Finding the Little Joys in Teaching During Remote Learning

We are in a hybrid model this year – one day a week we are all online. The whole month of December we were fully remote, and it seems like our one day a week online is miserable to them now that we are back to some in-person learning. I think there is a dread of sitting in front of the computer all day long without being able to socialize with peers hanging over their heads. There has been a lack of joys in teaching this year.

Little Joys Exisit

Today, in one of my classes we got on the topic of weird food combos. (I have no idea how we got here- it’s middle school.) So, I asked my students: What’s the weirdest food combo you have tried or seen?

Here are their responses:

We can choose to bring joy into our remote classes. Our students need it, and so do we. Find the little joys in a crummy situation.
  • – Ketchup and Eggs
  • – Cornchips and Nutella
  • – Chips and Chocolate
  • – French Fries and Ice Cream
  • – Pizza and Ketchup
  • – Pineapple and cottage cheese
  • – Pretzels with ketchup
  • – Mac and cheese with ketchup (I am noticing a theme here.)
  • – Steak and Ketchup
  • – Yogurt and chips
  • – Cookies and salsa 

And the best one?

A student said their dad likes syrup on noodles 

I had to ask, “Is your dad Buddy the Elf?!”

This is just one of the little joys that made my day. 

However, I am hoping that these small moments of off-topic conversation and laughter bring a smile to their face throughout our virtual day attached to the computer. I know the moments where we go off-topic to see everyone’s pets or talk about random things makes my day go a little smoother and feel a little lighter. 

Finding the Little Joy in Online Learning

There are other teachers who will send their kids on a scavenger hunt to find something so the students can get up and out of their chairs for just a minute. Our student council is running a food drive, and one teacher had their students turn off their cameras to grab a can and bring it back to encourage helping out a good cause. 

Our students need some of these little joys, conversations or connections, and games during this time. It is encouraging to me to see teachers trying to make the best of it regardless of hybrid, remote, in-person, or completely virtual. We should be building relationships with our students during this and it is one way to keep getting to know our students and have fun with them even when they aren’t in the room with us physically. 

While we head into the second semester, I want to encourage all of us to keep building those relationships with our students. Keep reaching out and making interactions fun. It can mean the world to one student to be able to have a little joy-filled moment to hold onto for the rest of the day.  Keep finding the little joys in teaching this year.

Remote Learning Well-Being

We have been remote learning for a few weeks now and I gotta say, I am definitely over it. The students are too. 

Although there have been some positives coming out of remote learning and I am grateful for any tiny sliver of hope. As we wrap up the semester, my students have come up with innovative ways to share their genius hour presentations and they are learning podcasting with grace. For my other students, I am just glad they decided to sign onto the google meet. 

Something happened last week that really struck a chord with me. One of my top students snapped at me about his book group. He knows I am willing to discuss and hear them out on just about everything if they disagree. So when he copped an attitude with me I was stunned. 

The next day I received an apology email from him, unprompted. I wrote him back and accepted his apology, but I asked him if he was ok since this was uncharacteristic of him. He told me, “It was just ‘a wrong side of the bed type of day,’ and I think not having anyone around while I am home is hard. Everyone else seems to have siblings or parents that work from home. It’s getting old.” 

Gosh, that struck me about our (teacher and students) wellbeing during this remote learning. 

After having to quarantine twice this year, I recognized when I started to slip into a funk I needed to pause and check in with myself on how I was really feeling: Had I gone outside for a walk? Did I eat junk all day? How’s my water intake? Have I  talked to someone on the phone/facetime? Have I done something that I enjoy? 

Majority of the time I had answered negatively to those questions, meaning I hadn’t been really taking care of myself mentally and physically. I strongly encourage you to check in with yourself using the above checklist. 

Run through it in times of high anxiety or sadness. This isn’t easy for any of us. We are built as social creatures and while a computer screen with people on a call is ok, it’s not the same. 

These next three weeks are going to be a challenge for us as teachers and our students. Let’s do our best to keep an eye out for each other. 

