GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
10201 YUMA COURT
P.O. BOX 1586
MANASSAS, VA 20108
VOLUME TEN, NUMBER THREE
LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION: $22.00
MEMBERS OF NATIONAL ADVISORY PANEL
Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children
Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs
Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida
Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado
Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education
Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon
Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - Director of Graduate Studies, Caldwell College, Caldwell, New Jersey
Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented
Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois
Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia
Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Lombard, Illinois
DURING A VISIT TO ENGLAND in the spring of 1996, I observed many examples of a nation devoted to nurturing the gifted and talented. First, there was the national competition for the best young classical musician -- the finalists’ performance was broadcast for several hours on BBC television where each of five individuals played a concerto. For approximately five hours, my family and I viewed live performances by these teenagers -- on a violin, trombone, percussion, bassoon or piano. The winner was a young violinist who studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music. It was impressive to see these lengthy competitions on British national television being broadcast from a beautiful and full auditorium in Birmingham, England. The second display of giftedness occurred while visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace and childhood home of William Shakespeare. Besides having the opportunity to walk through the home of his early childhood and youth and to see many Elizabethan artifacts in the Shakespeare Museum, I observed an amazing variety of people who traveled to Stratford to learn about the Bard’s early life. An international conglomeration was touring this town on a cold and windy March day, e.g., a group of Asian school girls, Americans from Minnesota and Virginia, British families, and students from France, Germany and Eastern Europe.
One of the museum displays was particularly interesting from an educator’s perspective -- an old school desk known historically as “Shakespeare’s desk.” Stratford-upon-Avon was a long distance from London during Elizabethan times. His imagination grew in a small farming community under the tutelage of scholars who traveled from Oxford University to teach school children Latin, Greek, and English grammar and history. What unique factors in this environment helped to nurture his creative genius? Are similar factors present in 20th century Western society? Such questions were sparked by my visit to this landmark of creative genius.
These experiences show that Britain strongly encourages the development and preservation of giftedness and talent. As the article by Jeanne Purcell and Joseph Renzulli demonstrates, it is necessary to design mentoring programs in the United States that support talent development in the humanities, the arts and the sciences. Their article discusses the rationale for the UConn Mentor Connection summer program based on mentoring research. This issue also includes: (1) a statement by Dr. James Gallagher and the National Association for Gifted Children on nurturing affective needs; (2) an inspiring creed by Ross Butchart which should be used by teachers of the gifted to affirm the importance of their work; (3) an article by Karen Cogan supporting the practice of ability grouping; and (4) Michael Walters’ essay on the life and times of Richard Rodriguez, a gifted Hispanic scholar who refuses to be placed into affirmative action or bilingual categories.
Maurice Fisher, Publisher
MAKING A DIFFERENCE ONE-TO-ONE: UCONN MENTOR CONNECTION
BY JEANNE H. PURCELL AND JOSEPH S. RENZULLI
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
"I am absolutely certain there is nothing any of us can do that is of greater importance than mentoring for helping our youngsters develop to the fullest of their abilities. " John Pepper Proctor and Gamble
Emily, a freshman in high school, was tall, blonde, vivacious, well-liked, and unusual. She was mature for her fourteen years and spent a great deal of time with her teachers talking about contemporary issues such as the role of government, capital punishment, women's rights, and the environment. While she was conversant about many adult topics, she was most knowledgeable about human rights and spoke articulately about the plight of Black South Africans.
During her freshman year Emily took world history. Not surprisingly, she was far ahead of her peers with respect to the reading and her understanding of the interrelationships among human civilizations. In her sophomore year, she took Mid-East and African history. During her tenth-grade year she worked closely with her history teacher and organized one lecture about contemporary South Africa and a series of presentations on the impact of nuclear armament. Emily organized these schoolwide presentations with poise, attention to detail, and a great sense of expectation.
Continuing with her interest in social affairs and government, Emily applied for and was accepted as a Legislative Page in the US House of Representatives for Connecticut Congresswoman Barbara B. Kennelly. Emily spent the fall and winter researching government issues, working with Representative Kennelly and her staff, and attending special classes for the high school students who were Legislative and Senate Pages. In Page School, Emily covered US History in depth. Additionally, all pages attended weekly seminars in which they were briefed on significant national and international issues.
Emily returned to her home high school for the second half of her junior year. Not surprisingly, she found school dull compared to the excitement of the "real world of politics." She also dreaded having to take the second half of US History, because she knew she had mastered much of the content prior to and during her experiences in Washington, DC.
