This summer I attended my first ever world conference on gifted education. The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, Inc. (WCGTC) is a global non-profit organization that provides advocacy and support for gifted children. This was the 20th biennial event, and it was held in Louisville, Kentucky, near the WCGTC Headquarters in Bowling Green. While I may have preferred to be in some of the more exotic locations it has been held, like Prague, Istanbul, or Barcelona, the fact that this year’s conference was easily accessible from Colorado made it possible for me to attend. Louisville’s mayor welcomed us in the opening reception with the interesting, off-beat fact that 95% of America’s whiskey is produced in Kentucky. He said the other 5% is moonshine which should be avoided while in Kentucky.
For over twenty years I’ve attended many local and national gifted conferences, so I thought this would be similar. But, my take-aways from this conference felt very different. With 40 different countries represented among the attendees and presenters, it created a feeling that was much more global and compelling. I heard people talking about trying to be the ones to start gifted education in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jamaica, and I sat next to people in sessions who were from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Turkey, and the Netherlands. I developed a feeling of camaraderie with people from other nations whose concerns and interests were the same as mine.
Over four days I attended 22 sessions with titles such as “The Importance of Culture in Differentiation”, “Increasing Frustration Tolerance for Growth Mindsets”, “Giftedness and Loss”, “Spiritual Growth”, “Positive Psychology”, and “Creativity and Competition”. I gave a presentation titled “How to Create and Facilitate Discussion Groups for Gifted Students”. And I was asked to join a panel at a Symposium Session whose focus was on Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.
I was honored to co-present with (pictured left to right, that’s me on the left) Patty Gatto-Walden, Linda Silverman, Janneke Frank and Michele Kane.
Attending the world gifted conference was very affirming as many people came up to me and told me that I had really inspired them to model what I was doing for my high school students in Boulder, Colorado. In fact, I was asked if I could come and help train teachers in Canada and Jamaica in how to best support gifted students and also their parents.
We all want the best possible education and opportunities for our children. Gifted children deserve recognition and provisions to be able to work at the level at which they enter the system. I realized that this feeling resonates throughout the world. Hearing that Jamaica and Saudi Arabia not only have no funding for gifted education, but the gifted are not even recognized as a category of student in their countries, made these inequities feel more urgent.
We know from Linda Silverman’s research that gifted children are in every socio-economic, cultural, and ethnic population in the world. While I feel that funding for gifted education is dismal in the United States, we have at least some sources of funding, unlike other educators and parents in other countries. So, in addition to continuing to help students in my Colorado community receive the best education they deserve to move forward, I also felt a deepening desire to aid other, less fortunate countries in helping to educate the teachers who work in their communities with their gifted children.
In our GT jobs, we so often feel like a team of one. This world conference assures us that what we feel is important to devote our time and energy to, is something that others around the world feel equally impassioned about. Making international connections makes us all stronger in our dedication and persistence to continue working on behalf of the global community of gifted children.
On a more somber note, I’ll never forget the comment made by a mother from Lebanon who said that everyday they wake up wondering if they will live through the day, because of all the bombing in their country. Yet, she was at the conference trying to further her knowledge about education to make children’s education better in Lebanon, and their future’s brighter.
The bi-annual conference is in Denmark in 2015. I would love to go. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to reconnect with some of the new friends I made this year in Kentucky.Share this: