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VOLUME SIX, NUMBER TWO
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Beginning with this issue, the name of this publication is changed from GEP Newsletter to GEP Quarterly. For many previous issues our articles have concentrated upon substantive issues rather than news items of current or fleeting interest. Our main reason for starting this periodical was to highlight areas of gifted education which require more critical analysis. The word, "newsletter," has never accurately reflected our publishing goals beginning with our first issue five years ago. In this first issue, we said that we would concentrate upon the open discussion and criticism of different models of gifted education, and encourage freedom of expression in this field.
Unfortunately, we perceive the current situation in the gifted field as suffering from closed and dogmatic thinking. We can fight this dogmatism by engaging in the critical analysis of all ideas and proposals regardless their origin, and belying the "knee jerk" acceptance of unproven models, gimmicks and quick-fixes. In a related matter, the term "research" is used so loosely today in gifted education that we cannot take many so-called research studies seriously from a methodological or theoretical perspective. These studies appear to be designed to prove the following: "Use this model of gifted programming because 'so-and-so' says it's valid." To alleviate this situation, there should be less concern with maintaining personality cults and more concern with conducting objective and high quality research based upon truth, integrity and honest leadership. Gifted education in the United States is in crisis, primarily because it lacks a solid foundation for supporting what should be done for children with extraordinary abilities. This is probably why it is relatively easy for superintendents and school boards to suddenly dissolve programs for the gifted. We need a democracy of ideas expressed by all individuals who wish to save and develop this filed. The pied pipers of gifted education must make room for more creative and potentially useful ideas. We are searching for individuals who have such ideas in order to give them free expression in our Gifted Education Press Quarterly and our other publications. This is our "raison d'etre."
In the first article, Dr. Joan Smutny, writes about such programs as the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and the myriad activities for the gifted in the Chicago Public Schools. Her educational activities have helped make Illinois a leading state in the gifted field. She has co-authored three excellent books in the gifted area, is Editor of the Illinois Journal for Gifted, and Director of the Center for Gifted at National-Louis University.
The second article is an incisive and feisty critique of the negative effects of cooperative learning upon gifted students. The author, Dr. Grace P. Lane, is an Associate Professor of Education at Drury College in Springfield Missouri. Her writing reflects her strong doctoral training in special education and philosophy.
The third article in this issue, a statement of the rights of teachers of the gifted by Dr. Bruce Gurcsik, complements Lane's essay. He describes the conditions that must exist in a school to produce outstanding teachers of and programs for the gifted, thereby eliminating the need for placing them in demeaning cooperative learning settings. Dr. Gurcsik is Supervisor of Programs for the Gifted in ARIN Intermediate Unit, Shelocta, Pennsylvania. He is a past-President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education.
Dr. Mike Walters has ingeniously pinpointed an important area of American literature which should capture gifted students' imaginations -- the great American nature writers such as Thoreau, Abbey, Krutch, and Dillard. The contemporary nature writings of Annie Dillard have a beauty and poignancy which must surely resonate with the sensibility of all gifted students!
Maurice D. Fisher, Ph.D. Publisher
PROGRAMS FOR GIFTED STUDENTS IN ILLINOIS: A STUDY IN DIVERSITY AND VIGOR
BY JOAN FRANKLIN SMUTNY, DIRECTOR
THE CENTER FOR GIFTED, NATIONAL-LOUIS UNIVERSITY
Illinois has earned a position of leadership in gifted education in the nation -- perhaps not in state dollars expended, but certainly in its level of commitment and singleness of purpose. If leadership reflects diversity of expression, definition and dimension, then Illinois typifies a center of initiative and progressive activity directed towards appropriately meeting the needs of its bright and talented youth.
Commitment can readily be defined as contribution. Although the possibilities for future funding are uncertain, individual involvement and commitment at the grassroots level remain high throughout the state. There is an intensity of involvement from which various issues have emerged -- cooperative learning, and identifying and serving special populations such as culturally disadvantaged, pre-primary and learning disabled gifted -- that have long needed to be addressed. This has turned heads, opened eyes and stirred up outworn convictions among all educators, eliciting a variety of impassioned responses from adults.
