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Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Not As Easy As It Looks

I think we are very lucky at our school because we are considered a magnet school and have 2 designated GT classes on each grade level K-2-one bilingual and one "regular". I like that the kids are identified and served early on because as we all know-they can certainly get bored easily and then it's all downhill from there. They do a number of performance assessments and projects with different products which I think really keep them challenged. We can lay that foundation in thinking skills early on and hopefully they will continue to build on them from year to year.

I tell you this because we were interviewing candidates for teaching positions. I really liked one until the candidate found out it was a GT class they said "oh, well that would be so great. It's so much easier to teach those kids-they already know everything". Part of me couldn't believe it, but part of me is used to it-I actually hear it a lot. We'll be in a meeting and they will be going over some initiative they are going to start-but it should be really easy for your kids. Why? Because they were tested and showed an innate ability? Lots of people have innate abilities but don't go anywhere if they aren't taught how to use them.

So I have some myths of being a GT teacher (and I'm not complaining at all mind you, I love what I do, I think it's a calling for me and wouldn't want to do anything else-just setting the record straight):

1) I have the whole spectrum of levels in my class. Even now in April I have a few kids who are not reading where they should be. I have kids who aren't able to add and subtract like the others. Some are even still struggling with writing phonetically. I struggle with differentiation just like everyone else, except I often have to also maintain activities for the very advanced students as well. I have 6 different reading groups to keep up with!

2) Just because they are bright doesn't mean they know anything academically. Our first lesson on compare and contrast gives me a whole crop of new gray hairs. I'll start reading a book and ask a basic recall question, call on 8 different students to find out none of them were actually listening. If you follow my blog at all, you may remember the leaf story. They found a leaf outside and were supposed to use it as part of their art--make it a necklace or a bridge. I got pages and pages of leaves turned into.....leaves. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to get them to think outside the box and some of them honestly never even get to that point despite our best efforts-which can be very frustrating as well.

3) I have to incorporate a whole GT curriculum on top of the regular curriculum. I have to find places to fit in things like multiple perspectives and ethics. I literally plan my units in a notebook with basically a bubble map-- starting with all the icons plus creativity plus critical thinking. Then I can add in the regular curriculum everyone else uses.

4) The expectations placed on you are higher. My kids are expected to score a grade equivalency of 1.4 on the Stanford testing-the 1st week of December!!!!! So I have 3 months (minus holidays and the 1st week of school) to get 5-year old kids who don't know letters and sounds on the first day to that level, where for everyone else it's K.4. When I post work in the hallway, people expect it to be perfect. My kids are learning the basics just like everyone else on the grade level.

5) We often get off-task. They ask so many questions and want to make connections-we often get a little sidetracked. One day we went from a bubble map on bats to questions on rabies to vaccinations to the dentist. If someone had walked in to evaluate me at that moment they would have wondered how we strayed so far from the bats in my lesson plans. Sometimes they ask questions I have to look up the answers to-but I feel if they ask, I owe them the answers.

6) We get our jobs because we are the better teachers. I know for a fact this isn't true because I could name 20 teachers at our school that are better than me (especially this year :). Parents often think this too and it's really just not true. I believe I have my position because I am good at challenging the kids and incorporating the GT curriculum. It's not an easy thing to do at an early childhood level but I just naturally think in icons, that's my strength :). Believe me, I could name off many weaknesses.

7) GT kids have less behavior issues to deal with. I can very emphatically tell you this is definitely a myth. I have boogerbears in my class just like anyone else. I have kids who won't put effort into their work, who talk in the hallway, who argue with you and who fight with each other--just like the other classes.

And believe me, I'm not saying we have it harder than other teachers, but I do think our jobs are harder than people perceive them to be.
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5 comments :

  1. Amen! I've blogged about some of these issues, too; I feel your pain. Plus I have the "helicopter parents" to deal with. They can be intense!
    The Small Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

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  2. I think a lot of people confuse achieving well and being gifted.

    An A student isn't necessarily gifted, and a gifted student isn't necessarily an A student. Parents don't always get that, and neither do other teachers.

    Plus, a gifted math student may not be gifted in other areas of the curriculum, so you honestly sometimes have a wider range of needed differentiation.

    I'm not a gifted teacher, but I definitely don't think it's any easier! It's just different!

    Jenny
    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

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  3. Thank you for posting this! I definitely agree. I do understand how teachers can have these misconceptions because before I started teaching gifted students I used to think "Oh she is so lucky she has the gifted kids". I now have a different view. My school has a small number of gifted students per grade level (5 or less) and so we cluster them in one room. I decided to get my gifted endorsement after having a year with gifted students. I learned so much and feel I am a better teacher not only for my gifted students but, for all of my students. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there and the more teachers of the gifted help other teachers understand what they do the more we can work together. It takes a lot of work to differentiate the range of abilities in my class. I am constantly challenged by my gifted students and love it! They are one of my biggest challenges and one of my biggest rewards. Thanks Again!

    AppleGirlAmber

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  4. Definitely, even at this juncture where school ends May 24th, the 1st grade teacher who has my son and 2 other GT students always expects the other GT students to be at the level in math my son is at. And she is not a new teacher. A lot of the GT kids check out doing easy work, from a parental prospective I see it often. That affects testing and classwork for sure.

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  5. Thank you for your outstanding post and I agree with all of your thoughts 100%.

    Some people think of my job as an educational utopia (4th grade gifted) but navigating the waters of social and emotional issues with these kids is quite the adventure! It takes a person with a certain desire (like pushing, challenging, and a deep patience) to work with a classroom of gifted kids!

    Thanks for your incredible blog!

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