Deficient? Detoxing from Negative Framing

equal testing has all animals climb a treeI attended the welcoming reception at the education conference I am at this week – an opportunity for vendors to entice people to their booths with free food. Obviously this works on me because I was there. I enjoy looking for new tools or strategies for our students, so the exhibit hall is a favorite part for me. However, as I went from one booth to another, there was one I hesitated approaching. It was huge, dominating a large portion of the room, but I passed by it several times. I was struggling with first bullet point on their sign: deficiency diagnostics.

Now, I understand the concept of deficiency diagnostics, and the importance of knowing where the gaps are – especially in a mastery-based program like ours. So I forced myself to finally read the rest of the booth’s signs to see if there was anything to redeem the negative feeling.

Nope.

What’s my hang-up? After years of detoxing kids from negative framing, I find that instead of becoming jaded, I have only become more sensitive. We often get students who see themselves as “deficient” and who need to be “fixed” because of all the things “wrong” about them. It takes time to help them reframe their approach: use their strengths to tackle the challenge areas to the best of their abilities, and focus on their gifts and personal goals to define themselves as the wonderfully unique beings they are.

Maybe there isn’t a better way of saying “deficiency diagnostics” that would fit on a display sign. However, is there a way we can help students recognize and work on areas for growth without them feeling “broken” as a result? Can we – the teachers, parents, and other potential mentors – model this, or are we struggling with this for ourselves?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Also, if you know of any tools, strategies, or other resources that focus on a positive growth mindset, please share them with me.

 

Connect with Tamra

  Twitter

Gplus  Google+ 

linkedin-icon  Linked In

  Facebook

 

Personalized Learning No More?

Words clipart cute kid“I’m not using the words ‘Personalized Learning’ after this session,” said Adam Garry, speaker of the iNacol presentation titled The Possibilities of Personalized Learning. With that title, you can see why he was kind of stuck using the words for at least another hour.

I knew immediately why he felt this way. There were many sessions at the conference with the words personalized learning in the title or description, but much of what was being presented wasn’t really personalized learning.

Blended, differentiated, individualized, and data-driven learning can all be options for a personalized learning experience, but they are not by themselves “personalized learning.”

Has personalized become an empty buzz word? Better question: what makes learning personalized? Answer: the student. Not the curriculum. Not even the teacher. The student.

How much voice does the student have in his or her learning experience? Is the student in the driver seat, setting the goals and choosing how to get there? This can range from selecting from a menu of options that meets the student’s needs, to the student taking the goals and designing a program from the ground up.

I call it personal agency, but I like how Adam summed it up: Voice and Choice.

In the personalized programs I have been part of, students enroll for many reasons, and with many different goals. Some are aiming for university admission and will need to make sure their program is designed for that, requiring more guidance from their coach and instructors. Meanwhile some want to gain specific skills or knowledge and might not even be interested in a diploma; they want to take, even design, the courses that make sense for their goals. For both of those scenarios, and many others, we are here to serve.

However, I am stuck with the question of whether or not we should continue calling it personalized learning. What else would we call it? Maybe we could create an acronym comprised of defining words (personal agency, empowerment, voice, choice, etc.); educators are very good at creating ever-changing lists of acronyms. Or should we just stick with the admittedly over-used terms personalized learning.

What do you think?

Click here for a chart showing how personalized is different from differentiated and individualized learning.

 

Connect with Tamra

  Twitter

Gplus  Google+ 

linkedin-icon  Linked In

  Facebook

 

My daughter wants to be Neil Gaiman, and I’m good with that.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising to not die.

Note Cass left me before taking off on her adventure, promising not to die.

My daughter Cass is traveling the country with a cat named Juan and a chicken named Vanna. I could blame Neil Gaiman, but it’s probably my fault.

Here’s what I think happened.  Over the years, I would frequently ask my daughters the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We would then talk about how they can be anything and many things, even all at once.  And how they could change their minds along the way. It was a question that would inspire smiles, sometimes giggles, and I enjoyed how the answers changed over the years. Physical therapist. Astronomer. Teacher (where’d they get THAT idea?). One of my favorite responses from my youngest daughter, Heather, was “Scooby Doo.”

One day, however, my daughter Cass gave this answer: “Neil Gaiman.” That was the one she finally stuck with into adulthood.  It reflects her varied interests and creative pursuits. She saw a video of Neil advising aspiring writers to go live life, so Cass is on the go, working various jobs and having adventures.  And writing. And hopefully meeting Neil at an upcoming event.

Cass is what Emilie Wapnick would call a multipotentialite – someone with varied interests and creative pursuits. Emilie recently gave a TED Talk on multipotentialities where she explained that “the problem wasn’t that I didn’t have any interests — it’s that I had too many.” She described anxiety of the question, what do you want to be when you grow up (oops – sorry kids!).  However, she explains that this way of being doesn’t have to be a bad thing just because it doesn’t align with our current culture’s ideal of having one single true purpose.

It might even be in line with a reality that’s been around since the Baby Boomers who, per the USBLS, have held on average over 11 jobs in their lifetimes. Now the number of careers – not just jobs, but careers – is reaching the same level in our dynamic society. I know of people who have stayed in the same career so long that they found themselves among the long-term unemployed because their field of expertise or way of doing things disappeared.  Brian Fippinger of Q4 Consulting echoes this observation, and offers some great advice in his article The Job of a Lifetime No Longer Lasts a Lifetime.

