Sunday, December 21, 2014

If I Only Had a Brain.

Those who know me well should realize that my using any reference to the Wizard of Oz must mean that I have a pretty good reason.  I've been terrified of those darned flying monkeys since a babysitter sent me to bed before the end of the movie when I was six years old.

Ironically, I sat down to write this blog entry after a lengthy phone conversation with one of my UCONN firends about gifted education this morning and a subsequent discovery of Holly Korbey's article entitled Debunking the Genius Myth,  and had already chosen the graphic and theme when my daughter ran into the room and changed the television channel to the dreaded movie.  Once again, I'm thinking about thinking.

If I Only Had a Brain

There has been a lot of talk in the education world over the last decade or more about student engagement, student motivation, student success, and the reasons behind the perceived deficiencies in all of those areas.  If you ask students, they will often dismiss the opportunity to even attempt to focus and truly engage and learn, simply by claiming a lack of necessary genetic material and dismissing even the possibility of success.  As a teacher of the gifted, there is a certain stigma that comes along with that position.  As the very title of my blog suggests, I am NOT THE GIFTED TEACHER, and don't even claim to want to be held to the expectations of my colleagues as an Oz-like character with all of the answers.  (This is especially true when it comes to geography, but I digress...)

When non-identified friends of my caseload venture into my room, they often shift their weight, uncomfortably, and offer "excuses" for why they aren't identified.  "My mom said I missed qualifying by ONE point!"  (If I had a nickel for every time that was said...)  "I couldn't sit still long enough to pay attention during the test..."  (Probably true.  The system failed you by not recognizing that.)  "I just don't have a mind that learns the way gifted brains do.  It's genetic."  (Cough, Carol Dweck, Cough!) I don't ask any of these kids why, and, truth be told, I want to tell them that above-average/high ability is so much easier to live with than the perceived-bigger label of GIFTED.

The world is full of excuses for lack of success.  I'm not a size 6.  I'm not a millionaire.  I'm not a genius.  You get the idea.  What are schools doing to assist students in establishing what they want and then preparing them with the necessary metacognitive tools to succeed?

My students have technology in their pockets with similar capabilities to what is between their ears.  Given a task with technology, they can reason, try, error, and try again with the persistence of a dog with a new bone.  They've proven they have the capability of a mindset of growth, even if they don't use their powers across all domains.  (Or, for some, ANY domains that do not involve Angry Birds or Smash Brothers.) Somewhere along the way, we forgot to equip students to learn. 

We just tell them to do so, and wonder why they fail.  Hmmm.  Without waxing political, let's reconsider how we design Common Core, and realize that something major has been overlooked.


Amidst all of the "students will be able to...." statements, there is no standard for explicit instruction in metacognition.  The very foundation for all learning isn't at the core of the Common Core.

We may need to travel to Oz to make sense of all this.  Or travel back home.  But we certainly can't change the world standing still.

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