Because of this level of commitment, gifted programs are either effectively addressing the needs of gifted students, or are earnestly trying to -- although most Illinois educators believe they have not reached their potential. Since many of these programs survive only because of inertia and a general conviction that they are better than nothing, such dissatisfaction serves the cause well. Educators of the gifted are beginning to think more progressively about how to approach their young children as the fact that these children are underserved becomes more apparent.
Commitment is especially strong on the part of those specifically involved in gifted education, including hundreds of parents who impel and support legislative action and its impact upon gifted children in Illinois, the hundreds of school districts they represent, and their teachers, administrators and parents.
Since 1964 Illinois has legislated funding for the education of its gifted children and young people, although for 14 of those 28 years the amount of funding was not increased, and it was reduced on three occasions. In 1989, the annual reimbursement was $66.43 per gifted student as compared to $199.00 for the cost of a high school football helmet.
In 1992 the state budget for gifted education in Illinois is $10,730,700. This figure reflects an increase of $500,00 over 1991; but unfortunately a recent $5 million budget deficit has caused the legislature to reduce that increase by $311,000. Thus, for 1993 the 140,000 gifted students in Illinois will receive a walloping $1.35 increase over last year for the programming they require.
Ninety-six percent of all school districts in the state offered some form of gifted education based upon 1989 statistics. The enrollment in these programs was 138,848 or 8% of the student population. More than half of the gifted students served were in grades 4 through 8.
Over 70% of Illinois school districts still use the pull-out or resource model for their gifted students. About 90% of those enrolled in this type of program receive gifted instruction 1 to 5 hours per week. The classes may be held in the student's home school or children may travel to another school in the district. Gifted coordinators and teachers agree that these pull-out programs have distinct disadvantages as to frequency, realistic expectations, and carry-over of the gifted curriculum to regular classrooms. In addition, they believe that the pull-out model places undue responsibility on gifted teachers. Too many of them have to respond to needs at every grade level in the school. Many are itinerant, splitting the workday among several schools in their districts. Although it remains a part-time response to a full-time condition, the pull-out model continues because it seems relatively easy to implement and less costly than other models. Even in 1992 school board members and administrators are often unable to justify a more substantive program for a group much of the community regards as already advantaged.
Some districts offer special classes or special schools because they believe these models can be a particularly attractive alternative to high ability learners. Some examples in the state of Illinois which offer several unique benefits are: entire curriculums can be designed specifically to meet the needs of gifted students by using special scheduling, highly integrated subjects, and learning contracts. The special school encourages sustained interaction among bright students who are challenged and inspired by one another. Performing arts centers in conjunction with public and private schools are increasing, and a variety of other special schools focus on outstanding abilities in certain disciplines.
Residential High School -- Mathematics and Science
One of these schools, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, is currently obtaining singularly high state and national honors earned by its students. Granted the average SAT scores of students entering the Academy are 650 and 533 respectively for math and verbal areas, they continue to excel, often obtaining first place awards in local, regional and national competitions.
There are presently 630 students enrolled in the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in grades 10 through 12, representing about 200 communities throughout the state. Tuition is free and students pay an annual $700 charge to cover books and fees.
The Academy uses a learning participation approach similar to that of a laboratory school where teachers try new methods with their students. This school attracts an exceptional faculty where evaluation, reevaluation and innovation is the norm. Recently the faculty opted to drop letter grades and changed to a portfolio system of student evaluation. This change has been well received by even the most prestigious universities.
Although IMSA focuses on math and science, it offers all subjects and comprehensive extra-curricular opportunities. For those exceptionally talented in these areas, it is an exciting and demanding experience.
Programs for the Gifted in the Chicago Public Schools
One of the finest urban programs for the gifted in the United States is offered in Chicago under the direction of Richard Ronvik. There are 24,462 gifted students in grades K through 12 enrolled in 612 separate programs at 294 sites. Fifty-one percent of these students are Black, 23% White, 15% Hispanic, 10% Asian and 3% Native American. Forty-four percent of the participants are female.