Teacher Parents

Today I’m struggling. Today I’m trying to manage my kindergartner while teaching my middle school classes. I’m trying to be the best teacher I can be while also trying to be a parent. I’m almost in tears as I write this because while I’m teaching online, my daughter is sitting there frustrated because she’s trying to figure out what to do next for her meeting. But I also need my job. 

So today, I struggle with:  A. Do I be a parent and help my daughter learn and be successful? Or B. Do I tell her to wait while she cries in frustration while I teach my students to the best of my ability? This isn’t an easy job, it’s impossible. A lot is being asked of us and I will gladly do it for my students and I’ll gladly do it for my own daughter. I’ll do it for the safety of the rest of the school, my staff, but please understand that when a school goes fully remote we don’t get free time. Especially parents who are teachers. We get the additional worry of making sure our own students at home are learning plus attempting to understand what’s being asked of them regardless of their age. 

This year has been a challenge for all of us educators, parents, and students alike. This year is especially different given that all of the expectations have changed, and consistently continue to change since March when we attempted remote learning the first time.  

While we have been fighting hard to keep our students in school and keep them among their peers and learning at a rigorous rate; when you’re thrown into quarantine twice in a matter of weeks and then your daughter (children) are quarantine on top of going fully remote for a week before a long holiday break, you start to lose your patience. You lose your patience with parents who demand that we keep kids in school regardless of the numbers, risk, safety. You lose your patience with the students who are coming to school sick. You lose your patience when kids are being tested for this virus over and over and over again and still, being sent to school only to quarantine a whole group of their peers and teachers. 

My question is how is this fair? How is this fair to our teachers or parents? I don’t know that there’s a right answer for any of it and the frustrating part is that I wish I had a solution and I don’t. 

I’m coming to you today as a parent who has been in quarantine twice. 

I’ve missed out on family time with members outside my immediate household since September, my girls haven’t seen their grandparents since then, and shortly after I was put in quarantine my daughter was put in quarantine. She’s a kindergartner. She’s now having to do her learning at home on a tablet. Thank God she has an amazing teacher who is patient and willing to explain all of the steps and tools and expectations that she needs to do at home while managing 14 other kindergartners on a screen. This quarantine threatens our Thanksgiving, our traditions, our needs. Next, quarantine will threaten our Christmas. 

I’ve been told by several parents that it’s important that we keep our kids in school, it’s important for their mental health. Yes, I 100% agree. However, you have to also consider the fact that the teachers are human too and we need to be able to spend time with our families. When a sick child is sent to school or waiting on a Covid test, you’re risking taking away time for that teacher to spend with their family. I’ve been looked at as essential personnel this year. I have now gotten a glimpse at how essential personnel are currently being treated.  We’re treated as if we’re not doing enough. As if we aren’t taking any risk every day when all we really do is go to work and come home to our families. I was even told that I have more free time now that I’m at home, teaching online, not only by a student but also a parent. It’s frustrating to see that we are still thought of so little as educators even though in the spring we were more than needed and maybe finally feeling appreciated. 

It’s also frustrating when at the beginning of the year so many parents wanted us to be in school and thought that we weren’t doing enough even when we started school. I don’t know if there’s a happy middle ground. I don’t know that there’s a solution, but I do know that this week alone has taught me how undervalued and under appreciated I feel as a teacher who is also a parent of a student having to deal with quarantine over and over again. 

This by far has been the hardest year of my teaching career. I feel like a first year teacher when it comes to online learning in all my attempts at keeping my students engaged. Trying to keep students willing to participate for 40 minutes at a time, while we’re expecting the students to have enough motivation to last online all day is extremely hard. It’s also wearing, on me and on them. I’m exhausted at the end of the day, even though it may seem like I’ve done nothing but sit all day. My muscles ache from the lack of movement. My heart hurts from not being able to see my students in person. I am proud to say that the majority of my students have adapted well to hybrid learning and moving to remote education. But there are others who don’t have the support at home. There are others who refuse to get online for a 40 minute class. There are a lot of kids that have already checked out. I’m not sure how to bring them back in. I’m uncertain how to get them to care, because I honestly understand, it’s hard to care about something when your teachers are on a screen. It’s hard to care about something when you’re required to stare at a computer all day. 