Most educators would agree that Emily required an alternative program of studies. Cognitively and developmentally, she had moved beyond the second half of US History required of all juniors and, in all likelihood, Senior Seminars as well. Senior Seminar was a high-level history course offered in Emily's high school in which participants were expected to research national and international issues in order to discuss them with their teacher and members of the class.
What other educational alternatives would have been appropriate for Emily? One advisable instructional alternative was a mentorship, one of the oldest strategies we know dating back to the days of Socrates and Plato. This model of instruction has been revised in recent years to describe individualized instruction outside the home and classroom. What is a mentorship? What have we learned about talent development? How do mentorships contribute to the talent development process? How might this instructional format be used to help Emily? Do mentorship programs exist to help students like Emily? These questions will be used to guide the remainder of this article.
What is a mentorship?
As a form of instruction, mentorship can refer to a range of specific programs. Some educators define the mentorship as a finite, independent study (Mattson, 1979) which results "from the congregating of individuals with like minds and interests" (p. 34). Others align the mentorship with internships, apprenticeships, tutoring arrangements, or other cooperative relationships between schools and local individuals that are designed to expose young people to new careers, skills, or other very specific tasks. Still others characterize mentorships as avenues for "experiential learning" (Ellingson, Haeger, & Feldhusen, 1986).
Some experts and practitioners define mentorships not so much by the activities that constitute them, but by the special relationship that emerges from the learning partnership. Mentorships, Boston (1979) argues, are not programs that simply allow a student to spend time under the direction of someone who has expert knowledge about a field. A mentorship is based upon a commitment between a mentor and protégé and has, as its purpose, the shaping of a young person's outlook on life (Boston, 1979). Torrance (1979) captures the importance of the relationship that evolves between mentor and novice: "It [Creativity] requires intense devotion. One must be in love with something. It requires constant practice of even very simple operations over a long period of time. It requires concentration and absorption to the exclusion of other things. Generally, it involves an intensive, long-term, one-to-one relationship to a 'sensei' (teacher). Above all, it requires persistence––hard work, self-discipline, diligence, energy, effort, competence, expertness." (p. ix)
We do not intend to argue for a singular definition of the learning partnerships discussed above; clearly, these learning partnerships exist in a number of contexts, are initiated for a range of purposes, and produce a variety of products. It is more beneficial to view these learning relationships as equally valuable learning opportunities that are appropriate for certain learners, under certain circumstances, and at certain times. Some learning arrangements will be relatively short-lived and have a narrow focus, such as tutoring. Other learning relation-ships, such as independent study, will last longer because the end product is more complex and involved. A student interested in astrophotography, for example, may need to spend a semester or two learning from a more experienced partner about the night sky, the proper shutter speeds for different types of photographs, film speeds, techniques for developing black and white film, and professional mounting techniques. In other situations, the learning partnership is dedicated not only to the learner's competence in prescribed skills, but also the actualization of his or her creative potential in a field. The mentor is dedicated to helping the protégé realize his or her creative potential in their shared area of interest.
What Have We Learned About Talent Development?
The development of talent is a complex process facilitated by a set of many interrelated factors. Experts and researchers are taking a renewed interest in the process of talent development and, most recently, editors of Roeper Review devoted an entire issue to the topic. What do we know about talent development?
1. Talent occurs in every cultural, social, and economic group (Frasier & Passow, 1994; Frasier, Garcia, & Passow, 1995; Frasier, Hunsaker, Lee, Mitchell, Cramond, Krisel, Garcia, Martin, Frank, & Finley, 1995). Recent research emphasizes core attributes of talent potential, and these attributes can be used by educators to identify more effectively talent in young people from diverse populations.
2. Talent development takes time (Csikzentmihalyi & Robinson, 1986; Lehman, 1953). Quite simply, it takes time, sometimes the life span, for young people to become accomplished in a field and domain. Considerable research in a variety of academic, artistic, athletic, scientific, and other fields suggest that world-class performance demands intensely specialized efforts for as much as 70 hours per week for a decade (Walberg, 1983).
3. Talent develops incrementally (Arnold & Subotnik, 1995; Bloom, 1985, Feldman, 1991; Gardner, 1993). Regardless of the field of endeavor, the passage from novice to expert is characterized by several phases: the initial stage in which the novice is introduced to a field; training, the intensive middle ground characterized by hours of devoted, disciplined learning and practice of the skills of a field; and mastery, the final stage in which the protégé is able to actualize his or her creativity in a field of endeavor. Although all phases are essential, some experts claim that the middle stage or the apprenticeship is crucial (Feldman, 1991). The middle phase usually occurs in adolescence, and during this time "the spark is ignited," (Feldman, 1991, p. 81) and the student learns to sustain motivation.
