Gifted Kids Are Often Bullied. Advice To Stop Bullying.

Bullying is a big topic in the field of gifted education, especially in the social/emotional aspects of gifted in which I specialize. So I wanted to pass along some of what I heard at a presentation on bullying by Barbara Coloroso.

As with children with disabilities or special needs, gifted children are often at a higher risk of being bullied. In fact, in one of the first major studies on bullying and gifted students, researchers at Purdue University found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students have been bullied.

Typically, gifted students are bullied because of their exceptional school performance. Other students are either jealous of their abilities and their grades or they see them as a threat in some way. Additionally, their academic abilities make them stand out from their peers. And in some cases, other students can see them as the “teacher’s pet” or a “know it all.”

How can we raise a generation of kids who will stand up for themselves against bullies? Coloroso says protection against bullying starts with knowing how to think. Gifted children have got to know they can think for themselves, and that they don’t have to believe what others are saying to or about them. We must teach gifted children not what to think but to think for themselves. One way to do this is to have them make age appropriate decisions on their own. Increase the difficulty as they get older. Then they’ll know how to stand up for themselves if they become bullied.

Our society is often passive with bullying. A potential witness is a bystander that sees bullying but is afraid to stand up. We need to raise kids who will stand up and say “that’s mean. Stop it!” And, then go sit with the kid who is being ostracized.

We can’t avoid or ignore bullying, and contrary to what some people say, it’s not “just a part of growing up.” The majority of bullying that goes on in middle school, and even in the workplace, is sexual bullying.

Another of Coloroso’s recommendations is not using conflict resolution tools for bullying. Bullying is just plain wrong. There’s nothing to discuss. Teasing is what friends do. Taunting is what bullies do. Bullying is a conscious, willful and deliberate hostile activity intended to do harm. There’s no conflict that needs to be resolved.

Bullies dehumanize others by calling them names. Bullies don’t see their targets as people. “Once I dehumanize you, I can do whatever I want to you.” Bullying is about utter contempt for another human being. Kids model what they see us do. As for sibling rivalry, conflict is inevitable. Violence and bullying is not.

Our schools need to have anti-bullying measures in place: A policy firmly against bullying; procedures against bullying; and programs against bullying to help teach kids honor humanity.

Coloroso says that a good come-back for someone being bullied is: “That comment was beneath both of us.”

Barbara Coloroso

Barbara Coloroso’s Seven Steps To Stop Bullying:

1. Discipline
2. Create opportunities to “do good”
3. Nurture empathy
4. Teach friendship skills
5. Closely monitor TV viewing, video games and computer activities
6. Engage in more constructive, entertaining, energizing activities
7. Teach ways to “do good will”

 

As adults, we can pay attention, get involved, and never ever look away.

 

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Memorable moments are when we feel something

We’ve wrapped up another school year, and we just had the official send-off for the IB Diploma students. Over a delicious buffet brunch surrounded by their admiring parents, the 60 students were asked to stand up and share a take-away from their four years with the IB program.

These students have taken on the most rigorous course work that can possibly be offered in high school, and they have spent four years of dedicated studying, hard work and sleepless nights to prove it. What I noticed this year, as in past years, is that their take-aways are almost always related to something fun or funny that happened during their high school years, not something remarkable or earth-shattering that they learned.

Some remarked on the TEDx Denver field trip that I organized for them, in order to inspire their confidence in their abilities to make a difference in the world. What they remembered was the hilarious game of Duck Duck Goose that spontaneously broke out before they boarded the buses to head back to Boulder.

Several remarked on the times I spent with them in ToK Tuesdays (their Theory of Knowledge class, where I do social/emotional activities once a week). One commented on the fun exploding missiles they built out of the popsicle sticks I brought in. Never mind that the intent of that exercise was to grab a stick every time I read a sensitivity statement that they could relate to. They responded to some unintended fun.

teenage-fun

A few remarked on the IB Retreat that we hold every year with guest speakers and group activities. What they remembered was the snowball fight that broke out in their downtime during lunch.