The bottom line is that it is more important than ever to prepare students to be lifelong learners.  Being curious, exploring new pathways, and building a diverse resume can be a strategy for our modern world.  And when you ask them that question – as many of you will – use it as an opportunity to also discuss how life is really an adventure with lots of bends and forks in the road.

Connect with Tamra

  Twitter

linkedin-icon  Linked In

  Facebook

 

 

Pictures of Cass

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

Cass and her partner Dan dressed up for a special adventure.

 

 

 

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

Cass after participating in a Run or Dye marathon.

 

 

 

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

Cass and her kitty Juan on the road.

 

 

 

 

 

11539645_928979247125448_1173472618829677262_n

Cass has been in 6 or 7 states her first year on the go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifted, Arrogance, & Trybe

FREAKFLAGLBG14-ConW-03Listening to the conversations in the room, one in particular caught my attention. “He plopped down and proudly announced, ‘I’m gifted!’” one woman said.

“Wow, arrogant much?” another woman responded.

Curious, I asked for the context. It was a mingling activity at a school event the first woman was attending for her grandson. She felt put-off that her grandson’s classmate would include his giftedness as part of his introduction.

“Oh,” I nodded. “But… what if he had said he was a star football player?” Well, he has to earn that, the women collectively explained to me. “Okay, so what if he was part of a tribe?” That’s different, they explained, because then it’s about the tribe instead of the individual.

Trybe. This is a term I often hear among my circles, and yes – even spelled in that funny way. “Find your freaks” is also a common phrase – the need to be among others who encourage you to reach for who you are as an individual while also giving you a sense of belonging.

Claiming accomplishments or being part of a group is an accepted desire for most, but not for those identified as gifted. That is considered a display of arrogance to be squashed. Parents have even been advised by schools to not tell their children that they are gifted. Instead, a student gets to wonder why he or she is so different, and even to feel shamed by it. And since many believe that gifted students don’t need help, we get report card comments of not meeting potential with assumptions that laziness or disdain for authority is the reason.

So what about that disdain for authority? That arrogance or elitism that gifted individuals are stereotyped as having? Is there any truth to that?

Maybe. Consider this: elitism is a common self-defense response against years of being “other.” Imagine fighting against naysayers for everything important to you, or a childhood full of not just kids, but also adults in positions of authority, who feel the need to take you down a notch. Down as low as one can be held. Depression. Loneliness. Apathy. The intensities of being gifted amplify this.

However, what happens when a gifted student’s needs are met? When we encourage a sense of belonging among others, perhaps with their own freak flags flying? What happens when we provide compassion and guidance instead being yet another source of adversity?

Carl Jung taught, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” This applies to all of us.

I want to hear from you. What do we need to do differently to better serve gifted students? How about gifted adults; what are the struggles in life and the workplace that need to be addressed? Send me a message and let me know your thoughts.

 

Connect with Tamra

  Twitter

Gplus  Google+ 

linkedin-icon  Linked In

  Facebook

 

 

Questions from Radcon 6C – from Unicorns to the Location of Double-sided Tape

Radcon 6C: Ammie Hague (aka Fairy Princess Lolly) and Aurora Miller

Radcon 6C: Ammie Hague (aka Fairy Princess Lolly) and Aurora Miller

Instead of writing a summary of Radcon, I am going to present a collection of questions asked. Some of these were overheard in passing, others asked in panels, and some during social events. And yes, many teachable moments happened. Enjoy!

  • What’s a unicorn?
  • What’s a brony?
  • If so many people in the Tri-Cities are so gratefully relieved to have Radcon for a weekend, why can’t they just change the local culture to be more like this year-round?
  • Why do autistic people lack emotions? What? What’s neurotypical syndrome?
  • Since our society has changed so much regarding property ownership and other traits that led to monogamous marriage, might this allow for more diverse family structures such as polyamory to return? Cool! How long will that take?
  • In what ways is religion presented in fantasy literature?
  • I want to propose to my girlfriend and… (this was a long one, so I’ll just let you know that she told him yes!).
  • But why is that called a unicorn?
  • How can we increase diversity in fandom?
  • Where’d you get your [insert costume/clothing item]?
  • Anybody have any double-sided tape?
  • Where is the Fan Room? And why do they call it the Fan Room?
  • Why is all the tea gone?  Is there rum?
  • Are you sure unicorns are that rare?
  • Are labels such as “Aspie” or “dyslexic” or “geek” helpful, or do labels cause their own set of problems?
  • Shouldn’t we prepare kids for the real world?
  • What’s the real world?
  • How can we change the world?
  • How do we discover a more accurate telling of history? How do we know?
  • Your wife keeps the money? Where is your wife?
  • How do we know that no means no, or that yes means yes? Even with that costume?
  • So, there are some unicorns out there, right? They do exist? Why are you laughing…?
  • Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the next Radcon?

Okay that last one was my own question.  If you want to help, or if you have feedback or ideas for programming, please visit Radcon.org to email Programming to let them know!

 

1 2 3