Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catering for gifted students

Catering for gifted students is one of the hardest parts of the job. These kids have been haphazardly accelerated in various topics resulting in them blitzing through some topics and requiring high levels of assistance at other times ahead of students in the normal programme.

It is near on impossible to cater for these students in a true heterogenous classroom as a beginning teacher. There is no possible way that a starting teacher has the skills to run multiple programmes in a room and diagnose issues for these students in a just-in-time manner. An experienced teacher can do it (with difficulty) but a beginning teacher cannot.

An analogy is the best possible way of explaining what I have come across.

Each child in the room has the combined computing power of every computer in the world today combined (there was a great article on this found via /. the other day). I would not expect a just graduated four year programmer to produce a programme that would optimise throughput via every computer in the world.

Yet we regularly ask 1st year out teachers to create optimised programmes (and IEPS)that cater for thirty such brains with 30 times our current worldwide computing capacity. Let's face facts.. the only reason teaching works is that over the last 2000 years we have stumbled across some methods that make the world more understandable for these underdeveloped intelligences.

And here we are again not giving baseline programmes to these graduate teachers. The national curriculum has failed to deliver something easily usable and assessible in the classroom (are we in education forever destined to repeat mistakes - maybe it was the lack of History in classrooms over an extended period??). I was very critical of the lack of production by the maths TDC's but at least at the end they tried to produce something for the classroom that could be modified to suit a learning environment.

As teachers in the system for some time, we need to be constantly aware of new teachers that will need our help and guidance - hopefully willingly, and sometimes reluctantly. Those 2000 years of education have some parts baby that shouldn't be thrown out with the bathwater.

We place our gifted students at risk every time they enter a classroom of where we do not cater to their needs. Without the need to strive, they coast, get lazy or find a private school that will cater to their needs (check to see if your school has a year nine exodus and then ask what is being done about it). We need to be careful that good teachers that need support are given it, students are optimally taught and environments are created that promote the benefits of learning.

I'm currently pointing the finger at middle schools over catering to pastoral needs and the national curriculum intent to remove the ability to provide developmentally appropriate classes in WA senior schools.

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