Education Opinion

Report from NAGC - Day 3

By Tamara Fisher — November 10, 2009 6 min read
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Greetings, once again! :o) I’m home now and here is the report for Day 3. With all the learning and all the fun that I squeezed into these very long days, I hit my limit that night and couldn’t maintain my energy to stay awake and write. It’s therefore a tad belated, but here is (my) Day 3 in a nutshell:

1) Saturday began quite early for me with the Affiliate Breakfast. The Affiliates are all of the state gifted associations and each year NAGC has a breakfast get-together for the affiliate leaders. As President of Montana AGATE, that meant me this year.

No people appear in this picture because I somehow managed to show up 20 minutes early (6:40 a.m.)! It’s always interesting to meet people in leadership positions in their own states and to “compare notes” and share ideas.

2) Next came Howard Gardner‘s keynote, a reflection on his ideas (particularly that of multiple intelligences). He talked about the importance of individualizing as much as possible for students and reaching them via multiple avenues.

3) Just prior to each keynote, local kids provided entertainment as everyone walked into the giant room. Well, just before Gardner’s keynote, a girl from the Missouri Scholars Academy blew everyone away with her poetry slam. Her delivery was well-polished, the content of her poem was highly relevant, and her message was crafted with remarkable creativity. The wowed audience of nearly 3,000 teachers and parents gave her an instant cheering standing ovation the moment she finished. It was phenomenal and I saw people with tears in their eyes, too. They told us she was on YouTube, so I found the clip and here it is for you to see (although this version shows a classroom performance that isn’t quite as polished as she was on Saturday - but it’s still great). Click the image to view the video -

The text of her poem is posted at the Missouri Scholars Academy website. Way to go, Taylor!

4) NAGC President Ann Robinson was interviewed on a St. Louis morning TV show and we saw the clip before the keynote, too. I’m really impressed with how thoroughly St. Louis reached out to NAGC during our time in town. We were welcomed in a variety of ways by many friendly people :o)

5) Saturday, NAGC conducted its first Virtual Convention, which was a series of that day’s sessions being dually offered online, live, so that participants who couldn’t make it to St. Louis could still participate to some degree. What a timely idea! If any of you participated in the virtual convention, I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. (The Virtual Convention was graciously sponsored by Prufrock Press.) Here you can see the computers that were set up to broadcast each presenter’s voice and PowerPoint slides live over the internet:

6) After the keynote, I attended a session about building work ethic and resilience in our students and why they don’t have much of either any more. Our “microwave, disposable society” is full of quick answers, quick fixes, and quick eliminations of what we don’t want. Plus, a lot is given to or done for kids nowadays that they used to have to earn or work for themselves. The presenter suggested building the following traits in kids in order to foster their development of resiliency and work ethic:
* social competence
* communication skills
* autonomy
* sense of purpose and future

7) Next, I listened to a few researchers talk about their study of friendships and gifted kids, including the role (if any) of competition in those friendships. They found evidence that indicates gifted kids’ friendships are perhaps more specialized (they have certain friends for certain reasons, rather than all-purpose friends). Their research also indicated that gifted kids’ friendships were more likely to include “competition for fun” rather than competition to “beat” the other person.

8) “Procrastination: Pathways to Productivity” was a fascinating presentation by Joanne Foster. I remember hearing Maureen Neihart once say that perfectionism was a bit like cholesterol - there’s a good kind and a bad kind. And that was essentially a good piece of what Joanne was saying about procrastination, too - that there’s a good kind and a bad kind. (She didn’t put it that way, but it struck me as an element of her message.) She talked about reasons people (especially gifted kids) procrastinate:
* they don’t know how to ask for help when they’re stuck (because they so often don’t need to ask for help - and then when they do need to they don’t know how to or are afraid to look “stupid”)
* they’re overwhelmed by too much to do or by the bigness of the task
* they see it as an unpleasant or uninteresting task
* they are more energized or inspired by a looming deadline
* they are afraid they won’t be able to do it perfectly or to the level they so easily do other things.
And she also talked about ways to help gifted kids overcome their unhealthy procrastination - by helping them learn how to do the following:
* focus attention on what matters
* develop persistence
* learn relaxation techniques to help manage stress
* develop and nurture a mastery orientation (rather than a “always the best” orientation)
* analyze and harness what their own approaches to productivity are
Why do you procrastinate? What motivates you?

9) Sshhh... Don’t tell anyone, but I skipped a session on Saturday so I could dash off to go up the arch!

That last photo is the arch’s full shadow as seen from the top. I can’t take credit for noticing it. A boy looking out the window next to me tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, lady, look! You can see the whole shadow!” I complimented him on making such a great observation :o)

10) The late afternoon session on Saturday was a conversation between Dean Keith Simonton and Howard Gardner about creative lives and their different opinions on the nature and nurture of creativity. I was struck by Simonton’s engaging nature and easy laugh and it was fun to watch the two of them “rib” each other good-naturedly about their respective ideas. (This session was graciously sponsored by the Scholastic Testing Service.)

11) I enjoyed dinner on Day 3 with three of my classmates from our Masters program at UConn. We talked for a few hours, sharing ideas about what we’re doing with our students and discussing what we had learned so far at the conference. One of them is a state department coordinator of professional development for teachers in Illinois and she recently developed a new 45-hour PD course for Illinois teachers that will give them a very comprehensive basis in information about and strategies for gifted students. In addition to awesome content, I was blown away by the format of it. It is a radical transformation of PD and I’ve never seen anything like it before. Combining new technologies and multiple adaptable features, it adjusts to the participants, records their thoughts and lessons, and incorporates both computer-based and face-to-face interactions for each activity. It’s AMAZING and I regret that my description can’t do it justice. I have the kind of job where I get blown away quite often, but this had my jaw hanging on the floor. It might even still be lying on the floor by her computer. Watching her demonstrate the program for us, I felt like I was witnessing the birth of something BIG. Illinois teachers, you are in for quite an experience!

And that was all just ONE DAY! I think I need some rest, especially after returning to two 12-hour work days (parent/teacher conferences Monday and Tuesday until 8:00 each night) on the heels of the convention. But, as Helen Hayes once said, “If you rest, you rust.”

Check back for a report on Day 4! Remember to answer the question under #8 above about procrastination if you’re interested...

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.