Another student commented on a worksheet that had various dots where they had to work in groups to find specific designs within the dots. The goal was for them to realize it was easier to do a challenging task when they worked together, rather than competing with each other. What the student remembered was how much fun they had creating shapes.

Sometimes what we think we are imparting (a lesson) is actually not what our students take away (emotional fun). I think it’s wise to always imbed within “educational” activities the opportunity for students to have a “fun quotient.” Allow for extra time where they can just let loose and do what they feel like doing. This will allow for self-discovery.

When we look back, what we all remember are not necessarily the moments that we learned something, but the moments that we felt something. I can’t think of a better take-away from high school than remembering fun times with friends, and feeling good.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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How Jim Webb gives meaning to existentialism

Terry-Bradley-Jim-WebbDr. Jim Webb spoke to a large, interested audience in Boulder recently for Boulder Valley Gifted and Talented. His topic revolved around his new book Searching For Meaning; Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope. Webb is one of the 25 most influential psychologists nationally on gifted education and has written or co-authored 17 books. That’s a photo of me with Jim Webb before his presentation. Here are some of my take-aways from Dr. Webb’s talk. 

Gifted children seek complexity

  • They engage in metacognition: they think about thinking
  • They are more likely to reach higher levels of moral development
  • They are more intense and more sensitive
  • They see non-traditional ways of acting and being
  • They are likely to challenge or question tradition
  • They search for consistency and universal truths in themselves and in their environment
  • They are more likely to raise questions about life’s meaning and purpose

These characteristics make them more prone to disillusionment. They raise questions about “what’s it all about?” Examining one’s life prompts a realization that much of our life is spent being involved in illusions where we try to keep up appearances.

At first it’s a lot more comfortable to live with illusions. But as we gain more life experience, our perspectives shift. We are more likely to question the status quo, and we become disillusioned (if we are not already).

13 Healthy Coping Styles that go beyond illusions:

1. Creating your own life script — change your story, change your life
2. Become involved in causes — idealists are the ones involved in causes
3. Using bibliotherapy and journaling for perspective (this can help you clarify your thinking
4. Maintaining a sense of humor – can ameliorate feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
5. Touching & feeling connected — this reminds us that we are still alive and we’re connecting to cut through aloneness
6. Developing authentic relationships — is there someone in your life that you can really be yourself with?
7. Compartmentalizing — you don’t have to think about your ideas and concerns 24/7. You can set aside your problems that seem overwhelming so they don’t bleed into the other aspects of your life that are able to bring you joy.
8. Letting go — realizing how much one really needs to try to control life vs. whether it is better to just let go and flow with life.
9. living in the present moment — if we are focused on the past or the future, we can’t really be in the present – our life will pass us by.
10. Learning optimism & resiliency — focus on your assets and draw on your strengths
11. Focusing on the continuity of generations — wanting to share with others what you have learned in life gives your life meaning
12. Mentoring and teaching others — can foster authentic relationships and bring pleasure for having helped others
13. Rippling — realizing that each of us influences others, for years to come

Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration examines in detail how bright people get disillusioned. As a therapist, Dabrowski was known to get excited when a student of his expressed feeling depressed. He would say, “That’s great! Let’s take the parts of your life that have meaning and try to reintegrate them at a higher level.” His theory describes that individuals who “disintegrate” can eventually develop the parts of their lives that have meaning, and positively reintegrate later.

“Although disintegration is likely to result, with existential depression as a main component, this can be “positive disintegration.” – Dabrowski

Forward Arrow smallBright minds are more likely to have higher expectations, to see how things might be, and to be lonely idealists. How can we help them find hope in this world?

Many feel isolated because they recognize that no matter how close they become to others, a gap remains, and they are nonetheless along. “If we must die, if we must construct our own world, and if each of us ultimately is alone, then what meaning does life have?” Such realization and concern can prompt existential angst and depression.