The one kid we want to save, but we aren’t sure how

As an educator, I believe we all have that one kid we are trying to save

When I say the word “save”, it holds a lot of meaning. However, in this case I mean it in the sense of trying to save a kid from themself. There are many kids that we have throughout our career, who could be so much more than what shows in the effort they currently put forth at school and home. 

I have been a teacher for eight years and I have had plenty of kids throughout my career I tried to save. I can’t say I was successful in saving all of them, but I pray someday they will look back and see I meant well. 

My first year in the classroom, I worked so hard with a student to help her with the confidence to believe that she was fully capable even though she was on an IEP. I gained her trust through simply getting to know her, her interests, and allowing her to use my classroom key as a fidget. The literal key she held onto in class was what unlocked that trust and she started to produce work and understand concepts in my classroom. Her confidence grew and she is not successfully in college and getting ready to graduate to be a teacher herself. Trust me there where many times I wanted to throw my hands up and give up. The fights and conversations I had with her would frustrate me beyond measure, but something kept pushing me to breathe belief into her. I am so glad I did. 

My subsequent years in the classroom I had a lot of behavior issues in class. I have and will work hard with students to understand they need to think before they act and their actions have consequences. However when I was working in a middle school setting, knowing students’ prefrontal cortex is not nearly as developed and therefore would not truly understand the concept of “their actions having consequences.” 

I struggled to impact these behavior students, but I hope they look back at my best efforts and see I had a point in all of it. There were many phone calls home, trips to the office, and consequences with grades. Some of those students got it together as an 8th grader, while others took longer to understand the concept, some even took until their senior year to really understand that their slacking off early in high school took away opportunities for their future. As an educator, in my peer network, I hear stories about lack of understanding in regards to actions having consequences leak into students’ college years.

Last year as a GT specialist, I had a high school student that was very into the drug scene, ditching classes, and running his poor single mother crazy with his behavior. His mother at one point asked if we could just handle it because she was done trying. As a mother and a teacher, this broke my heart. I knew I had to do everything I could to try and pull this kid back out of the trenches he was stuck in. Needless to say, I couldn’t. This was a reality I knew very early on in my career, but my heart ached knowing he knew his own mother had given up on him. He was one that was too far gone and I tried everything I could to get him back because I know very deep down he still had good in him. The fact his mom had given up on him simply enforced he didn’t have the sense of anyone caring about him. 

This year I have a student I know I have to make a difference with. He is so stinking bright and is a great kid, but he is fighting with doing things to get the attention of his peers versus using his gifts for good. I have had numerous conversations with him about what he needs and how I can possibly help him. The hardest part about working with this kid is I totally get what his home life is like. I lived a very similar life growing up. The only thing I can tell him is my story and it doesn’t have to be this hard. I try to tell him things I wish I would have done instead of doing the wrong things to get my parents’ attention. 

It breaks my heart when I see kids going through something similar to myself in middle and high school. Now with distance learning happening, I can’t actually check in on him or many of my other students physically. I can’t give them a safe place to escape home life troubles for 55 minutes everyday. You can bet I am going to do everything I can to reach this kid through distance learning and “save” him as much as I can through our distance learning and weekly check-ins. 

As an educator, the only thing I know to do to try and save a kid is to not give up on them. We have to let them know we still believe in them and they can be good. Even if we are the only cheerleader they have, we have to do our best to keep cheering them on. There will be a lot of kids we can’t save, but that shouldn’t stop us from saving the ones we can. We make a difference. Whether it’s now or ten years from now, we make a difference. 

Be safe. Be healthy. 

ALPs, What’s the Point?

I recently had a parent contact me about their student’s Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) wondering about the whole point of an ALP in schools. Naturally, I was eager to meet and tell this parent about how the ALP works in schools and how they can use this document at home to have conversations with their students about their goals for the year. 

The day of the meeting I started to have some second thoughts about the meeting going well and really proving to this parent that ALP’s serve a purpose. Why? Well when I really took the time to think about how ALP’s are used (or not used) in schools I could start to see where this parent had some concerns. 

Majority of the time, in secondary schools, ALP’s are for the benefit of the GT Specialist and being in compliance with the state requirements of having to prove that we serve these students. Now parents who are familiar with ALPs and know of their importance to their students’ growth and development appreciate this document and check in with their student on how things are going. Teacher’s might appreciate the document, but it is often put in the file cabinet next to the previous years ALPs. Now I am making generalizations as I write this because there are some teachers who do look at these plans and use them or support them in their classrooms. Teachers are overwhelmed and overworked on a daily basis, I truly understand why these plans are often not utilized. 

Here is my point: Specialists create these plans and check in with our students in hopes that parents are actually checking in with their kids on goals at home. When I see a parent look at an ALP and assume that their child is fine or they don’t need to check in with them; it frustrates me. If parents don’t see the value in these goals or plans, let’s make some changes to the ALP. It’s a working document for a reason. Goals change. Social emotional needs change.  I try my best to make sure students are on track, but I am one person with 86 kids plus my classes that I teach daily – all to keep track of. I need parents’ help to hold their children accountable because really the children need to learn self accountability in making sure goals are met. 

If parents show an interest, I can promise your kids will own the responsibility of taking them a little more seriously as well. If students are investing in their goals and asking teachers for support they would be able to achieve growth at a whole new level. Why not sit down with your kids and have the conversation about their goals and why they choose them, check in with them and help them develop accountability and discipline for setting and achieving these goals. 

In a world full of distractions – we are distracted from our children and from what is happening in their education. I believe we need to be more aware of what is happening with our students through asking questions and supporting our kids in their goals. We are always looking for ways to connect with our kids in this technology connected world, so why not try and connect with them over things they are passionate about in the ALP? 

Take the time to read over their ALP with them and discuss how their goals are going to be achieved? Why did they choose those particular goals? Ask them how you can support them at home with their goals? It might give you some insight to their drive and motivation and individual intellect. It will also let you in on their social emotional needs. 

As a GT specialist, I may not have a ton of pull for the ALPs other than making sure they are getting done. If you are a parent of a GT kid, you have the power to work with your kids and see that their goals are accomplished. In an ideal world, I would hold formal ALP meetings with parents, students and a teacher (similar to an Individualized Education Plan meeting in Special Education) so that everyone who works with the student at school and home is aware of the support the student needs in various areas. Someday I hope to do this, but for now the system in place is going to have to work.

No School, Now What?

Most of the country is canceling school for several weeks at a time and this has parents in a panic of what they can do with their kids in the midst of “social distancing”. As a parent to younger kids, I am worried about this as well, so I have been trying to find ways to have some structure to our weekdays in the midst of not being able to go anywhere. As a middle school teacher, I am panicking about my students ending up with screens in front of them all day long and worried they won’t pick up a book to read while their parents are still required to go to work. 

So I have been gathering some resources for my own kids and I wanted to share them all in one spot to help parents looking for some things to keep their kids engaged during school closures. First up is a schedule for you to follow with some ideas of what to do for each activity. 

This is from NESCA and I personally will be setting alarms with labels on my phone so I know where we are in our day. I really like the additional suggestions because I run out of ideas for my five-year-old and this helps me not just sit her in front of the TV while I stare at my phone. As a secondary teacher, I think this schedule works well for older kids too. This allows them to do productive things and still have some of their own screen time. NESCA has some great suggestions in their blog post here

Resources

Up next are some websites with FREE access to their learning materials for parents to use with their kids. I have looked through them with a parent’s eye and they are easy to understand and fun to do with your kids. (Plus this will keep you off your phone or watching TV all day too.): 