Seven basic gifted program models are used in Chicago:
1. Regional Gifted Centers. These are full-time elementary schools for the gifted. The curriculum is fast-paced and more intensive than local school programs. Chicago has six Regional Gifted Centers attended by approximately 1500 students in grades 1 through 8. Transportation is provided.
Last year a Regional Gifted Center was specified for Hispanic students. The testing instruments used for identification were administered in Spanish. This center includes a dual language program offering literacy in both English and Spanish, and is one of the first schools for the gifted in the country to be conducted in these languages.
2. Comprehensive Programs. These are full-time programs serving nearly 7000 children which offer differentiated instruction in all academic subjects within neighborhood schools. Admission is based on testing that demonstrates high intellectual abilities.
3. Specific Aptitude Pull-Out Programs. This model addresses specific talents or abilities for which elementary and high school students receive specialized courses, particularly in math and science. Advanced Placement (AP) classes are included in this model. Over 10,000 students take part.
4. Academic Centers. Located at three high schools in the city, these centers offer a college preparatory approach for 7th through 12th graders. The 1200 students are enrolled full-time and bussed from central locations.
5. International Baccalaureate. This high school is the only one of its kind in Illinois. Designed for the highly gifted, it is the most accelerated program in the Chicago Public Schools. According to Ronvik, it is designed for children who love homework and intense academic challenges. There are 225 students from all over the city who work in this program.
6. The Off-Campus University Program. Local universities offer fast-paced classes, particularly in math and science, to 7th and 8th graders who excel. Admission is based on SAT scores. Approximately 500 students attend a half-day each week for one year.
7. The Off-Campus Museum Program. This is a pull-out program for 7th-8th and 11th-12th graders. Its participants spend a half-day each week in special classes offered by local museums which include the Art Institute, Terra Museum and DuSable Museum.
Richard Ronvik foresees several major trends for gifted students in Chicago: a major movement to accommodate Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students; a growing awareness of the numbers of at-risk Black students who are gifted; and the possibility of developing another model where each teacher identifies two or three gifted students and through using differentiated curriculums, materials and activities, meets their needs.
The Chicago Public Schools also has magnet elementary, junior high and high schools devoted to specific talents such as the performing arts, math and science, and the International Baccalaureate program. Ronvik has initiated and developed a large variety of programs including some for bilingual and disadvantaged students. He is always considering alternatives to provide students with unusual talents and abilities with the special courses and placements they need.
Gifted Programs in Private Universities and Independent Schools
The Center for Gifted, directed by this writer, at National-Louis University in Evanston, Illinois was founded twelve years ago. It currently serves over 1500 children and adolescents, preschool through 10th grade. These summer and weekend programs occur annually in Chicago and as far away as one-hundred miles from the city.
The Center's summer programs are usually two or three weeks. Students attend three 50 minute classes each morning, Monday through Friday. The classes offered include science, computer applications, writing and humanities. They are often interdisciplinary and organized around a single theme. Many are on topics seldom offered in most schools. For example, older children enroll in architecture, archaeology, robot-building, economics, world politics, law, film-making, journalism, marketing and advertising, or theatre. Younger children have explored aerodynamics, map-making, bubble-ology, foreign languages, the colonizing of space, Sherlock Holmes, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
All classes use a hands-on, participative approach, whether reexamining the Cuban Missile Crisis, declaring a mistrial for Joan of Arc, building a zoo or bridge, or inventing the latest model car for Stuart Little.
Of special note is the Center for Gifted's Project program for grades 6 through 10. An unusual combination of tuition monies and public/private grants enables over 300 children from Chicago and the suburbs to participate in a three week program for gifted students. This program creates a mix of middle- to upper-class suburban and disadvantaged urban students. The cultural diversity produces a dynamic class atmosphere as these students learn together, break down barriers, build friendships, and learn they are not so different from one another. Students are selected for Project based upon grades, test scores, teacher recommendations, and motivation as assessed by student essays.