There is a tie-in between existential depression and bright minds. Sometimes, a situation called “compassion fatigue” is experienced, when an individual gets so tired and overwhelmed caring about others, the environment, unjustness, discrimination, etc. that they decide just not to care anymore. This can result in depression.

Forward Arrow smallThe 40% Solution – 50% of your happiness is genetic; 10% is situational and 40% is your mental and behavioral approach. Accept yourself as valuable separate from your roles and separate from others’ evaluations of you.

Dr. Webb delivered an important message. He imparted a lot of wisdom in an area that is not often discussed in the gifted community. For more, I recommend Webb’s book Searching For Meaning; Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope from Great Potential Press.

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Lessons about gifted kids from Roald Dahl’s Matilda

I just read an article titled 12 Lessons About Gifted Kids from Matilda. You know Matilda, the extraordinary child created by Roald Dahl. She has been the star of a book, a film (I loved it!), and a musical. This article is an beautiful reminder that gifted kids do things “early” and “more”.

Matilda is caught up in the world of books. For some kids, books are a life saver, especially when like-minded friends are hard to find. For a child like Matilda, who is very different from both her family and other kids her age, books may be enough to provide a bridge until they can find an actual friend. Adults often provide a safe connection for gifted children who are desiring to connect with someone who is safe and approachable.

Parents would be wise to provide continual access to a variety of books and movies that have relatable characters. Reading and watching along with your children will offer many opportunities to pause and ask “Do you ever feel that way?”

Matilda is a great movie for parents to watch with their gifted children. Just as books can provide bibliotherapy, movies like Matilda can provide cinema therapy.

matilda

1. Signs of giftedness can often be seen early in a child’s life.
2. Giftedness is innate, not taught.
3. Gifted children love to learn and often have a variety of interests. Because of this, many gifted children love to read.
4. Gifted kids often outgrow “children’s” content early.

Read all 12 Lessons About Gifted Kids from Matilda.

 

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3 things to know from the Beyond Giftedness Conference

I recently attended the 21st annual Beyond Giftedness Conference in Arvada, Colorado (a Denver suburb). I’ve attended almost every year and have been a presenter at many. When I attend events like Beyond Giftedness Conference, I always pick up some new ideas, fresh perspectives and different approaches on gifted education and the social/emotional side of giftedness (my area of interest). Here are three points I wanted to share from this year’s Beyond Giftedness conference.

Federal funding for gifted

Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis in his keynote “Mindset and Talent Development” said the discrepancy between the gifted education budget and special education budget can be described as maligned neglect. This discrepancy can no longer just be an oversight; it’s been going on for too long. There is a concerted effort to not support gifted education nationally. The proof is that the federal budget for gifted education is $5 million (Javits Act 2014) and the federal budget for special ed is $12.7 billion. That’s correct, millions versus billions.

This made me realize how the current national funding is a purposeful oppression of our gifted population. When 5-7% of the national student population is considered gifted and talented (that’s about three million K-12 students), the funding directed to gifted is abysmal. It should be noted that the feds do not provide ANY funding directly to local school districts for programs and services for gifted and talented students.

Existential depression and gifted

The next session I attended was “Who I Am and Why Does it Matter: The Existential Dilemma” with Jenny Hecht and Eamonn Morris, a former student at the high school where I work. I learned that there are three types of depression: psychological (usually prompted by an event, such as the death of a loved one); clinical depression, which is a mood disorder (frequently as a result of brain chemistry or genetics); and existential depression.

Existential depression can be pervasive in a person’s life. It usually comes with guilt because the person feels they should be able to get over it but can’t. Generally, because they feel they don’t know their purpose in life, or they feel they’re not doing life correctly, or they can’t get over it themselves, the person feels guilt. Even children can have existential depression – how confusing that must be.

There is a large prevalence of existential depression in the gifted population. For more, I recommend the book Searching For Meaning – Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope by James Webb.