4. Talent development requires some inborn aptitudes, learned skills, and habits of mind (Berger, 1994; Bloom, 1985; Csikzentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Feldhusen, 1995; Feldman, 1991; Gagné, 1995; Gardner, 1993; Simonton, 1984; Zuckerman, 1983). Initially, all young children exhibit some natural abilities which appear more or less spontaneously without clear training or practice. Some young people devote countless hours to learning and practicing their natural abilities which results in systematically developed skills in mathematics, painting, photography, writing, skating, and the like. Finally, talent development is the result of particular habits of mind, such as finding pleasure in solitude, the ability to tolerate frustration and negative moods, curiosity, commitment to goals, initiative, task commitment, and creativity.
5. Talent development requires prodigious support from various sectors of the environment, including the family and school. Parents create positive home environments that support genuine interests, and model achievement orientation. Additionally, family members play key roles in locating, changing, organizing, and raising money to pay for teachers for young people at each stage in the incremental talent development process (Bloom, 1985; Gardner, 1993). Schools, too, support talent development by supplying a wide range of challenging learning opportunities (Feldhusen, 1995; Renzulli, 1994); providing teachers who are supportive, interested in their students, and who model enjoyment and involvement in their field; and locating mentors who exhibit the characteristics and behaviors of experts in the targeted field of endeavor.
6. Talent development requires optimal experiences and "furtherance" (Csikzentmihalyi, 1990; Csikzentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Pressey, 1955). Quite simply, the quality of a young person's experiences facilitate engagement. Csikzentmihalyi (1990) characterized peak moments as times when attention is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match opportunities for growth and action. Those engaged with tasks say that they feel "strong, excited, unself-conscious, intrinsically motivated, success-ful, and as if they were working toward long-term goals (Csikzentmihalyi, 1993, p. 253). In addition to optimal experiences, talent development requires "furtherance" (Pressey, 1955). According to Pressey, much admired successes make subsequent attempts more likely, more vigorous, better integrated, and build ability. To summarize, talent development requires not only particular kinds of experiences that motivate protégés to recapture the same intensity of experiences felt before, but also successions of these positive experiences to increase the likelihood of subsequent attempts and effort and further develop abilities.
Mentorship: An Essential Key to Optimal Talent Development
How do mentorships contribute to the talent development process? Research suggests that mentorships provide students with a wide variety of benefits, academic and social, that are critical to talent development (Arnold & Subotnik, 1995; Berger, 1994; Bloom, 1985; Csikszentimalyhi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993; Feldman, 1991; Gardner, 1993; Goertzel, Goertzel, & Goertzel, 1978; Kerr, 1985; Piirto, 1992; Torrance, 1983). Boston (1976) argues that mentorships provide students with opportunities to develop skills and gain competencies. The knowledge and skills that are learned in mentorships will be required later on as novices continue in their chosen field.
Cox and Daniel (1983) document a range of personal benefits in the exemplary mentorship programs they examined. Some student participants gained a deeper understanding of the connection between school and work. Other participants gained confidence and maturity after working in the real world. A large number of students reported they were better able to envision their future. Some indicated that their mentors "opened doors" for them later on when they applied to colleges and universities. Kauffman (1981) studied Presidential Scholars to determine the nature, role, and influence of these high-achieving students' most significant mentors. Respondents indicated that their significant mentors supported and encouraged them and provided them with role models. Students had the opportunity to observe their mentor plan, make decisions, speak with and persuade others on a daily basis. Mentorships provide protégés with opportunities to learn the behaviors and habits of mind that will be critical to their later work and world-class performances or activities.
Harriet Zuckerman (1983) examined the mentor relation-ships among scientists at the pinnacle of their field. She also emphasized the importance of the relationship between the mentor and mentee. Her research suggests that the protégé's personal learning may be more beneficial than the cognitive training.
One point on which the laureates are largely agreed is that the least important aspect of their apprenticeship was the acquiring of substantive knowledge from the master. Some even reported that in the limited sense of information and knowledge of the scientific literature, apprentices, focused on one or another problem, sometimes "knew more" than their masters....Laureates testify that the principle benefit of apprenticeship was a wider orientation that included standards of work and modes of thought. They report, in effect, that the apprenticeship was a time of what social scientists call socialization. Socialization includes more than what is ordinarily understood by education or training: it involves acquiring the norms and standards, the values and attitudes, as well as the knowledge, skills, and behavior patterns associated with particular statuses and roles. It is, in short, the process through which people are inducted into a subculture. (p. 247)
Accordingly, Zuckerman suggests that mentorships at this level convey the tacit or unspoken knowledge of a field: the ways of problem finding, problem solving, and the values or standards for work.
