
I'm looking forward to it.