Teacher Learns some Lessons

I just finished six straight days of training teachers how to teach the gifted.

The classes were large – between 150 and 175 teachers, which is fun, and I was struck with a few thoughts that I want to share:

1)      This strikes a chord with people. Many teachers expressed variations on this idea to me: “I finally understand my son/daughter/husband/wife/self.” When the needs of gifted children aren’t met in school, it goes deep with people around them for a long time, perhaps forever. It has always been in the back of my mind that I spend my passion on something that is not life or death while there are people starving in the world. This training reminded me that if our gifted kids are served properly, they have the ability to solve many of the problems of the world. Here’s why it strikes a chord with me: these three amazing (and gifted) sons who have been served for years by amazing teachers.

2)     You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think. I always get teachers who fill out the feedback form with some variation on the theme, “I’ve been teaching the same way for 25 years, and you can’t make me change now.” I had one teacher this week who told me an hour into the Creativity and Instructional Strategies training that she was not creative and she could already tell that she wasn’t going to use anything we were going to do that day in her classroom. So there. Instead of being angry (okay, I was angry for a minute), I thought about how sad it was that she was rejecting ideas that would make her enjoy her job so much more, not to mention the difference it could make to her students. I would like to issue a personal invitation to all teachers who feel that they don’t need to accommodate gifted learners or incorporate new ideas into their classrooms to find a new profession and make way for a real teacher. If we profess to be trying to create life-long learners, how can we do so from an attitude of “I’m done learning”?

3)      Teachers are, on the whole, extraordinarily generous. I was struck by the sweet notes, the treats (!), the people who stayed after to help clean up, those who went out of their way to come up and talk to me at breaks and afterwards, and those who gave me the greatest possible gift – the gift of an open mind and a willingness to add yet one more thing to an already overwhelming burden.

I will be doing more training this Friday and Saturday, and I expect that I will see more of the same dynamic. My mother, an accomplished public speaker, once told me that she was very mindful of the time she was using when she spoke to large groups. “If you speak for fifteen minutes to a group of 100 people,” she said, “you’d better have information worth twenty-five hours of human time.” As I get ready for this week’s training, I’ll keep that in mind. See, Mom? I was so paying attention.

I hate to leave without at least one resource, so here’s something I’d like to share: The blog freetech4teachers is chock-full of great ideas and free resources for how teachers can use technology in their classrooms or homes. This award-winning blog is written by Richard Byrne, a teacher from Maine.

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