General Question

talljasperman's avatar

If you wanted to help contribute to creating a school for gifted children where would you start?

Asked by talljasperman (19233 points ) July 13th, 2012

Gifted can be anyone who doesn’t fit in, but would like to learn how to co-exist with others.

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27 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I’d start with neighborhoods and families, and find out what is important to them and how to interest them in such a school, and what they would need in order to enroll their children.

Far too often “gifted” schools end up filled with kids from middle or upper class families, because these families have the cultural and economic capital to see such schools as valuable, and to support their children the whole way through. (In my experience in the United States.) I was in a gifted/accelerated program through junior high and high school, and by the time my cohort graduated, almost all of the kids from poor families had already dropped out. It was sad and all too predictable, the way things go in the States.

Cruiser's avatar

I would put extra effort into creating programs that focused on physical and social skills. I will never forget this 12 yr old boy from my sons gifted program came over and literally didn’t know how to play. Plus many of the kids I encountered were just socially inept and lacking coping skills.

elbanditoroso's avatar

before you even begin to think about students, you need to identify a good, solid, motivated, creative, and energetic administrator/chief of school, who has the drive to get things started and moving forward.

Without a solid and well planned curriculum and set of goals, the school will fail.

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman I don’t really understand the definition of gifted for this question. Gifted usually means an excellerated program. You write someone who doesn’t fit in?

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie Gifted are students who don’t feel safe or accepted and who would like to learn how to function in society.

bookish1's avatar

@talljasperman : Where do you get that definition from?

talljasperman's avatar

Nowhere. When I was a small child I hoped that such a place existed. All I could find was pop culture references to the imaginary school that Professor X made and some small private schools that I couldn’t get in no matter how hard I begged.

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman Well, there is actually a definition for gifted children, so you can’t just make up your own term and be understood. Gifted children are typically self motivated, high IQ, can be gifted all around or in a particular subject. School programs for them are either called Gifted or sometimes Gifted and Talented. Some schools don’t have that available, but do have an Honors track.

When you say don’t fit in, don’t fit in how?

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie I found the Honors track was no safer and no more accepting and only made life worse for anyone different or disadvantaged. I felt safer if I did not attend regularly and to only show up for tests and learn unsupervised on my own.

bookish1's avatar

@talljasperman : Do you mind if I ask, “safer” in what sense?

talljasperman's avatar

@bookish1 Free to learn without bullying, or punitive punishments from authority figures.

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman The way I remember it we had both G&T and Honors, maybe Auggie can confirm my memory. I don’t have children so I don’t know how it is now, and I am sure it varies.

If you read up on gifted kids some write about them being more likely to be very sensitive/emotional, and even easily irritated physically, like people touching them or clothing be uncomfortable. It sort of sounds borderline asperger’s to me, but I am no expert. I also wonder if it is really inborn personality traits, or what develops because of their interaction with people and the environment. And, of course there are many brilliant people who socialize and get along just fine. They wanted me to track gifted or honors, I can’t remember, I think it was gifted, in jr. high, but my reading comprehension was too low, average actually. They put me in a special class to try to bring it up, but it never happened. I wasn’t one to apply myself in school. Luckily, I was able to still take excellerated math classes. In retrospect I think I would have done much much better in a Gifted class with other gifted students. I think I would have been more focused and more stimulated, but it would have probably needed to be done during elementary school for it to have really helped me.

Seems to me you are talking about intelligent children who want to be around other children who are not cliquish, petty, caddy, or mean. You also need smart teachers available, and teachers who will take the time to understand a students particular interests and where they excel. Maybe the teacher only helps direct the student in his studies, helps them find materials, and is available if the student hits some difficulties in a particular topic, but otherwise the student moves himself along at his own pace. Bill Gates has set up schools like this. The children learn most everything online, moving at their own pace and the classroom is there for the teacher to just follow their progress and help those who are having trouble on a particular subject so they do not fall behind. In subjects they are advanced in there is no real limit to how far they can go with it,

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, I just saw your post about bullying. Gifted and Talented many times are with the same kids pretty much all day, and so there is less chance of bullying I would bet. They aren’t really interacting as much with the general population of the school. Also, private school can be more conducive sometimes for those children, but not always a good solution, and some home school of course. Also, sometimes a change to different public school can solve the problem, but that is not always easy to do depending on the school district.