  • Scholastic has lessons and units broken down by grade level.  
    • “Even when schools are closed, you can keep the learning going with these special cross-curricular journeys. Every day includes four separate learning experiences, each built around a thrilling, meaningful story or video. Kids can do them on their own, with their families, or with their teachers. Just find your grade level and let the learning begin!”
  • Virtual Tours – Take a tour from home as a family! 
    • “But there is a way to get a little culture and education while you’re confined to your home. According to Fast Company, Google Arts & Culture teamed up with over 500 museums and galleries around the world to bring anyone and everyone virtual tours and online exhibits of some of the most famous museums around the world.”
  • Science Activities– these are broken up by grade level and are broken up by the amount of time each lesson takes. 
    • “All of the lessons below are expertly designed to engage students, achieve learning outcomes, and be easy for teachers to use. We have short mini-lessons that are completely digital and full lessons that include an activity. All of the activities are designed to use simple supplies a parent will likely already have at home.”
  • Language Arts Challenge
    • “The materials will allow students to work at their own pace. I know many students don’t have access to a computer or to wifi, so all of the resources can be used without any tech.”
  • Homeschool Curriculum
    • “To support all quarantined families, our charter school-approved curriculum is 100% free for the next 3 weeks. Just use the button below, create a profile for your kids’ ages (2-7 yrs), and get started with super simple, no-fuss, easy to implement ideas or lessons for the kids to try each and every day.” 
  • Activities for kids 
    • “They’re a way for me to help break up the day, keep the kids from asking 47 “but why…?” questions, buy myself a chance to unload the dishwasher or hit the reset button if things aren’t going so well. Activities aren’t a must to make life work at home – but they are a great tool when you need them.”
  • Amazing Educational Resources
    • This is a good doc with links to sites that are offering FREE access to their materials while schools are canceled. She is updating the site daily! I would recommend reading the descriptions of each link and using the ones you feel are most applicable and user-friendly. 
  • Finally just a quick graphic with some websites: 

While these times are unknown and our day to day “normalcy” is turned upside down, I encourage you to look at this time of a way to reconnect with your kids. Let them show you some of the things they are capable of that we don’t get to see in action. Reconnect with them and show them they are safe. (Especially our empath kiddos, they are absorbing a lot of the stress from the outside world and they need a soft place to land.) 

In the end…

I would also encourage you to limit your conversations about this virus around your kids because I can guarantee they are listening and absorbing your attitude towards “social distancing”, precautions, panic, stress, anxiety, etc. I also really encourage you to keep in check your own exposure to what you are reading, watching, and talking about. We can’t expose ourselves to the negativity and panic without starting to absorb and project those things to others.   

I hope these resources are helpful and encourage all of us to take the time to focus on our kids and what they need from us right now. I hope it also helps us not remain so hyperfocused on panic and unknown happening in our world. Be safe, Be kind, Be well.

The Voice

I recently assigned a poetry project in my Advanced Language Arts class. Students had to find ten poems that had some significance to them either literal or figurative. I of course pre taught figurative language, stanzas, rhyme scheme, and how to interpret a poem. Then I let them have at the books of poems I grabbed from the library and poems they found online.  

The biggest part of this assignment was they had to reflect on why they chose a poem identifying it’s meaning to them and supporting that with techniques the author used to help with the meaning of the poem. This was like pulling teeth for some students because most students are not taught how to read and interpret poetry. They are simply given the poem and told how to identify parts of the poem or the figurative language. 

I personally love poetry and I write my own poems for fun. It’s an emotional outlet for me when I feel the need to scream, cry, yell, or just try to understand my own complex feelings. So when I teach this unit, I try to show students that poems are not just a jumble of words or weird paragraphs. I slow down in my teaching and really help them look at the poem on a deeper level. Students are in such a hurry to move onto the next thing and just have a straight answer in their school work, but I teach them how they can each have a different reaction to a poem. This drives some students insane, but my job is to teach them as humans we all have a different reaction to the things we read and we all bring something different to the table. 

Fast forward to grading these projects and I started to notice this poem by Shel Silverstein over and over again: 

Now just as a reminder I teach middle school students, so Silverstein’s poems are some of the more popular because they are easy to read, funny, and most kids can relate to what he is writing about. However, when I read their reflections for this poem I was impressed and amazed at what some of them had written: 

“I can relate to this poem because I feel like I  let other people’s words create the decisions I make. I feel like this is a bad trait to have but sometimes I can’t help it. This poem changed my perspective on how I look at the things I think compared to what other people think I should do. I have always been the insecure girl that lets people’s words get to her but I have come to realize that it won’t all be that bad if I just do what I think. In conclusion I think this is a very important poem because it could really teach people that they don’t need anyone else’s opinions on you.”