The program culminates in an open house and performance on the evening of the final day where students share projects and achievements with over 1000 parents and friends. The evening is enlightening for many urban parents since it demonstrates their children's potential and need for further support of their giftedness.
In 1990 and 1991, Project included a component for Limited English Proficiency children which offered courses in Spanish or with Spanish speaking assistants. In 1991 the Center for Gifted pioneered a similar model for younger children, grades 1-6, in Waukegan, Illinois. Again, depending on the child's preferences, classes were offered in Spanish, English with a Spanish assistant, or in English only. Bilingual students were selected based on a two page behavioral checklist completed by all bilingual teachers in the Waukegan school district.
The Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois administers the Midwest Talent Search. Based on exceptional SAT scores, junior high school students in the 7th grade are offered a residential three week program with the opportunity to study advanced topics in math, science, computers and writing. Networking activities and newsletters are also provided for rural students in Illinois, and weekend programs during the school year present courses for students as young as four years.
There are also two independent schools for gifted children in Illinois. The first is Avery Coonley School founded in 1906 and located in Downers Grove. It serves 240 children in grades 1 through 8 and is particularly well-known for its strong math and science programs. The second private school, Creative Children's Academy in Mount Prospect, is a more recent addition. Founded in 1982, it began with 10 children and now has 170. Its mission includes serving the artistically talented as well as the academically gifted child. This school has a strong fine arts component, multi-age classrooms, and emphasizes individualized programs.
Higher Education Courses in the Gifted Field
Gifted education is still stubbornly overlooked in educational course work at the undergraduate level. For the most part, the study of gifted children is relegated to one day seminars as part of courses on exceptional children. At the graduate level, courses on the gifted range from one to as many as fifteen. Course work includes topics such as identification, curriculum models, teaching strategies, administration, and special populations.
Additional Activities and Issues
The Illinois Council for the Gifted, an advocacy group composed of educators and parents, publishes an academic journal annually. Each issue focuses on a particular area of gifted education -- the 1992 Journal includes articles concerning pre-primary and primary gifted children, the 1991 issue concentrated on creativity and the gifted, and the 1989 issue was concerned with special populations.
Illinois educators have found no single way to create and maintain programs that satisfy all target populations or solve all problems of gifted education. Each creative endeavor to initiate and develop programs, activities and curriculums requires: (1) active examination of needs and gaps in evaluating school programs; (2) a search for meaningful alternatives to fill the gaps; (3) strong, articulate communication of goals and objectives; (4) and a constant alertness to ways in which every element of the program can be improved.
These efforts in Illinois are large but more than worth the time and energy they consume. Who would not be affected by the enthusiasm of gifted children motivated by their involvement in programs that stimulate thinking, and expand and enhance vision and expression? They experience, many for the first time, individual self-fulfillment. We know what happens when these children feel a sense of worth and become aware of the joy of discovery -- and thus the joy of living. What a marvelous gift to these children and young people!◊◊◊◊
COOPERATIVE LEARNING: A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER IN GIFTED EDUCATION
BY GRACE P. LANE, DRURY COLLEGE
(This article was previously published in the Fall 1991 issue of GAMBIT (Vol. X, No. 5), the newsletter of The Gifted Association of Missouri. The editor of this newsletter, Mercedes Smith, and the author gave GEP permission to publish this article.)
Proponents of any novel approach to teaching, in their eagerness to popularize (and perhaps market) their brainchild, must make it appear to be all things to all people. Those who have built or boarded the bandwagon known as cooperative learning are no exception. While little if any research has been done on the effects of its implementation with gifted learners in regular classrooms, Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1990) proclaim with missionary zeal the salubrious outcomes of this 'tonish' teaching tactic for gifted students. Citing amorphous research, they assure their readers that in this, the best of all possible worlds, their method will enable bright students to shine with even greater brilliance -- to think more clearly with higher quality reasoning than ever, to score higher on "retention" tests (whatever they may be), to win friends and influence people.
But wait. Before rushing to march in the cooperative learning parade, the prudent educator will examine and weigh the seemingly persuasive arguments more carefully. The evidence cited to make believers of all educators is, as mentioned before, amorphous indeed. Having glossed over lightly the admission that, in terms of both actual learning and motivation, those who benefit most from cooperative learning are the low-achieving students followed by middle-achievers, the champions of this approach produce vague citations about benefits to high achieving students. These "benefits" seem to center around the notion that high-achieving students involved in heterogeneous cooperative groups do no worse on "tests" than high-achieving students who work competitively or "individualistically." (Could the advocates mean "individually"? The two words are NOT synonymous!) Moreover, high-achievers develop collaborative skills and make friends. One is tempted to ask, would they not do so anyway? And presumably from having to repeat explanations over and over again to their low-achieving peers, they score higher on "retention" tests than high-achieving students who learn competitively or "individualistically."
The experienced (and rightfully wary) teacher of the gifted should by now have heard the sounding of a number of alarms. First and foremost, there is an absence of the word "gifted." Are high achievers necessarily gifted? Of course not. Granted that some high achievers are gifted, many are not. Nor are gifted children necessarily high achievers. The two terms are not interchangeable. Where is the research with gifted children?
Next, the tired argument often used to justify mainstreaming -- that high-achieving (gifted?) students do no worse (i.e., score no lower on standardized tests) with this approach than they do with other pedagogical arrangements rears its ugly head. Two questions arise on this point: (a) How does one ever know just how much more these bright children might have achieved had their wings not been clipped? (Answer: One doesn't); and (b) Is "doing no worse than...." an acceptable criterion for a gifted education program? (Woe to gifted education if it is!)
The third alarm surrounds the "tests" used for rendering the "do no worse than" judgments. What tests were used? How long after working in a cooperative learning, competitive or "individualistic" setting were the tests administered? Were they technically adequate? That is, were they reliable and valid? On whom were they normed? And most importantly, did they measure useful outcomes? "Retention" tests undoubtedly measure factual recall; what else is there to retain? Factual recall represents the lowest cognitive level. Why, then, should there be rejoicing among the ranks of gifted education? Improvements on the lowest level of cognitive processing scarcely represent a worthy outcome for the gifted.
The fourth point of scrutiny concerns those who, by admission of cooperative learning zealots, are the major beneficiaries of this approach, the low-achievers, the mainstreamed special education students. Proponents present touching descriptions of how these children benefit from working with "high-achievers." But how much do the high-achievers benefit academically? If low-achievers make the greatest gains in this arrangement, then the high-achieving students obviously are being restrained in their learning.
In all reality, is there anything wrong with gifted children helping the academically less fortunate? The American proclivity for siding with the underdog makes these outcomes seem definitely laudatory, even noble. But who are the low-achievers? Are they the poor, the unfortunate, the victims of faulty heredity and cruel fate? The American instinct for equality demands that they receive a "fair share" of educational opportunity and reward. So far, so good -- as the saying goes. But any learning disabilities specialist, behavior disorder specialist, or counselor can give voluminous testimony to the uncanny ability of these children to manipulate other people, teachers and peers alike. Are the gifted peers helping, or are they being manipulated? Not a popular question, but one that should be raised.
A fifth serious concern arises over the issue of learning style. Much attention has been given of late to the discovery that each person has a preferred learning "style" in which he/she learns most efficiently. For many gifted students the preferred style contains the aspect of working independently. For these children cooperative learning can be a hindrance at best.
Finally, the mavens of cooperative learning make much of the notion that the high-achieving students will develop leadership skills and form friendships as prerequisites of working in mixed-ability groups. Perhaps, but are gifted children not likely to do so in any setting? Why not with their gifted peers? Are these "fringe benefits" worth the price of the retardation of advanced learning which undoubtedly will occur?
Now to dream for a brief moment -- to imagine cooperative learning in homogeneous groups of gifted students, to experience the excitement, the absolute joy of unfettered curiosity, of the clever turn of the phrase, of the theory-building....