Horrible that bullying is such an issue. I just don’t understand it at all. I understand children can be mean, but a constant picking on one child, where he is targeted ongoing I will never get.

Fly's avatar

@talljasperman I think that you really have the wrong idea about G&T. It does not make you feel like you fit in at all because you are with the same people all day, everyday. At first, that might seem like it would help you to feel more comfortable and at home because you always have friends with you, but it ultimately makes you feel alienated from the rest of the school. While serious, threatening/physical bullying was not an issue in my experience, the other kids did make fun of the magnet kids quite frequently (and we were definitely plenty aware of it), so don’t get the idea that a gifted program would solve this problem. And by the time that you leave, you have almost no social skills whatsoever because you’re with the same people every day for x years. I found that I had to teach myself how to start conversations and make friends because I hadn’t had to do it in so long. Not to mention the fact that these kids all tend to be very similar, so you’re really only exposing yourself to one type of person, which is just not realistic in real life. If you want to learn to coexist with others, a G & T program is the exact opposite of what you want. That is not to say that there aren’t benefits- I loved it and I don’t regret participating in it one bit. However, it is certainly not this pretty, all-problem-solving picture that you have painted in your mind.

If you don’t mind my asking, when did you last attend school? Things have really changed, and bullying is not as common as it once was. What you want (though I am not entirely sure what you really want to get out of something like this) is something totally different than what already existing gifted programs are. Gifted implies…well, a gift. It has nothing to do with social skills, not fitting in, etc. You can’t take an existing concept and make up a new definition (that doesn’t make sense with the word itself, I might add); you have to come up with something completely new.

JLeslie's avatar

I just googled the country I spent most of my education in and they do have a G&T program. Here is a link. When I tried to google it for my current county in TN I don’t get a specific program that pops up, so either the info is not easy to find on their website, or a specific program does not exist.

@Fly It seemed like the OP was asking for a separate school catering to those children, I also brought up programs within schools as you did, but you went to school in the same county, or maybe one county up, from where I went to school. I would have serious doubts in the abilities of the local public schools my house is districted for here in TN being able to really provide a great education for an exceptional child. Maybe in other parts of the county.

talljasperman's avatar

@Fly Serious, threatening/physical bullying was the typical everyday school activity in the Canadian school system from the time I entered in 1981 to the university experience in 2001. I went into the typical school system and spent most of my time injured in bed with little medical care other than a cast for a broken bone and no protection from future attacks.

JLeslie's avatar

@talljasperman That’s awful. That is more than providing an inspiring and challenging academic environment. What did your parents do about it? What did the schools do? Nothing? Did the other children have consequences for what they did?

talljasperman's avatar

@JLeslie Nothing. Nothing. Yes nothing. No consequences.

Fly's avatar

@JLeslie One county up. :) Our programs are very good, we just don’t have them past elementary school, which is sad.

@talljasperman I’m very sorry that you had that experience, and I can’t imagine how that must have felt. That said, I think that things have really improved in recent years as far as physical bullying goes. Emotional bullying, though, is probably just as present and has probably gotten worse with technology. Regardless, I can understand where you are coming from, then, if you are proposing a whole separate school, but I stand by my opinion that this would not help the actual problems in your definition of “gifted.” There would likely still be bullying within the community, as there is always a hierarchy, even with different/disadvantaged/socially awkward kids. And aside from that, such a school would probably perpetuate if not make worse the social skills and issues that the kids hypothetically involved would have. There is a great intent behind your idea, I just don’t see it achieving what you expect it to.

However, I will say that if you do want to further pursue this idea, you definitely have to come up with a new name to define it by, as “gifted” does not really apply nor make sense with your vision.

keobooks's avatar

There is a big difference between honors and gifted. Gifted is actually considered a learning difference and the students are entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) IEPs are usually reserved for students with learning disabilities – but many gifted students also have learning disabilities.