To summarize, mentorships provide young people with a powerful range of benefits that encourage students through the talent development process. These benefits are not mutually exclusive. Initially, students benefit cognitively because they learn new information and acquire new skills. During the critical formative experiences of the apprenticeship, protégés learn not only additional skills and habits of mind, but also they participate in experiences which may sustain a life time of motivation in a field. Finally, students benefit personally because they learn the norms, standards, values, and attitudes––the tacit knowledge–– associated with a profession.
What Can We Do for Emily?
Let us now return to Emily, the young woman whose case opened this discussion. When Emily returned from her Washington, DC, legislative page experience, she was far ahead of her peers with respect to her knowledge about US History, international affairs, and maturity. Her classroom teachers noted that she needed to move beyond the traditional course of studies. With the help of an enrichment specialist, Emily's US History teacher arranged a pretest for her on the second half of US History. Emily scored over 90% on the exam and was excused from the course. A mentorship was arranged for Emily to take the place of coursework that had been eliminated for her with the pretest. One day a week, Emily worked in the Connecticut state capital as an aid to a representative in the state government. For the remainder of the academic year, Emily enthusiastically researched state issues, traced bills, and advised her mentor on critical government concerns. Emily's relationship with her mentor flourished and, in time, he grew to depend upon her insight and organizational skills. He advocated for Emily's admission into a prominent Northeastern university and promised her additional assistance if she ever decided to pursue a career in government.
Are There Mentor Programs?
We know that there are thousands of talented teenagers just like Emily all across America. They have talent and motivation. Yet, they need alternative educational programs to actualize their potential. Mentors play a key role in this stage of the talent development process because they are catalysts who will take young people beyond the schoolhouse door. They can provide them with experiences which literally may change their lives.
Where can high-achieving adolescents locate some of the special services they require to actualize their talents? The University of Connecticut is implementing a new program for highly motivated and talented teenagers called UConn Mentor Connection. It is a three-week, residential, summer program for rising high school juniors and seniors, which will run from July 7-26, 1996. At the heart of the program are mentorships in all areas of the arts and sciences with university professors and graduate students. The program has a single mission: to provide students with opportunities to participate in cutting-edge, creative projects and investigations in students' and mentors' shared areas of interest.
We believe UConn Mentor Connection will provide participating students with experiences in the intensive middle phase in the talent development process. Specifically, participants will become practicing professionals in their preselected field. They will be exposed to the methodology of their targeted area and have the opportunity to systematically practice the prerequisite skills. They will be exposed to leading researchers of their field and learn about tacit knowledge: how researchers find cutting-edge, important problems and questions; how researchers think about and solve problems; and the high work standards required by the field. We hope participants' "spark" will be ignited, and that their successful, formative experiences in UConn Mentor Connection will fuel their motivation to continue in their preselected area and increase the likelihood that someday they will make creative contributions in their chosen field.
Readers who want more information about UConn Mentor Connection may contact the address below.
UConn Mentor Connection
University of Connecticut
362 Fairfield Road, U-7
Storrs, CT 06269-2007
Phone: (860) 486-3741 Fax: (860) 486-2900
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Bloom, B. (1985). Developing talent in young people. New York: Ballentine.
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Feldhusen, J. F. (1995). Talent development: The new direction in gifted education. Roeper Review, 18(2), 92.
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Freedman, M. (1993). The kindness of strangers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gagné, Francoys. (1995). From giftedness to talent: A developmental model and its impact on the language of the field. Roeper Review, 18(2), 103-111.
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Csikszentimalyhi, M., & Robinson, R. (1986). Culture, time and the development of talent. In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 264-284). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Csikszentimalyhi, M., Rathunde, K., Whalen, S. (1993). Talented teenagers. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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STATEMENT FROM DR. JAMES GALLAGHER TO THE READERS OF GEPQ: NAGC’s CONCERN FOR THE AFFECTIVE NEEDS OF THE GIFTED
There has been an increasing interest in the emotional development of gifted students and a fresh recognition that advanced intellectual development can carry some special burdens in the affective domain. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has recently released a position paper on the Affective Needs of Gifted Children. This statement recognized that the special characteristics of gifted children can lead to special problems, as follows,
Characteristics such as emotional and moral intensity, sensitivity to expectations and feelings, perfectionism, lofty goals for themselves and others, and deep concerns about societal problems at an early age.
The NAGC urges school systems to provide appropriate affective services such as counseling interventions and career development and guidance programs to allow such children to reach their full potential.