Meanwhile, back on Earth, let the educator and the parent of the gifted child beware. Are gifted children being used as instruments to further the education of lower-achieving children at the expense of their own? Rather than join the cooperative learning parade and risk being run over by the bandwagon, gifted education might do well to develop a hearty case of the "drum major syndrome" and march to its own drummer.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Holubec, E. J. Circles of learning: Cooperation in the classroom (3rd Edition). Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co., 1990.
Ten Important Professional and Educational Rights of Teachers of the Gifted*
*(Copyright 1990 by Bruce Gurcsik.)
BY BRUCE GURCSIK, SUPERVISOR
PROGRAMS FOR THE GIFTED ARIN INTERMEDIATE UNIT
Having worked in gifted and talented programs for many years as both a teacher and program administrator, I have seen many examples of inequitable treatment toward teachers of special needs pupils, especially those who teach the gifted. This lack of consideration can be demonstrated in many ways. The principal may overlook a teacher's need for the use of the auditorium for a practice activity; a secretary may schedule a room for a PTO display during instructional time; or the superintendent or other central office administrator may not support a materials order for necessary equipment or instructional materials. Often, these actions are not intentional. Your program is disrupted because colleagues have other priorities or simply forget.
It is important for us to adhere to some minimum requirements that will govern the conditions under which we endeavor to meet the various needs of our special pupils. Thus, I suggest the following "rights" upon which you must insist, if you are to do your best possible work in challenging the gifted children on your roster:
1. You have the right to be viewed as the equal of every other teacher in the school. Sometimes the program for the gifted (and thus the special class teacher) is viewed as a novelty or superficial part of the school program. As a result, you may be given less credence and support than the regular classroom teacher. Many times you are not consulted as decisions in the school are being made and you may be viewed in a subordinate way. In reality your training, certification and preparation are equal (at least) to the other members of the faculty. You must be clear and firm in your expectations for appropriate treatment from those in the school community.
2. You have the right to be respected by your colleagues since you work as hard or harder than the regular classroom teacher. Often, special class teachers receive less respect from faculty or support staff because their work in the gifted program may not be clearly understood. The teacher of the gifted usually has more demanding instructional responsibilities than other school professionals. Not only do you have a large case load (often more than 50 and in some cases in excess of 100 pupils) and unique curriculum development needs, but you may have special record keeping responsibilities (IEPs, conference forms, confidential records, individualized progress forms, etc.). Generally, your caseload includes pupils from several grade levels who may meet for instruction at the same time. Your groups during instruction may be large (30+) which will complicate individualization or so small (1 or 2) that the dynamic element of group interaction is totally absent. It is not uncommon for you to regularly add pupils to your class during the year, while such an occurrence in the regular classroom is rare. Also, you do not usually have a textbook upon which to rely. All of this contributes to a rapidly changing environment which forces you to constantly adjust your approach.
3. You have the right to a suitable classroom just like other teachers. Due to the establishment of other priorities in the school, most teachers of the gifted have conducted class in facilities not suitable for effective instruction (e.g., hallways, storage closets, etc.). We must always keep in mind that gifted pupils and their teachers are entitled to appropriate facilities, just as are the teachers of special reading, learning disabilities, and other handicapped learners. Just because you have developed flexibility as a necessary component in effectively teaching this group, you must not be expected to "make do" with a limited instructional environment.
4. You have the right to sufficient planning time in order to prepare for the instruction of this group of special students. Somehow it seems that the teacher of the gifted can find his/her day so completely filled with instructional and/or conferencing responsibilities that finding time for lunch can be difficult. So it is no surprise that scheduling planning time can be next to impossible. We all know that planning is an essential component of teaching. It is even more important when you are teaching the gifted child. In order to effectively prepare your lessons, planning time that is at least equivalent to that of the regular classroom teacher is necessary.
5. You have the right to expect that your gifted students will accept the responsibility to complete special class work and prepare assignments as he or she would for a "regular" teacher. All gifted pupils should have the responsibility of completing and returning homework. Homework that is challenging and appropriate for this group will help them with the development of important study skills upon which they will draw later in school and life. We must not make the mistake of excusing this exceptional group from the responsibilities of home study. However, the work must be appropriate for pupils of this ability level. Even though your class for the gifted may meet on a regularly scheduled basis but not daily, students must be required to return to class with homework prepared appropriately.