“No one besides you can make decisions for yourself.Only you can make your decisions because you know what’s best for you. This poem is about a voice telling you to do one thing, but you know deep down that you need to follow your heart and your mind. I have had this happen where someone is doing something that I don’t want to do, but  I feel like in order to fit in I should do it. I always follow my heart and know I shouldn’t do it though. In conclusion, I need to make decisions for myself and not listen to others’ opinions.”

“Sometimes the voice inside you is more powerful than your brain that tells you what’s wrong and right, or your parents advise. This poem is about how you sometimes have to stop listening to everyone else and start making decisions for yourself. I like the end rhyme and the imagery. I relate to this poem because sometimes I have to stop listening to everybody else and listen to what I am thinking. This poem makes me feel good inside because it is telling you a very important lesson. You have to consider what you are saying, not just take the advice of what everyone else is saying.” 

And this one is from a kid who I know has some of their own demons they are working on, but is starting to succumb to them: (edited)

 “I picked this poem because the message of it is about your conscience and I feel I have a very strong conscience. This poem is about your conscience and to listen to it…I also liked how the author used quotation marks to make it seem like the person is aiming towards your conscience speaking…” 

So what is my point in sharing this with you? Our kids are crying out for help to listen to this voice and not be influenced by others or “the cool” thing to do type of people. They are wanting to find a way to listen to their own subconscious when it comes to decision making. Yet, I know for a fact the last student lets the pressures of bad influences get inside their head and causes them to make poor decisions. That students would rather have some sort of title as a “badass” than a “smart kid.” These students want and desire a way to make their own positive decisions for themselves, but they struggle because of all the noise happening outside their subconscious- sports, school, peers, social media, constant connection to people… 

How do we help our kids disconnect from the world outside of them and listen to what is going in their head? How can we as parents and teachers help them understand the weight of their decisions? It starts with teaching them executive functioning skills. We often don’t take the time to teach our students how to make decisions or slow down long enough to make a proper choice. As adults, we just make these decisions and we make a million decisions throughout our day. Our students don’t know how to do this because we haven’t explicitly taught them how to do this. We can start out with small decisions they need to make with us and then start to add in bigger decisions to help them really understand how to make a conscious decision regarding an activity, vacation, or consequence. 

I am not suggesting you sit down with your student and say, “Today we are going to make a decision. Step one…” I am suggesting you work through the problem of making a tough choice with them, allow them to use you as a soundboard and create an open line of communication. This will allow them to feel like they can come to you and open up about issues they are having with peers or at school, and it will allow them to practice make decisions in a safe place so if and when they are in a spot where they need to make a quick decision among peers they can be confident in doing that. 

Really what it comes down to is being present with our kids in moments when they are struggling. Let them know you are a safe place to fall when it comes to making decisions and looking at the influences in their world. 

Why is my GT kid so intense?

Dabrowski is known for coming up with 5 areas children will exhibit intense behaviors and labeled them as “overexcitabilities”. It’s important to note that these are not limited to just gifted students, and can be experienced by all children and even adults. The other important thing to note is overexcitabilities (OE) are not used for clinical diagnosis purposes, but rather are used to help children understand and manage their OE’s in a positive way.

The 5 areas of OE’s are:

  • Psychomotor
    • Child has so much energy, never sits still for long
    • Child fidgets, has rapid speech, some sort of constant movement
  • Sensual/Sensory
    • Child avoids certain stimuli
    • Child has an extreme reaction to sound and/or touch (tags in clothes, texture of paper, loud sounds, different pitches of sound)
  • Intellectual
    • Child likes to experiment a lot
    • Child has unending curiosity
    • Child will sometimes worry about fairness and injustice
    • Child wants to learn everything and anything about their passions
  • Imaginational
    • Child has many imaginary friends or worlds that are real to them
    • Child will daydream a lot and has difficulty “tuning in” to lessons
  • Emotional
    • Child has deep sensitivities and acutely aware of their feelings
    • Child may internalize experiences
    • Child may overreact because they hold in school stress until they reach a safe place to be able to vent

Now most children will tend to exhibit one of these OE’s versus having all of these at once. Some children will exhibit one OE more than the others, but can show some small signs of another OE.