I’ve written previously about Eamonn Morris’s struggles with depression.

Flipped learning for gifted

The final session of note for me was “Using Flipped Classrooms to Bring Out the Best in Your Students” by Jerry Overmyer.

Flipped learning (or flipped teaching) is: What used to be class work and lectures is done outside of class by the student. What used to be homework is done in the classroom. Students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and individual interaction with students, instead of lecturing. Videos can be created by the teacher, or there are many videos already online that teachers can use. It’s not about how great the video is, it’s about the new use of face-to-face class time. Flipped learning allows students to become independent learners, allows teachers to be available when students need them most, and allows parents to more effectively help with homework.

Flipped learning is ideal for gifted kids. Those who grasp the lesson or concept quickly can move on to the next thing they’re interested in. No busy work. Those who don’t grasp the lesson or concept quickly can watch videos repeatedly, even watch and discuss with parents or friends, and figure it out. Students work more at their own pace.

What’s the best use of a teacher’s time? Is it a general lecture to all students of varied abilities, or is it working one-on-one or meeting each student where they are and moving them forward individually, not as a group.

“Teachers will not be replaced by technology but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced by those teachers who do.”  Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach


I believe there are always take-aways from every meeting, group discussion, conference, or convention that can help all of us understand how to better work with students. I hope to see you next year at the 22nd annual Beyond Giftedness conference in Arvada, Colorado in 2015.

 

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Giftedness and disabilities can coexist

There’s a quote I really like: “If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we’ve lost sight of the real reason for learning.” (by Jeannie Fulbright)

Similarly, I think it’s also true that “if the only definition of giftedness is being able to score well on tests, we’ve lost sight of the real definition of giftedness.”

Test scores are easily quantifiable, but it is important to note that there are many qualitative aspects of giftedness that are not easily quantifiable. Examples of these attributes include:

  • having the ability to connect with the essence of others
  • having a charismatic nature that readily captivates and attracts others
  • demonstrating creative thought and ability
  • having asynchronous development which causes simultaneous elevated strengths and areas of weakness
  • having heightened sensitivities to the world, and experiencing intensity in many aspects of life

Annamarie Roeper said that “giftedness is based on emotions as well as cognition” and she developed the Qualitative Assessment Method to identify gifted children based solely on observation.

That brings me to Benjamin…

Benjamin is a senior in high school, and he has autism. He is highly capable, and has a captivating presence. He is a public speaker who talks frequently about living with autism. I have seen him present a number of times and I continue to be amazed on so many levels. His mother has provided incredible attention and painstakingly worked to help Benjamin manage his differences.

This constant process and unyielding message of love is beautifully described in her new book, Benjamin Breaking Barriers: Autism – A Journey of Hope. She asked me to review her book, and in doing so, I was continuously impressed with her descriptions of Benjamin’s behavior and thought. I highlighted dozens of quotes that read like they were in a book illustrating a gifted child rather than a child with autism.

For all of us who work with students with disabilities it is important to be mindful of the fact that many of these same students may also be gifted in some areas. This is an example of significant asynchrony. Gifted children identify themselves, and so do “twice exceptional” children. We just have to know what we’re looking for. Benjamin is a perfect example of an individual who has significant learning and processing disabilities, while at the same time is convincingly functioning with significant strengths.

Focusing on his strengths is where Benjamin will make a meaningful life for himself, and make a difference to others. This is his purpose.

Benjamin posted this on Facebook:
Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve learned something interesting: people are calling me “twice exceptional.” The term means that, in addition to having autism, I also have some real gifts. Terry Bradley, the TAG (Talented and Gifted) specialist at my school has been super supportive, and I appreciate her identifying me as being “gifted.” Please read my latest blog entry, “Giftedness and Autism.” Find it at BenjaminBreakingBarriers.wordpress.com

 

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“It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” – real life struggles help students

I’m so sorry to hear that Ned Vizzini died. His movie about teenage anxiety and depression, “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story”, helped many of my high school students address their issues. “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story”, which was first a novel, then a movie, is about a 16-year old struggling with depression and suicide-ideation because of school and family pressures. NPR named  “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” one of the 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels of all time.

