Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Developing Warriors

"It's not that the smart kids constantly feel afraid; it's that when their minds get stuck on a a fear, they can't focus on anything else"  ~~Allison Edwards, LPC

The topic of worry is something that is quite close to my heart.  Being a worrier myself, I have often wondered why I allow myself to wonder into irrational worries.  I have read a lot of articles and some books about worry, how not to worry, and effects of worrying.  Now that my son seems to have inherited the worry gene, I find myself searching for answers about how to help him.  I want my son to be a warrior not a worrier.

The ugly truth is that most gifted kids struggle with anxiety.  There are many different forms of anxiety and from what I have read, most of them can be contained through practices or therapy (and not medicine).   I am very cautious when giving my kids medicine, so I search for coping skills.

The book I am currently reading Why Smart Kids Worry and What Parents Can Do to Help by Allison Edwards, LPC is an excellent source.  I am about half way through the book and so much of what it says makes perfect sense.  I think the most profound thing I have read so far is this, gifted/smart kids worry because their high intelligence reasons that bad things do happen.  They are capable of understanding that bad things have happened and could happen to anyone.  Unfortunately, most gifted kids have some asynchronous development (see my previous post).  So while they can understand reality of events occurring, they can not emotionally handle it.   For instance, a gifted 8 year old may be able to understand what terrorism is, but they are not emotionally prepared to handle it.  Gifted kids often have an imagination that will run wild if not contained.  Sometimes, they will hear bad news and immediately relate it to themselves.  For instance, Little George hears that his friend's parents were in a car wreck.  He immediately worries that his parents may be in a car wreck.  If they are in a car wreck they may die.  If they die, what would happen to him?  This whirlwind of worries can escalate quickly and continue for long periods of time if coping skills are not used..

One of my latest goals in life is to help my son and my students learn to cope with fearful situations. They are too smart to convince that they do not have reason to be scared.  Instead, I want to teach them that they may be scared, but they can face fears and overcome them.  They can be warriors and not worriers.  It is very important to start young (before the grow into worrying adults).

Are you a worrier?  Are you a parent of a worrier?  What things do you do or do you teach your child to do to help them overcome fear?  Comment your ideas and experiences below.  As I start the second half of this book and read your comments, I hope to write a post on coping skills.

Together we can develop Warriors, not worriers.

Image source:  http://cl.jroo.me/z3/V/-/F/d/a.aaa-Dont-Worry-.jpg

My First Screen Cast: Self Grading Spelling Tests

This afternoon I was talking with a teacher-friend about all the things we want to teach our students and co-workers to do with Google Chrome and Google Drive.  As I left school, I thought about our conversation and went over my list in my head.  As a teacher, one of my favorite tools is Flubaroo.  Flubaroo is an add-on that can be used with Google Form responses (Google Sheets) to grade assignments.  I decided to create my first "how to" video using Screencastify.  Several of my students have used this extention so I thought I would give it a try.  First of all, I don't like the way my voice sounds so this was a bit out of my comfort zone.  I quickly learned that you have to know exactly what you are going to say and what you need to show.   I fumbled over my words a little and even said punctuation when I meant capitalization.  It's also a good idea to create the video alone.  I had my 8 year old sitting at the table with me.  You will hear me laugh a little because of his facial response when his sample grade was a 60.  Lastly, I will note how proud I am of my students that have created teaching screen casts.  

If you are interested in how to create a self grading spelling test using Google Forms and Flubaroo, watch my video below.  

Please feel free to comment any questions you have below.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Asynchronous Development

There is a monster in the closet...  The monster is scary, but not because we know what it is or what it can do...  It is scary because we don't understand it or how it works...

For most teachers with gifted students, this monster is Asynchronous Development.  Asynchronous Development is the idea that the mental,  physical, and social developments of gifted children are out of sync.  What this basically means is that you can have a 3 year old with the intellectual ability of an 7 year old, physical ability of a 3 year old, and the emotional ability of a 2 year old.  Or you could have a 10 year old with the intellectual ability of a 15 year old, physical ability of a 9 year old, and the emotional ability of a 6 year old.  The more intelligent the child, the more out of sync their abilities will be.  This is why we have students that can solve great math and science problems but cry if their pencil gets broken. 

I first learned about Asynchronous in GT Training.  All teachers that teach GT students are required to take a 30 hour training about the needs of GT students.  I will be honest and say that when it was explained to me, I thought, hmm, that's interesting and that was about it.   After all, it seemed that all my JH students acted like normal jr high students and seemed to have the same maturity of development.  I needed to focus on challenging them and making sure they weren't bored in my class.

The day it all made sense....

Gavin Rayne McFarlain is my 8 year old highly intelligent son.  It seems that his actual giftedness is in math, but his personality is that of a teacher pleaser so he does well in school.  Gavin loves being challenged mathematically and often tells me "new" ways to solve math problems.  I will never forget when he told me how he added double digit numbers (when I knew for a fact that they were only adding single digits in his class).  There was also a time with I was teaching his older brother how to work 2 step equations and Gavin was solving them in his head before his brother wrote the problem down.  I found this very intriguing since I taught 8th grade Math for years and knew that most 8th graders struggled with the concept.  I could go on and on about how he works Math in his head, but that would just turn into a math nerd mom bragging about her son.  The reality is this... Gavin's intellectual ability was far above that of his emotional ability.  The same kid that was able to add double digits at age four and solve two step equations at age 7 could have a complete meltdown over the silliest things.  And better yet, he would have the same emotional response to situations that were vastly different.  My boy was out of sync.  Asynchronous Development had landed right in my living room, and the training and lectures I had heard flooded my mind.

I am thankful for two things:

  1. As gifted kids grow up, their development gets in sync.  They can actually grow into normal development!
  2. The training helped me deal with my son and understand my students even more.
How this changed my teaching:

Once I realized just how real Asynchronous development was, I looked at my students different.  I observed their actions and reactions.  I soon found that some of them seemed socially awkward because they were.  Their intelligence was way higher than their social (emotional) ability and they reacted in what most would say "weird" ways.  I think the training, experience with my students, and my experience with Gavin has made me a better teacher and mom. The coolest thing about all of this is that I have my students from 6th grade through 8th grade. I get to see them mature into young adults and watch their development get in sync.  

What is your experience with Asynchronous development? What are your thoughts about how we can help students as they grow into "normal"?  Please comment below.