Friday, July 27, 2007

Catching Up! Gifted Institute and Floor Work

I spent the past three days at the New Mexico Summer Institute on Gifted Education. This was a Jacob Javitz Grant conference, sponsored by the fledgling New Mexico Association for the Gifted.

I was very fortunate to be asked to be a speaker for a break-out session about the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). It was a great experience to give a presentation and I was honored to do so, being a fairly new 'Doc' student. And on top of it, they gave me free admission to the conference. What a deal!

I gave two talks yesterday afternoon: The first was called Do You Have Spock in Your Classroom? Gifted Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Other ASDs: Characteristics and Theory. The second talk was called: Mr. Spock Goes to School: Dealing with the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Kids with AS. I was amazed at the attendance at my session because I was up against some other really good talks. But a lot of people came--mostly teachers, but some parents as well, which meant that I got to advocate for kids like N. who are in the school system. There were a lot of excellent questions and I could tell that a lot of people want to make a difference for these kids in school. We had a particularly good discussion about how certain AS characteristics can look like oppositionality when they are really about being overwhelmed, and how to help the general education teachers see the difference. We also had a great discussion about homework. I got a really good quote from one of the parents there. He said: "Homework for AS kids is cruel and unusual punishment for their parents." In the days to come I will discuss some of these issues more fully here, so stay tuned.

One of the benefits of being honored with an invitation to present, was that I got to hear three keynote presentations from nationally known leaders in our field. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, who is well known for her Javitz Grant work on Curriculum. She spearheaded the development of the William and Mary Curricula for High-Ability Learners. She spoke about how the curriculum was developed. The William and Mary Curricula are integrated, thematic units that use concept development as the core of each unit. I have successfully used them in my elementary gifted classrooms and I liked them very much. Isn't she a warm looking woman? And she has an incredible intellect! Her keynote really had me thinking again about the William and Mary Curricula. The educational theory behind every element of these units is well thought out and its efficacy is documented by research. I am seriously thinking about how to adapt a social studies unit to N.'s homeschool curriculum this year.

Another keynoter, was Michael Clay Thompson, well known for his work on English Language and Literature for kids. He is known for his publications through Royal Fireworks Press. His work includes the Grammar Island, the Word Within a Word series, and (my favorite title) The Sesquipedalian Neologist's Lexicon. Anyone who can come up with a title like that is definitely a kindred spirit! He gave an absolutely riveting talk about Concept Development. I had done one of my Comprehensive Exam questions on this topic, where I discussed the work of Hilda Taba on concept development. I was absolutely delighted to be thinking about it again. Thompson discussed concerns he has about how concept development is used in the classroom. Unless it is thought out, there is a danger that the work of developing concepts could happen in the teacher's head rather than the student's. This means the student is not doing the learning and the teacher is getting all the fun. It was another one of those talks that makes one want more and more and more! The book pictured above is on my absolutely must have list!

The conference ended today with a keynote and keynoters near and dear to my heart. UNM's own Elizabeth Neilsen and Dennis Higgins. They did their wonderful presentation on moral courage. I have heard it before, but it is one of those that needs to be heard several times, I think, to sink in. My thoughts on this presentation, which brought me to tears for a second time, deserve and will get an entry of their own here in the very near future.

While I was away conferencing, N. was home. It seemed kind of strange. He got home on Tuesday and then I was gone all day Wednesday and Thursday and much of today! So we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the second time on Wednesday night. Last night, Bruce came to the NMAG reception at the conference, so we ended up staying until about 9 PM, talking with an old friend of mine from the MA program, and her new husband. I had not met him, and my friend and her husband had not met Bruce. They all hit it off famously, and we talked and talked and talked. It was a warm summer evening in the courtyard of the hotel. A good way to spend some time. I always forget how mu

ch being within the gifted community feels like coming home for me.

And of course, while I was conferencing, Bruce and N. worked on gluing down segments of the floor today.
N. watched for a while, I am told, and then jumped in to help. He was very interested in what the glue was (better living through chemistry) and how the glue worked. He was meticulous in the work--Bruce is his teacher, after all!--and Bruce says that the work went twice as fast, which is a cool thing.

When they were done, though, Bruce would not let N. use the chemical wipes to take the residual glue off the boards. That stuff is "too much better living through chemistry." So N. washed his hands off in mineral oil, and then supervised Bruce on the job.

They are both quite proud of their handiwork for the day!

Tomorrow afternoon, Bruce and N. will cut and lay new boards which they hope to glue down just as fast, and finish the hallway.

Last night, as we were talking at the hotel courtyard, we were lamenting the fact that many young people, even the really smart ones, don't know old aphorisms and figures of speech. We opined that maybe it's because they do not spend much time doing things with parents. So today we taught N. an aphorism from my midwestern childhood:

Many hands make light work.


Megan from Imaginif said...

lol...I was waiting for a maxim on being twice gifted but "Many hands make light work" is a fine thing to teach our kids.

So wish I had been able to come to the conference and hear you talk E.

Things are somewhat depressed in our house right now - my heart is still breaking.

Melora said...

Awww! Looks like they make a good team, and what a satisfying thing that will be for N., to have helped put down the floor in his own home!

The conference sounds interesting (I am clueless on those issues, but your descriptions are very good!) On a related note, I wonder if you might be willing to recommend a book for me on non-drug techniques for coping with attention problems? If you would, I could describe things a bit better by e-mail, and my e mail is readingmom at triad dot rr dot com.