I have shown the movie during many semesters to my 15 and 16-year old IB Diploma students who are often weighed down by similar troubles. The students enjoy watching the movie because there are many messages that they can relate to in it, plus actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis makes it funny at times.

Over the last few years, I’ve had a few students come up to me after watching “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story” to say that they can relate, that they feel the same pressures, and that it’s good to know they’re not alone in feeling this way. This communication allowed me to get supports in place to help them with their stress.  It served to bring some of the “high fliers” to my attention, so that I could get them help.

After watching “It’s Kind Of A Funny Story”, one of the students, who also was in a psych ward for depression and suicidal ideation, like the movie’s lead character, wrote to other students:

The takeaway from this film should be: material success and academic performance have no bearing on your happiness. What really matters is how you treat other people, how you act in the face of adversity, and how you find fulfillment, whatever it is.

I heard Ned Vizzini keynote once at a gifted conference. He was a compelling speaker. I bought his book Teen Angst. I’m sorry to hear that Ned Vizzini couldn’t overcome his demons but it’s good to know he’ll be helping others with their issues for years to come through what he left behind in his many books and movie. Read about Ned Vizzini’s life in his New York Times obituary.

 

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The most important piece of advice for college students is…

I want to share something with you that Logan Brock wrote about gifted students in college. Logan is a university freshman, and is the College Liaison for the Colorado Association of Gifted and Talented (CAGT).


Practicing Patience: The Trials and Tribulations of my Transition into College

The transition from high school to college is one of the most substantial changes that we undertake in our lives; personally, it has been the biggest change that I have made to date. I spent a good deal of my childhood romanticizing about the day when I would have complete freedom and full control over my own life. My first few months in college have been amazing; however, I have also faced some serious challenges and a sharp learning curve.

As a G/T learner, I believe that one of the biggest challenges, as well as one of the greatest opportunities, of the transition into college is the anonymity that it brings. It offers a chance to reinvent oneself and to become whoever you want to be. However, it also changes the dynamic of the classroom environment. Personally, I had a strong support system around me throughout my K-12 education. I knew my teachers personally and was given the opportunity to learn in classes of 10-20 students. When I arrived at CU, that all changed. My largest class consists of over 300 students and three of my five classes have more than 100. Learning in such an environment is an adaptation that did not occur naturally, at least for me.

The most important piece of advice that I have for students making the transition into college is to be patient. Almost everyone that I have spoken with has told me that they really struggled with their first few weeks in school. The change from high school into college is one that should not be taken lightly. For me, the thing that helped the most in order to feel comfortable and “at home” was time. While it is easy to feel overwhelmed when starting the college experience, just trust that it will all be resolved in time. You will soon find your place and your comfort level in your new environment.


I feel that Logan’s reflections are significant to parents and educators. For those of us working with GT students in high school, our concerns center around supporting them to do well in their classes, helping them to define their future goals, and offering them guidance in finding the connections to make that happen. Whatever their goals are beyond high school, we aim to help them find what path is right for them.

Our focus while they are in high school is on getting them successfully beyond high school. We want them to be happy and hopeful about what is coming next, and we proudly applaud them as they line up to receive their diplomas at their graduation ceremonies. If starting college is next on their agendas, we tend to feel like our job is done, because they have accomplished what they needed to accomplish, and we can envision their life unfolding like a rich smorgasbord in front of them.

Logan gives us insight beyond high school graduation, and on to the next step.
He makes it clear that the transition into college isn’t always smooth. For gifted students, the heightened sensitivities and overexcitabilities that they experience might cause them to struggle more than other students with the transition. I think it’s important that we parents and educators realize that continued support and communication is needed beyond high school graduation, because beginning college might actually trigger that all too familiar sensitivity.