Jim Gallagher, NAGC Past President
NAGC POSITION PAPER
AFFECTIVE NEEDS OF GIFTED CHILDREN
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) periodically issues policy statements that deal with issues, policies, and practices that have an impact on the education of gifted and talented students. Policy statements represent the official convictions of the organization.
All policy statements approved by the NAGC Board of Directors are consistent with the organization's belief that education in a democracy must respect the uniqueness of all individuals, the broad range of cultural diversity present in our society, and the similarities and differences in learning characteristics that can be found within any group of students. NAGC is fully committed to national goals that advocate both excellence and equity for all students, and we believe that the best way to achieve these is through differentiated educational opportunities, resources, and encouragement for all students.
Educational and counseling programs must provide all children with opportunities to develop understanding of themselves and their role in society. Because, by definition, gifted children differ significantly from others, these programs should be responding to the social-emotional or affective characteristics that distinguish gifted students from others. Furthermore, since significant differences also exist within the gifted population, appropriate services need to be designed and implemented to respond to individual differences.
Characteristics such as emotional and moral intensity, sensitivity to expectations and feelings, perfectionism, lofty goals and standards for themselves and others, and deep concerns about societal problems at an early age are found in a proportionally higher incidence among gifted and talented children. Those who have disabilities or differ in other ways, including culturally, linguistically, or socioeconomically may have additional affective needs.
NAGC believes that gifted children also require appropriate affective services including gifted-focused counseling interventions and career-development guidance programs if they are to develop their potential. NAGC recommends that these services be designed to:
●Provide orientation to gifted programming, including information about the selection process and the social, emotional, and academic implications of giftedness
●Enhance relationships with others, including both those who are identified as gifted and those who are not
●Assist with long-term life planning, including opportunities to deal with issues related to multi-potentiality
●Provide counseling that addresses the increased incidence of perfectionism, unrealistic goals, emotional intensity, moral concerns, and the resultant stress and lower achievement in the gifted population
Some gifted and talented children, because of heightened intellectual and social-emotional needs, may experience difficulties that require professional intervention. NAGC believes that it is imperative that those who provide services at such times have expertise in understanding the impact of giftedness on a child's development.
For further information contact: Peter D. Rosenstein
National Association for Gifted Children
1707 L Street, NW, Suite 550
Washington, DC 20036
AN EDUCATOR’S CREED
BY ROSS BUTCHART
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA
For several years following my first year teaching I pursued what I thought was the path to educational excellence. I spent my summer months thoroughly going over and revising one curriculum program. Sort of separated the grain from the chaff. Eliminated a few worthless lessons or assignments, revised others, even generated totally new ideas. Finally got to where I felt I could create my own Mathematics textbook or Literature anthology to match the best commercial products on the market. Fact is, things were humming along quite smoothly, thank you.
Then it happened - the day came that I read THE REPORT! Don't even remember where it originated, but the sad statistic it stated was one I could not ignore. Forty-four percent of all new teachers leave the profession within the first five years!
A sordid reality when you stop to think about it. A tragic commentary about the priorities of our society. Nine out of every twenty new teachers find the challenge of guiding, motivating, and instructing the next generation of young adults to successful academic accomplishment so dispiriting that they opt out. Simply chuck it all. Walk away from five years of university-level career preparation. And for what? A McWorker level of enterprise? Suddenly my petty summer enterprise seemed insignificant. Even trivial. . . .
The effect of this realization was not a matter of conscious choice. It was a matter of compulsion. I simply had to revise my focus. And because enthusiastic young talent is just too precious to lose, a new perception did become evident. One that confirmed what I really knew in my heart all along. That there is indeed quite a bit more to teaching than simply preparing lessons, projects, assignments, and their related activities. Little things really - but basic to anyone's self-respect. Things like satisfaction. Being appreciated. Enjoying respect. A belief that you're making a difference.
So I shifted direction. Made a one hundred eighty degree swing. Gave up curriculum renovations for something more meaningful and turned my efforts toward constructing a personal credo of teaching. Sort of the Gospel of Education according to Butchart. Advice I would share with any young teacher frustrated to the point of quitting. Now, many more years and many revisions later, I finally have something to offer - and this is it:
As a teacher you have it within your power to influence eternity. For never forget that the greatest from the past were teachers. And if the world is a wiser place today it came not through the laws of kings or the victories of generals, but from teachers who had insight into a superior way to inspire greatness in others and conveyed their vision to those who enacted individual dreams to fulfill private destinies. Believe the truth. You have the indomitable spirit within to affect generation upon generation. I can but guide you through a set of personal beliefs, to a faith in your own talents as the way to discover your innate power.