6. Since you engage in planning in order to insure quality lessons, you have the right to expect that your regular education colleagues will not pull students from your classroom on a consistent basis or unannounced. Pulling pupils from the special class for test-taking, "critical" classroom lessons or discipline is common to programs for the gifted. A reciprocal understanding must be established between the regular and special teacher that clearly outlines the "rules" for schedule alteration. Occasional requests for schedule changes are acceptable, as long as you are involved in the decision and the privilege is shared. However, your class is important and regular attendance is necessary if you are to accomplish the goals that you set for each pupil.
7. You have the right to provide input pertinent to the scheduling of school activities (field trips, assemblies, etc.) that may affect your classroom. Furthermore, administrators have the obligation to inform you in a timely manner of any upcoming activities. One of the most frustrating occurrences experienced by the teacher of the gifted is a report by a student or another teacher that there will be a special event which has resulted in the cancellation of the gifted class. Your work with your pupils is important, necessary and meaningful. Therefore, as the regular classroom teacher's schedule with pupils would not be altered without explanation and good reason, your class should not be either.
8. You have the right to adequate and sufficient materials and equipment that are on a par with those in the regular classroom. We all recognize that school budgets are limited and that all needs within the school must be met. However, the teacher of the gifted as a specialist may require materials that generally are not found in the elementary or secondary school. Since this program has been supported by the administration and/or school board, district administrators must provide a budget adequate for the purchase of materials and supplies. Special budget consideration must be made when a class is created or expanded. At that time, a reasonable amount must be provided to support the initial demands for a base supply of materials.
9. You have the right to appropriate and regularly scheduled in-service training. Serving as the teacher of the gifted, you may find yourself without a support group of colleagues since there may be only a few specialists with common interests. Many times, supervisors, principals or curriculum specialists may have little or no training in this field. If in-service training for a small staff is not practical, then the opportunity for workshop attendance is essential. Also, the development of a network of colleagues would be critical for professional and program growth.
10. You have the right to develop and send home a progress report on a regular basis which is regarded as highly as the one developed by the basic educator. Reporting student progress is an important part of the learning process. Parents rely on information from the school to draw conclusions about their child's progress. The gifted program needs a formalized way of reporting progress by the student in the special class. This form should have the sanction of the school district and be developed into a high quality format which is regularly distributed, and easily understood by parents and pupils.^^^^
THE STUDY OF GREAT AMERICAN NATURE WRITERS AND THE GIFTED
BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"The function of an ideal is not to be realized but, like that of the North Star, to serve as a guiding point."
"Is a mirage real? Well, it's a real mirage."
"What is the purpose of the giant sequoia tree? The purpose of the giant sequoia tree is to provide shade for the tiny titmouse."
These aphorisms by Edward Abbey (1989) illustrate the role of the naturalist in American's consciousness. This role is not merely descriptive as in a travel brochure; rather it explains the significance of nature to our civilization. We as a nation are in danger of losing an understanding of this significance to both our physical and spiritual survival. To develop this type of understanding among gifted students, they should study the writings of the finest American naturalists. Why? First of all, these naturalists have a unique sense of giftedness. Their ability to translate the wonder and awe of nature into words is due to their writing clear and precise prose which has a poet's touch. Second, they clearly indicate that there is no split between the arts and sciences for the truly gifted individual. The naturalist combines poetic imagery with scientific data. The following quotation from the "Spring" chapter in Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854) captures these characteristics: "The earth is not a mere fragment of dead history, stratum upon stratum like the leaves of a book, to be studied by geologists and antiquaries chiefly, but living poetry like the leaves of a tree, which precedes flowers and fruit -- not a fossil earth, but a living earth."
One of the chief functions of the naturalist is to teach us to see. There is a great difference between seeing and observing since the latter is seeing with a purpose. It does not come easily or without intent. There is discipline to the art of observing, and facts are meaningless unless part of a cosmic flow or holistic pattern. Each fact is affected by how it interacts with other related facts. Here is where the frontiers of the arts and sciences begin. Regarding these traits of observation (necessary for the cognitive development of the gifted), Thoreau said: "Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a truth...." "Wisdom does not inspect, but behold. We must look a long time before we can see...." Natural History of Massachusetts (1842).