I appreciate that Logan offers some advice to other new college students. And for parents and educators, we need to take steps to make sure that high school graduates are equipped with support systems in college to ensure they know they have not been left to deal with significant transitions like this on their own.

 

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Giftedness 101- essential reading for people teaching, working and living with gifted individuals

I read a new book written by my friend Linda Kreger Silverman. She’s contributed to over 300 publications, and her latest book is The Psych 101 Series: Giftedness 101. This is an invaluable resource for anyone who is in need of a solid, straight-forward foundation for understanding giftedness. Silverman skillfully honors and explains the diversity of giftedness, examines the origins of giftedness, explores various beliefs and theories surrounding giftedness, itemizes characteristics of giftedness, highlights the dilemma of twice exceptionality, draws a connection to the psychology of giftedness, explains the assessment of the gifted, and contributes suggestions for the optimal development of the gifted.

Giftedness 101 is written in a friendly, palatable manner. And, every chapter is packed with a great deal of practical, useful information. Giftedness 101 provides a very comprehensive overview that begs to be read by anyone working with, or living with, gifted individuals. Teachers in college certification programs and mental health professionals desperately need this foundation as they prepare to educate and provide support to gifted youth because, as Silverman notes, “Giftedness is not addressed in the training programs of counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists and is rarely covered in the field of education.” With increased awareness, teachers and other professionals will know what to look for, and will be much more confident, educated and effective when working with the gifted population.

This book offers information necessary to bring awareness and understanding to the fact that there are psychological differences among the gifted that require essential modifications in educating, counseling, and parenting the gifted. Historically, the study of giftedness was founded in a psychological perspective. But, over the years, this discipline has become imbedded in the field of education as a curricular and instructional issue. It has since become an educational and political matter that is surrounded by myths and misunderstanding. The gifted are individuals with special needs that are neither embraced nor understood in the field of psychology, or in the field of education.

Giftedness 101 provides clarity into the complex inner-workings of gifted people. The gifted are a group with special needs. Early identification and optimal development of the gifted is at least as valuable as optimal development of any other special-needs group. (p.114) They require understanding and acceptance just like any other special-needs group. The diversity among the gifted population is great. That is why special training and education is required in order to provide individualized support to gifted individuals as they develop.

This is a highly informative, useful book! It should be required reading in teacher certification programs and similar programs in counseling, social work, psychology, special education, pediatric medicine, and intervention work. Whether the reader wants to learn more about giftedness through multiple historical perspectives, learn in-depth about a variety of available assessments, or envision what gifted individuals need in order to move forward, it’s all here.

Silverman is one of the most respected authors, counseling psychologists, and clinicians in the field of gifted education. Her decades of dedicated work and research in the field are unsurpassed. See her bio. Giftedness 101 is a necessary resource that is essential reading by all whose lives are touched by gifted individuals.

The Psych 101 Series: Giftedness 101 by Linda Kreger Silverman, 2013, 292 pages, paperback, Springer Publishing Company, ISBN 978 0826 107978.

Watch Linda Kreger Silverman comment about the myths of giftedness.

 

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2e Newsletter writes about my session at World Conference

The 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter wrote an article about my session at the World Gifted Conference this pat summer. I wanted to share it with you and encourage you to visit their web site and subscribe to 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter.


From August 10 to 14, 2013, over 500 people from around the world with an interest in gifted learners gathered in Louisville, Kentucky. The event was the 20th Biennial World Conference of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. This conference offered educators, parents, and others interested in gifted education the opportunity to share research findings, best practices, and other information with an international community. The following is coverage of one of the sessions offered at the World Conference.

Creating and Facilitating Discussion Groups for Gifted Students

Presented by Terry Bradley, M.Ed.