These brief insights are not unique; nor do they derive from one of superior intellect. Their benefits have been know and articulated for generations. Indeed, their longevity is proof of their value. My advice is to read them daily, once before you begin your work and again at the end of your labours. Then let the wisdom they convey become the foundation of your convictions.
Credo #1 Each new day offers a fresh vision of tomorrow's possibilities.
Your daily reacquaintance with each student is a glimpse into the soul of the future. And how you undertake the challenges each day presents, both by attitude and by action, determines the measure of your influence upon that future. Your options are limited, but straightforward. For in the today named 'opportunity' lives the tomorrow named 'hope,' but in the today named 'maybe' lives the tomorrow named 'never’
Credo #2 A deep and abiding respect for others begins with a deep and abiding respect for yourself.
The renowned French author Francois Rabelais knew well and stated eloquently over four decades ago: “So much is a man worth as he esteems himself.” To successfully confront any challenge, you must first admire what you see in the mirror each morning. And in you there is much to admire.
Your reflected image encompasses the sum total of your knowledge, your feelings, and your experiences - the very essence of your uniqueness. Yet there is more. For within what you are today also resides the sum total of your future potential. And both in what you are, and in what you may become lie your power to influence students to realize their individual capability for greatness.
You must admire without reservation what you see in the mirror. For there is much that you are. But you must also admire what you see beyond the mirror. For there is much more that you may become.
Credo #3 Seek to discover the essential goodness in each student
Never forget that every inhabitant of our planetary home was conceived through an act of love, and though the current circumstances of many may lie more in misery and misfortune, the spirit from their conception resides dormant in each. Yes, there are students who have few endearing qualities to mark them as civilized members of the human condition. Yet even within their anger and hatred there exists an energy that can be transmuted into a purpose for their betterment.
For every person harbours within a dual image of his worth. The one is the vision of himself in all his perfection and in full realization of his ideals. The other is the vision of himself with all his faults and in full display of his weaknesses. In the distance between these two images lies his perception of his worth. The power and purpose of the transmuted energy within each can be engaged to reduce this separation. To effect its occurrence is the creative challenge of teaching.
Credo #4 Time is the great equalizer.
Time knows no nationality, race, or religion. Regardless of one's occupation, income, or social status, it regards all with dispassion. It is the paragon of equal opportunity, giving 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, 8736 hours a year as the dimensions of our existence.
But what you decide to do with this time is your choice alone.
Never forget, though, that time is the currency of exchange by which to measure your sincerity for others. And to give freely of your time beyond the boundaries of established expectation for the benefit of your students is its supreme expression. An anonymous writer once recorded: There's no traffic jam on the extra mile. Neither is there a short-cut to the on-ramp.
Credo #5 Let students learn what you live.
How you teach is a measure of your professionalism. But how you live is a measure of your character. Without doubt both are important, but long after students have forgotten how you taught addition of fractions or the history of 20th century Europe, they will remember you for your consideration, patience, sensitivity, dedication, and humour. Knowledge is temporary. It has its sunrise, its day in the sun, and its sunset; only to be replaced in time by the dawning of further discovery. But principles which ennoble human conduct endure forever.
Credo #6 Every success is a bridge to a greater challenge; every challenge is an opportunity for a greater success.
No curriculum is an end in itself, only a means to a higher end. And while content, processes, and skills possess value, they exist not for their own sake alone. Their transcendent value exists only in how well they may serve as stepping stones which allow students to develop those attitudes which prevent them from imposing artificial limits on their unlimited capacity for success.
Self-respect, empathy, effective time management, dedica-tion to duty, hope for the future - they are all part of the above. Deny their influence and you deny principles which have served and inspired generations. Accept their strength and you have the potential to influence eternity. For should you inspire only one in ten of those you teach; and should they in turn affect but one in ten of those they encounter; and should they in turn also touch but one in ten, and thereby pass the torch of inspiration throughout all future generations; then your influence will truly extend unto eternity.
This I know. I keep one special file folder in my cabinet. It contains only four letters. Each was personally handwritten by a student I have taught and conveys a very simple message: THANK YOU, YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE.
Considering the greatest teacher in the world had only one in ten return to express appreciation, four of the seventeen hundred I have taught over twenty-eight years is an honour.
"Great ideas come into the world as quietly as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear among the uproar of empires and nations a faint fluttering of wings, the gentle stirrings of life and hope." -- Albert Camus
ABILITY GROUPING: AID OR DISCRIMINATION
BY KAREN COGAN
FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO
As a kindergarten teacher, I soon learned that, within my group of students, there were many levels of academic ability. Some of the children already knew letters and sounds and were beginning to read. Others were just learning to recognize letters. And a few of the children couldn't tell me their names or basic shapes and colors.
