The Eclectic Teacher|
by Ginny Hoover
I Didn't Know That!
Starting Over Again With a New Group and Learning About Them
As the school year ended, one guy sat down to talk to me for a while and told me about his band. It was in the last days of school, and here I was just finding out about this talented young man. How did I miss that he was a good guitarist? Life wasn't so great for him, and he sure could have used some positive input regarding his gifts. Instead, I remained ignorant of his gifts for most the year.
I met a man via the Internet . . . and no I didn't start an Internet romance---we wrote a book to help teachers recognize, acknowledge, and refine the gifts of children. Carroll Killingsworth, a retired educator in California, and me---Ginny Hoover---working away as a middle school teacher, started collaborating via the Internet to write a book to present a plan for helping teachers to see the best in their students.
Funny, but for something so important, it was an easy plan. It didn't require all that much effort and time, but the results were well worth it. Asking young people to write on a piece of paper 3 things they did well started the project. It didn't have to be academics, just anything they did well. I called it their "bragging" material. They laughed and couldn't think of anything (middle schoolers!). So we listed gifts, talents, and skills they saw in others without naming names. The list was soon a long list of choices and once they got the hang of thinking about it, they were soon scribbling down ideas about themselves. Some asked to think about it overnight. I had the students drop their personal list into the basket with the guarantee I wouldn't read them. They wondered why. I explained that I was going to be watching them very carefully for the next few weeks then my partner and I would add up to 3 items on their list---things we could see they did well.
This was an ungraded activity in advisor base. Some were just not motivated enough to make their list. But some days later, I spoke again about their gifts, talents, and skills. They were to ask their parents/guardians to write out a list of "bragging" topics for their child. They were to explain the project to their parents, but they were not to give clues to them about what gifts they wanted their parents to consider. It was to be only what the parents saw. That list was then thrown into the basket.
Next, my partner and I were busy writing a list of 1-3 items per student. We were the last to complete the lists, as we needed time to get to know our students. I had created a form to record all the responses from the student, parents, and teachers. So when I completed a list for a student I picked up the other two from the basket and recorded all the responses. Well, a few had been negligent about creating their own lists or returning the list from their parents. But when I started handing back the composite lists to the students who were done, those students with missing lists were nearly begging to have another chance. How funny! Of course, I said yes.
Another advisor base activity then became a gifts selection day. You see, it didn't make much difference that I thought something was a gift, if they didn't agree. They needed to select what they recognized as their gifts. Some of them were very unhappy with their lists. "Now that I understand what we are doing and I've had time to think about it," they pleaded, "may I correct my list?" Interestingly enough, I had expected this and had copied their lists with pencil! I had planned on them wanting to correct. Other responses were, "Do you really see this in me?" and "I never thought of that as a gift, it's just a natural part of who I am." Students then picked out what they wanted others to recognize as their gifts. They didn't have to pick 3, just no more than 3. We wanted it to be a focus on several gifts, not a generic list of "oh-hum, I can do this well, too."
These master lists with their top choices were placed in their school folders, and we used the information for many activities---job shadowing, career day, high school enrollment, and mini career fair. I was working with middle schoolers, so the application of the information was a natural and applicable to our curriculum. One high school teacher said they were planning on the Gifts Project to help freshmen start on their senior projects. She said many of them really had no understanding of what they did well and knowing their gifts would be a great start for them in selecting a project!
Each teacher who tried the project had different ideas how they would apply the information. But the value to students remains constant---the acknowledging that they are indeed gifted children. The book, in handbook format, contains forms to make the process easier. Think about recognizing, acknowledging, and refining The Gifts of Children. (Available at http://www.teachertimesavers.com/gifts.htm)
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Ginny Hoover is a frequent contributor to the Teachers.Net Gazette. Other articles written by her are;