The noted modern writer and naturalist, Annie Dillard, reflects a similar sentiment as Thoreau regarding observation and facts in her wonderful book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). She says: "I wonder how long it would take you to notice the regular recurrence of the seasons if you were the first man on earth. What would it be like to live in open-ended time broken only by days and nights? You could say, 'it's cold again; it was cold before,' but you couldn't make the key connection and say, 'it was cold this time last year,' because the notion of 'year' is precisely the one you lack. Assuming that you hadn't yet noticed any orderly progression of heavenly bodies, how long would you have to live on earth before you could feel with any assurance that any one particular long period of cold would, in fact, end?..."
Naturalists have an important function for their fellow citizens by relating the role of nature to the quality of their lives. Of equal importance is the naturalist's concern with maintaining the nation's ecosystem. A hallmark of gifted individuals is their sensitivity to the quality of life. The aesthetic and spiritual aspects of nature should be the leading indicators of the quality of life for Americans. This perspective was expressed very early in the cultural life of this nation. In fact, there was a major cultural, philosophical and social movement in the 19th century that perceived this concept as being central to the American spirit -- the Transcendentalists of New England. The members of this movement represented the mainstream of gifted individuals in the United States at that time -- Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Herman Melville. Emerson in his definitive essay, Nature (1844), captures this concern: "These enchantments are medicinal, they sober and heal us. These are plain pleasures, kindly and native to us. We come to our own, and make friends with matter, which the ambitious chatter of the schools would persuade us to despise. We never can part with it; the mind loves its old home: as water to our thirst, so is the rock, the ground, to our eyes, and hands, and feet. It is firm water: it is cold flame: what health, what affinity!..." A more recent naturalist, Edward Abbey, writing in his book, Desert Solitaire (1968), continues this concern with the significance of nature as a protector and guardian of the quality of life: "I think of music, and of a musical analogy to what seems to me the unique spirit of desert places. Suppose for example that we can find a certain resemblance between the music of Bach and the sea; the music of Debussy and a forest glade; the music of Beethoven and (of course) great mountains; then who has written of the desert?...In the desert I am reminded of something quite different -- the bleak, thin-textured work of men like Berg, Schoenberg, Ernst Krenek, Webern and the American, Elliot Carter...."
Another major role of the naturalist is to help us establish our national priorities. The destruction of nature has an impact that is like a ripple in a lake when someone tosses a rock into it. The greenhouse effect is not only changing our climate but is causing major health problems. Ozone combined with automobile and industrial fumes are creating more and more pollution that provokes such respiratory ailments as asthma and emphysema. Naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch summed up the fragileness of nature in his book, The Desert Year (1952): "What I learned from my desert year was, first and most generally, to be more sure of all I thought was true. Specifically, I re-learned many platitudes, including some I have mentioned -- such as, for instance, that courage is admirable even in a cactus; that an abundance of some good things is perfectly compatible with a scarcity of others; that life is everywhere precarious, man everywhere small."
The gifted student is capable of deriving insights these naturalists expressed. This is because the sensibility of the naturalist is obviously that of the gifted individual -- the most significant characteristic is to see the smallest detail in relationship to the whole.
"We are interested in how things were long ago and far away because we believe that the ancient anglers would understand what we are doing today and, indeed, have something to teach us." M. R. Montgomery (1991).
Abbey, Edward. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Notes from A Secret Journal. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1989.
Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness. NY: Ballantine Books, 1968.
Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek. NY: Harper & Row (Perennial), 1974.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1987.
Krutch, Joseph Wood. The Desert Year. Tucson, AZ: The Univ. of Arizona Press, 1952.
Montgomery, M. R. The Way of the Trout. NY: Knopf, 1991.
Thoreau, Henry David. The Natural History Essays. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1988.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. NY: New American Library, 1980.