Stumped by these vast differences, I felt the only way to keep from boring some or losing others was to divide the class into flexible groups. After having studied the pros and cons of grouping, I proceeded with some initial misgivings. These misgivings were fed by literature that suggested such grouping would devastate the self-esteem of the less academically advanced children.
Worried this might be the case, I could, however, see no other solution. To my relief, I found the opposite to be true. Ability grouping actually gave these children more confidence. Finding they were now often the smartest in their groups, these children were relieved not to compete with the children who always knew the answers.
Not only did this grouping benefit less confident learners, it helped children at every level of learning. Dividing the children according to their academic needs allowed me to zero in on the exact curriculum level of each group and teach only the skills that were needed.
Another plus to this system was that I now had the freedom to challenge my most academically gifted students. Too often, these children are allowed to become lazy, sitting idly by while others complete work they have long since finished. As I moved this group ahead, offering them more advanced material, they discovered a need to exert themselves to keep up with the work and compete with other bright students. This is a challenge on which they often thrive.
Since these children are able to work very independently once I got them started, they quickly became absorbed in their task, guiding each other, and asking for very little direction. Behavior problems which had surfaced when these children were bored, quickly vanished as they lost themselves in the excitement of learning.
From the above argument, it follows that homogenous grouping is the perfect alternative to heterogenous grouping, where children sit, staring glassy-eyed into space, while they listen to struggling classmates read aloud. Why, then, doesn't every school offer flexible homogenous grouping?
As the years have passed and I have dealt with sending my own children through schools, I have found there are several myths that prevent public school systems from adopting academic levels which would better meet the needs of all students and eliminate the negative social pressure placed on honor students. These myths are presented and examined below.
Myth 1: The brightest students will manage to learn no matter what the environment. In the currently popular, but often misused, outcome based curriculums, the bright students are often used as mini-teachers and encouraged to help the other students. There's nothing wrong with peer tutoring. However, if the student who is teaching is being held back until the others catch up, not only do they become bored, they are denied the chance to realize their academic potential. As they wait, they become bored and frustrated by the constant drag of a slow pace.
I became aware of that fact when my daughter entered first grade in a system that didn't group until third grade. As we sought relief for her boredom, the principal assured me there were studies which proved with equal conviction the case for and against ability grouping. Yet personal experience and common sense told me otherwise.
My daughter and the other children who were ahead were left to vegetate. The teacher, busy with the children who were behind and likely to score poorly on the standardized tests, was unable to find time to challenge the children who had mastered much of the first grade work before they entered the classroom. That small group of children could have been taken far ahead into new and challenging material. Since there was no grouping and the teacher had human limitations, these children learned nothing new in first grade. It seems a waste for a country which wishes to compete with the rest of the world, to hold back some of our brightest minds from learning.
Myth 2: The self-esteem of slower children is hurt when they are grouped. Even young children need to be given credit for a certain amount of perception. It is the nature of a child to compare. They know who is the best runner, who is the best at catching a ball, and who is best at spelling and reading. Whether we group or not, children will know who is successful academically. Whether we group formally or allow the children to do it mentally, children will group themselves, often with disastrous results as seen in:
Myth 3: It is better for children's social adjustment not to group. It is worse on self-esteem when there is too great a diversion in a single classroom because it allows more comparison. When children within a single class face a gulf in academic ability, the tendency is to pull the best students down. Competition within widely mismatched groups causes resentment, teasing and negative academic pressure. Insecure, the children not at the academic top, make it seem "cool" not to make good grades. Without the support of peers who thrive on competition and value academic achievement, many bright children give in to pressure and try not to be too smart. In addition, many give in to demands to give answers and cheat in order to have friends.
In the misguided excuse of preserving self-esteem, many of our children, either struggle or vegetate each day in American classrooms. This is unfortunate. These classrooms are failing to prepare children for adult life.
When students go out into the world, they will face employers who are concerned with good job performance. And employers rarely put hurting someone's self-esteem above ability when looking for able employees. The students they hire will be expected to have mastered basic skills for the job they seek. And these students will compete with other graduates who have mastered the academic skills which qualify them for the position they seek.
If we do not prepare students for the reality of adult life and the competition involved, we have failed them. If they have been left behind because they were "too slow" or neglected because they already knew the material, another graduate who is more prepared will surely get the job.