Even just having to help your child navigate through one OE is time consuming and overwhelming for you and the child. So what are the benefits of your child having an OE?

  • Improved learning once OE is known
    • Psychomotor- allowing extra movement or fidgets while in class can help improve child’s ability to maintain attention.  
    • Sensory- seating away from distractions, providing a calm place to refocus allows the student to experience learning in a healthy way.  
  • Prevention of misdiagnosis
    • OE’s can look like ADHD, autism, SPD, etc- if we are able to identify an OE it allows you to avoid a misdiagnosis that can be cause more harm with unnecessary medicine or testing.
  • Improved student/teacher/parent relationships
    • OE’s help everyone working with the child understand the reason behind behaviors
    • Allows the child’s OE to be handled with empathy and compassion thus allowing them to learn how to cope and celebrate their sensitivities as strengths.
  • Mental health assistance
    • Knowing a child has OE’s helps increase the success of counseling gifted children.
    • Lessens the risk for mood disorders such as anxiety and depression because it allows parents to help them with coping techniques for their OE.
  • Gifted identification
    • OE’s can increase with level of giftedness which allows parents and teachers assess a deeper level understand the students needs. (OE’s might be used to help identify students someday rather than current testing.)

So now what? We know what OE’s are, what they look like, and their benefits, but we should always be working on increasing our own understanding of things happening with our gifted students. Here are a few ideas:

  • Parent/Advocacy groups
    • SENG– Social Emotional Needs of the Gifted has support groups as well as articles and courses on OE’s
  • Connect with other parents who have children with OE’s
    • Facebook groups, local district or state groups
  • Administrators
    • Include trainings for teachers and staff on OE’s for gifted students. Educate your staff on how to help students cope and feel successful in the classroom if they have OE’s.
  • Teachers and Parents
    • Seek out additional resources to help you work with OE’s in a positive way. See the book list below and handout.

Book and Article Recommendations:

Check the quick do’s and don’ts when it comes to helping your child with their OE’s in a healthy way. Click here for a FREE download.

Supporting you 2e student at home

Does the thought of sitting down with your 2e student to do homework give you a pit in your stomach? It’s totally normal to feel that way because your student is unique in two very different ways and it can be difficult to know where to start and how to support your child’s unique learning needs.

Just like every child, we want to make sure are able to help them feel successful in their school work at home while still remaining in a loving, supportive parent role. It’s a daunting task to feel like you are parenting well and helping your child grow into their potential you know they have. Today I want to share a few tips on how to help your twice exceptional student at home with their school work and helping them develop their strengths as a twice exceptional student.

  • Believe in your child
    • 2e students have and will make some of the most important contributions to our world. Take a look at this list of 2e adults that have made an impact on the world.
    • Be sure to provide supports that play to their strengths. This allows them to see themselves as successful.
      • Allow them to be creative
      • Allow them to be hands on with learning
      • Allow them to try to tie in their interests within the subject
  • Understand where your child excels and where they struggle.
    • Have the gifted and talented specialist or the special education teacher go over test scores with you in detail so you can gain a better understanding of how your 2e child’s brain is working. Ask to see*:
      • Cognitive Test Scores
      • Intellectual Scores
      • Psychological Scores

These scores and understanding what they mean will help you find ways at home to help your child with their work at home.

*It is your right to see these scores and they should be included in your child’s IEP/504 evaluations. Schools do not do all of this type of testing, so there is a possibility you may need to seek out private testing.

  • Set up a learning space and time school work.
  • Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you plan this space and ideal time for working on school work.
    • Some ideas to consider using with your 2e child:
      • Set expectations for homework time and clear consequences
        • Ex: We are going to work on homework for 20 minutes and then we can take a break. If you are working really hard for those 20 minutes we can ______. (Play to their interests and what they enjoy doing during breaks)
      • Allow them to use their preferred method of learning if possible
      • Give small to-do lists
      • Allow breaks
      • Have music available to help keep them focused
      • Divide larger assignments or projects into smaller chunks
      • Check in on their progress after 5-10 minutes
        • Provide positive reinforcement and feedback during these check-ins
      • Use a timer for task completio
  • Create outside learning opportunities
    • Mentorships in their area of interests
    • Community colleges and Universities often offer summer camps that might play into your 2e child’s interest and strengths.
    • Make sure outside challenges are set up to meet your 2e child at their level- we don’t want them to fail or feel like they won’t be successful
  • Work with their teachers to help with supports and accommodations
    • Ask the teachers what is working well in class for your 2e child, and try to use those things at home. Consistency will help your 2e child feel like they are capable of learning anywhere if they can use the same supports at home and at school.
    • You may even have some strategies that work well at home you can suggest to the teacher. Do not ever be afraid to help your 2e child’s teacher out with ideas to help your child feel successful- most teacher’s appreciate know what works well at home so they can try it in the classroom

This is just to get you started. I would also encourage you to join other parenting groups of gifted and 2e parents in order to gain more insight into what they have done with their child at home to help them feel supported and successful at home while working on school work.  

Resources for 2e:

http://www.2enewsletter.com/

https://www.world-gifted.org/WCGTC17-Presentations/3-4-5-Handout.pdf

https://www.davidsongifted.org/

Healthy Advocacy

Advocacy- this is a huge piece of gifted education that seems to be lacking. Why?

There is a desire and a need for our gifted students to feel challenged and feel like they are learning new information, but when the students are encouraged to ask for more challenging work or the parents attempt to ask teachers what is being done for their gifted student; they are met with mixed reactions.

Well, the typical excuse of teacher’s plate are very full is not what you want to hear. I know this. So I am going to do my best to give you and your students the tools and the confidence to advocate for their needs in a positive way.

As a gifted and talented specialist, I would encourage you to first look at the Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) created for your student. If you feel like the ALP goals are no longer relevant to your meet your students needs, you need to set up a meeting to talk with the GT specialist at your school. Make sure you plan the meeting to happen with your student present because they need to have a say in their goals or they won’t participate in reaching those goals. Once new goals have been set or goals have been adjusted, the GT specialist will make sure the teachers are informed of the changes and how to help your student in the classroom.

Now, while ALPs are a legal document, there are not a lot of repercussions for not following the ALP down to every last detail. (Every state is different and you will have to check with your state if you’re not in Colorado) ALPs are often taken as a suggestion in classroom since legal action doesn’t tend to end up in favor of the student. (I did a study on this and out of 23 cases and only 9 of them barely won.) ALPs are helpful for teacher who are not familiar working with gifted students, but they are often on confused on the true needs of gifted students.

So, here is what I suggest when either you or your student are trying to advocate for their needs in the classroom:

  • Make sure you set up the conversation to occur at a time that works best for the teacher, where they won’t feel rushed or distracted by trying to make it to the next class.
  • Reassure the teacher you are enjoying the content, but are wondering if you can work together to create an alternative assignment or project that will challenge you but still meet the requirements on the rubric.
  • Let the teacher know you are willing to put in the work to make the assignment work, it won’t be completely up to them.
  • Explain to the teacher why this is important to you or why you are passionate about taking the time to do an alternative assignment.
  • If you have a GT specialist in the building, ask the teacher if you can work with them on the alternative content or project so not to take the teacher away from the larger classes needs.  
  • Request to meet with your GT Specialist to talk about the needs of your student or if you are wanting to address the goals set in the ALP. Trust when I say we love meeting with parents and students because it allows us to get a pulse on what you need and what your students need.

There will always be some obstacles when we are advocating for our gifted students, but the most important piece of advice I can give you is this- Don’t give up. Keep asking. Keep making suggestions. Keep finding ways to collaborate with the teacher to help meet your students needs. Sometimes if we are a squeaky wheel we can then plant seeds for more training and coaching to happen for our teachers on what it means to have a gifted student in their classroom.