It was her background as an a elementary school teacher and her role as a parent of gifted children that led Terry Bradley to see a need at her kids’ school and find a way to meet it. As Bradley explained it, her own experiences led her to strongly agree with the idea that gifted children not only think differently, they feel differently; and she wanted others — children as well as teachers — to understand that. This desire to “heighten awareness in others” led Bradley to devise a plan to conduct discussion groups in the school that would provide gifted students with a place to, as she stated, “help them feel normal for the first time.”

Carrying out this plan was a multi-step process that Bradley has refined into what she refers to as the Bradley Method, a model that she believes others can follow to get justification to do what she did. Some crucial steps in the model are gaining support from the administration, teachers, parents, and students. Bradley gave an overview of how she does this.

A way to enlist administrators’ support is to find what Bradley calls a “foothold.” In her case, it was a school improvement team goal, to “enhance the GT program.” She positioned the discussion group as a way to meet this goal. “Everyone’s ‘foothold,’” Bradley stated, “will be different.”

A way to get the support of the teachers, the presenter explained, is to give a brief summary of your intent at a faculty meeting and to ask the teachers to identify students who might benefit from such a group. Bradley emphasized the need for teachers to look beyond grades, and instead to consider the students who are bright but stand apart from the rest — for example, those who ask probing questions, who are highly creative and imaginative, or those who are “quirky.”

Holding an informal meeting with parents and answering their questions is a way to get their buy-in. To help parents feel comfortable with the topics the discussion group will cover and with her as the group facilitator, Bradley sends out an invitation letter explaining who she is and giving a brief explanation of how the group will work and topics they might address. This approach, she explained, is most appropriate for elementary and middle school; not so much for high school, where parents tend to be less directly involved and students tend to make more of their own decisions.

Bradley’s advice for getting student support is to schedule an information meeting that’s “lighthearted and fun — with food.” Then, she recommends, get the group going as quickly as possible afterward, before they lose interest. The first order of business is to build trust, so that members trust one another and trust the facilitator.

Discussion group meetings, she said, should ideally take place 8 to 10 times a semester. According to Bradley, lunchtime often works well. It may be necessary to enlist the help of teachers to excuse the members for 15 to 20 minutes of class before or after lunch in order to provide the 45 minutes of meeting time that seems to be the best length for discussions.

When the group is new, the facilitator should ask members to fill out a card stating what they want to talk about and distribute the results to members so that they can agree on topics to address. Then the facilitator should step aside and let the students do the talking. Other suggestions that Bradley gave for conducting successful meetings included:
• Show respect.
• Use humor.
• Meet students where they are.
• Use selective ignoring (that is, let some things pass).
• Set a rule that no teacher’s names will be used during the discussions.
• Encourage confidentiality.

The presenter pointed out that not all meetings have to be serious. Some meetings can just be games and fun activities. “That’s valuable, too,” she stated. It’s also beneficial to do group-building activities. One example she gave is taking the temperature of each
member of the group, asking them to tell the group where they fall within a range of emotions and why.

Bradley emphasized that “you don’t have to be a counselor to do this.” It’s affective education, not counseling, she explained. The goal is “not to fix kids, just to normalize who they are and how they’re feeling.” While some students may need counseling, the discussion groups are not for that purpose.

Bradley found the discussion groups for gifted students to be so successful and rewarding that she kept leading them after her children were no longer involved. In an effort to increase her understanding of the affective needs of the gifted, Bradley returned to school to earn a master’s degree in gifted education and is now the Talented and Gifted Advisor at a high school in Colorado. There she continues to run discussion groups for the school’s large gifted population and work as an education consultant.

Popular Topics for Discussion Groups

Here are some of the topics that Terry Bradley has found popular in her discussion groups:
• Perfectionism
• Stress
• Friendships
• Relationships
• Image/popularity
• Sensitivity
• Introversion/extroversion
• Values
• Sadness/depression.

Written by and reprinted with permission from the September/October, 2013 issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter. Copyright © 2013 Glen Ellyn Media. For more information about the newsletter, see www.2enewsletter.com.

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