And lest we see grouping as a form of discrimination instead of a way to meet varied needs, it is ironic to note how many school systems allow discrimination based on athletic ability, yet quake at the thought of grouping children for academics. Why is it all right for coaches to choose only the best players for a football team, thus risking the esteem of the rest of the other children, and yet, not okay for the same school system to offer special programs for honors students based on academic ability? If children's self-esteem can survive sports discrimination, why not academic? After all, not everyone can be good at everything. It is unfortunate, however, that parents and educators sometimes place more emphasis on sports than academics.
As a country, we must wake up and face the myths. America has lost ground in the race to produce the best minds because of our misplaced preoccupation with self- esteem and our love affair with sports. We should insist on true outcome based education. The outcomes should not be measured in liberal social values, but on mastery of academic skills which are challenging to each child.
And the most efficient way to educate masses of children who differ widely in academic ability is to offer flexible grouping. No matter which group a child may fit into, he will find competition which is not out of reach of his ability. This is especially important for the academically able. When high academic achievers are grouped together, they challenge each other and find support in their common desire for success. Like fine athletes, this competition encourages them to keep on their toes and do their best. And though our absorption with self-esteem has given academic competition a bad name, it is no more wrong than competition in sports.
Our public schools were created with one purpose in mind: to educate our children. In keeping with our American tradition of excellence, let's insist all children receive the best education they are capable of receiving. ☞ ☞ ☞ ☞ ☞
“In most of the fields where facts are sufficient, we have been getting on very well. We know just how to build bridges, make aircraft fly faster, and bombs more destructive. But we don't agree at all on the question of just who, if anybody, ought to be blown up by them. More facts are not going to settle that or any other ‘ought’ question. And it seems to be the ought questions which are causing a great deal of trouble. Unless we agree upon some of them pretty soon, there may not be much left to argue over or, for that matter, many people to argue. Even a wrong answer, if only there were general agreement upon it, might have less catastrophic results than violent disagreement.” -- Joseph Wood Krutch If You Don't Mind My Saying So: Essays on Man & Nature, 1964.
RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: THE STRUGGLES OF A GIFTED MINORITY STUDENT
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"Intimacy is not created by a particular language; it is created by intimates." from Hunger of Memory, p. 32.
In college courses throughout the United States, an autobiography by a Mexican American writer, Richard Rodriguez, is required reading. His book is used for provoking thinking and discussion on such intensive topics as multiculturalism, cultural hegemony, affirmative action and bilingualism. However, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982, Bantam Books), possesses special insights for those in the gifted education field. The concerns that gifted educators share with Rodriguez are twofold: First, he pointedly represents the dilemma of the gifted minority student. Secondly, his book is the result of giftedness as expressed by the psychological aspects of sensibility.
The term "minority student" is not a numerical status but a term concerned with political power. It is obvious that if one takes women, Latinos, and African-, Asian- and Native-Americans from a state such as California, this collective numerical mass represents a majority. Despite their numerical majority, they are perceived as being in the minority compared to the power elite of California and the nation. Therefore, at least at the present time, "minority student" is a cultural and political description. Richard Rodriguez, contrary to his own political perceptions, fell into this concept of "minority student," especially as it is defined by federal bureaucracies. His book is a testament to one person's struggle for his own sense of self. He is perhaps in his own way seeking to become a self-actualized person according to Maslow's theory, and he demands the freedom to define himself on his own terms. Rodriguez desires most of all, the right to perceive himself based on sensibility rather than ethnicity.
Rodriguez’s sensibility derives from his giftedness. He describes how he discovered an exalted universe of literature in his childhood and teens. His ultimate conflict concerns the status of language. What has been described in today's political atmosphere as cultural assimilation, is to Rodriguez, the desire to transcend his family's language, and to communicate and live in the universal language of human thought. For him, language does not define a sociological context or a political condition. He considers this use of language to be on a totalitarian level of human response. Language for him is found in the human need for personal meaning, and the religious and aesthetic aspects of the human condition. His painful desire throughout his education was to express himself as a gifted minority student whose values were determined by individual sensibility -- not the nostrums of political correctness.
Rodriguez’s love for literature displayed itself during his early years. He read and wrote constantly -- Dante, Shakespeare and Dickens had a more compelling message than a specific political agenda. What is important is not that Rodriguez’s views are politically incorrect, but that his views derive from the understanding of a gifted individual. For example, his feeling for religion is a more relevant concern than his ethnicity. The French Catholic existential theologian, Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), and the Jewish existential philosopher, Martin Buber (1878-1965), are individuals who speak his language.
Language for Rodriguez should not encourage individuals to live in a tribal tent but to become citizens of the world. For example, he identifies with the British writer, D.H. Lawrence, who had a conflict with his working class father. A good companion book to read with Hunger of Memory is Sons and Lovers (1913) by D.H. Lawrence.