Saturday, March 7, 2015

NHD and LEP

It's been a long day.  A very fulfilling, amazing, surprising, long day.  Before I turn this page over to my long-time friend, Cathy, I will report the following:

Donegal Junior High NHD students were awarded the following:

1st Place, Individual Performance
1st Place, Group Documentary
2nd Place, Group Exhibit

Donegal Senior High NHD students were awarded the following:

1st Place, Individual Performance
2nd Place, Individual Performance
2nd Place, Individual Exhibit
1st Place, Individual Documentary
3rd Place, Individual Website
2nd Place Group Performance

Their teacher learned that it is never too late, and that abandoning projects should not be an option considered by the teacher.   Fourteen Donegal students competed, and twelve advanced to state competition at Millersville in May.  (Mark your calendar for May 12 and 13, Millersville University.  You will be amazed, impressed, and overwhelmed by the dedication and creativity of these kids!  They make my job so much fun.)

Teachers need students to prove their worth, and today I was schooled in patience, acceptance, humility, and the value of perseverance.  You know you are working with exceptional students when they accept the disappointment of not advancing in a very tough field of competitors by commenting on the value of the research experience -- before ever leaving the awards ceremony.  They love learning, and they support each other in an extraordinary way that creates an invisible bond that exists between any students who have gone into the trenches of research to battle for the Region 9 prizes, hoping to move to the state competition.

The Olden Days

 This evening, I am pleased to introduce you to one of my longest friends.  While that may see like an awkward introduction, once you pass the big FIVE OH, referring to anyone as an OLD friend seems less than flattering.  Cathy Cuff Coffman and I have known each other since 1981, and have been through many adventures.  Today she steps in as guest blogger #2, to comment and share on Gifted Education THEN and NOW.....  Enjoy her walk down memory lane!

During the summer of 1973, a bunch of my friends and I bumped into each other in various school buildings.  

Now, listen, this was a long time ago, in a place far away, so I can't give you specifics.  But I distinctly remember seeing John, Steve, Kathy, (my best friend and friendly academic rival), and Eddie.  Oh, and a smattering of other kids that just happened to be my favorite people.

We were taking fun tests.

And when we entered junior high, we were ALL in the same classes, and found out that we were an intentional subset of those classes.  We were members of Section 7-1.  But our subset membership was a pilot program called THE LEARNING ENRICHMENT PROGRAM, which was, we were later told, one of the first gifted programs in the Commonwealth of PA.

In junior high, we were kept together.  Sections 7-1, 8-6, 9-11.  The class list stayed almost unchanged.  We could recite the entire roster in alphabetical order.  We were the "smart" section, but only about half of the section was in the LEP.  High school was slightly different, because we could choose electives. But guess what? We pretty much landed in the same classes anyway.

Back then, we weren't called gifted. We were being "enriched." But 'cha know what? We kinda knew we were "smarter than the average bear." We just never said anything out loud. Itmight diminish the magic. 

Our teachers weren't "teachers of the gifted." They were brave, "out of the box" type teachers that had to pull together enrichment to challenge our "lack of enrichment."  One was the home ec teacher. Mrs. Penkethman. (I always thought of pinking shears). One was the mad scientist, Dr. Smith. Another was the audio-visual teacher--you know, the guy    that ran the TV    studio--back in the late 1970s. Mr. Bradley.

Other teachers hailed from the Foreign Language, Theater, Physics, and English departments.  They all brought enthusiasm, and a sense of excitement that they, too, were chosen to work with us.  They never said it, but there was a charge in the air whenever we entered the classroom. 

Our first enriching experience in 7th grade was from Dr. Smith. He ordered a slew of surplus Army radio parts, and with the requisite glee OF a mad scientist, proceeded to make us all proficient in Morse Code, and dipole, vacuum tube radio assembly.

We all learned Morse Code and earned our Amateur Radio Licenses from the Amateur         Radio Relay League. (Morse Code came in handy for many other things...some of which should not be mentioned in a blog about teaching the gifted.) 

We all had varying interests, abilities, and temperments. When I lacked interest or drive in something, my classmate's enthusiasm bolstered me. Our teachers weren't " schooled" in the "schooling of the top 2%," but they were excited to have  high-achieving learners in a district that had an abysmal acceptance ratio. Many of us  "didn't have a pot to___  in," but we were a tight knit bunch that more than made up for it  with very quick minds, creative souls, love for learning and each other, and a brand of humor that was far from the gutter. 

Many of us that were the first full class that graduated as the class of 1980 with a full secondary  Learning Enrichment Program education were in the top 20 of the class. Our Valedectorian and  Salutatorian were LEP-ers (and yes, we were called many things along the way--Loony Elephant        Parade, Lepers, Bomar Brains, etc.)

Many of us also are close now, a full 35 years later. 

I can say with an absolute certainty that being part of the new Learning Enrichment Program, saved my academic life.

You see, I was one of "those" kids. I never studied. I found myself in the hallway in elementary school--a lot. I was that tomboy girl that WAS picked to play on the boys' teams.

I could play any instrument, read any book, write any paper, and had enough ADHD in me that I was always looking for something to do, without thinking about how the movie played out. 

I competed at learning as a young girl. It was boring. By fifth grade I sensed my lack of patience in the classroom growing.  Thank goodness my sixth grade teachers (classroom and reading) were male. And loved ice hockey.   (I'm friends with the hockey guy to this day). 

 But once the challenges came--through the LEP program, I was calmer. Happier. I found new and unique ways to apply the same ol' same ol',  reach farther than I was ever asked before. I thrived. 

(People accepted my humor. Because after all, I am funny. Ask anyone.) 

But I digress...  

The LEP taught me to think.  To really think, to investigate, and not to take things at face value.   I also gained academic confidence, and enough critical thinking and research skills to tackle a myriad of challenges.   

I'm encouraged that today's public education includes programming where educators are educated to educate the "highly educatable." These students are enriched beyond LEP-ers, heck probably even more than Sunbeam bread.  

And ya know what? The same students that called us the Loony Elephant Parade now tell us all sorts of stories about how they, too, were supposed to be in the LEP with us, but for some reason or another they were left out of it....  

Which brings up another topic for "Teacher of the Gifted...."

I'll give you a topic:"Can Howard Gardner's Intelligences categorize everyone as gifted? Or is Gifted just an academic gift?"

Tawk amogst yourselves.....