Gifted doesn’t just mean that you are a genius or even a good student. It means that you are of at least average intelligence and you have an exceptional ability in one or more academic areas. Many gifted students may excel in one area but lag behind in others. Many gifted students have social difficulties.

If I were starting a school for people who wouldn’t fit in, I wouldn’t call it a gifted school. Once you have an official gifted program, in many States you are required to have teachers who have a special credential in gifted studies and this could cost extra money.

I’d look into how to start a charter school in your State and then in the mission statement, I’d have lots of buzzwords that would alert people to the fact that the school was for kids who didn’t fit in the normal spectrum of school life—gifted or not.

Once you figured out how starting a charter school worked, I’d work on networking with people who may be qualified to help you out – like retired school principals or teachers who may yearn to be in a more creative environment.

I’m not sure what you’d do after you figured out how to start a charter. I’d just assume that major fundraising and finding a building would be in order. But finding old school administrators would help out a lot on that front.

gailcalled's avatar

Starting any kind of independent day school is really difficult. The founders and staff need to commit for a really long time.

You first check out the legal requirements.

Then you do market research to see whether you will have a base of target students willing to commit to a new school.

Then you raise a lot of money.

I had friends who started a special school outside of Lake Placid, a farm-related, green, environmentally and educationally progressive boarding school for kids in 4–9. The first year they had ten students. The founders died decades later, with their boots on, so to speak.

The daughter and son-in-law of the founders were the second heads and also worked for decades.

The school still exists; North Country School.

JLeslie's avatar

@Fly Then I guess in Jr High it was Honors they wanted to move me into. I remember it was all or none. You had to be considered honors all the way around, tracking with those children.

@keobooks Interesting.

gailcalled's avatar

Another creative solution to this question is Simon’s Rock. It is the baby sibling of Bard College. Since it’s near-by. I meet the students from time to time. They are smart, clever, innovative, resourceful and slight off the norm socially. (That’s what “paradigm-shifting” means.) Nice kids.

“No other college in the country does what we do. We’re a small, selective, supportive, intensive college of the liberal arts and sciences in the middle of the Berkshires, one of the nation’s cultural and natural treasures.

All of our 400 students come to us after 10th or 11th grade in high school. We give them a broad-minded, paradigm-shifting education; faculty trained in the country’s best universities; inspired and inspiring classes; first-class facilities for the sciences, the arts, and athletics; and an astonishing range of opportunities for conducting specialized research and gaining hands-on experience.

We offer over 40 concentrations, many of them interdisciplinary; our academic program leads to an AA or a BA.”

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks My dad was an SP in NYC, which I always say is Special Person, but I think it really means Special Progress. So he did three years of school in 2 years. I think you are in NY right? How do they classify that? Do you know? Is it considered to be like honors?

Since @Fly mentioned GT is just elementary school in her county, do you think it should go all the way through 12th grade? Or, by the time children are picking their classes and can more tailor their curriculum there is no specific special need?

SpatzieLover's avatar

I created an individual school for my gifted child…Homeschool.

If I could afford it, I’d send him to a Waldorf school in the future. Most likely with his genuine giftedness, we’ll continue homeschooling, then add in college courses in the future.

No matter what, gifted kids need to be able to devote a good amount of time to their particular brand of giftedness. That means there needs to be a dedicated “free” period mixed into the school day.

Cruiser's avatar

@JLeslie Yes you are missing a connection to this issue by not having kids in gifted programs. I do and the experience for my son and me as his parent has been nothing short of a challenge.

I do know how hard it was for my son to feel normal in a not so normal situation. The years of teasing and bullying I knew about was a fraction of the amount I later found out my son actually endured because he did not want his dad to know he was struggling so in that way.

Yes they are in their own classrooms most of the time but they are then expected to have lunch, take recess and PE with the regular population of school kids and that is where he had the biggest set of struggles. He just wanted to fit in and be one of the cool kids and they made sure that would never happen.

Things got so bad for him that his only solution to his problem(s) was suicide. Thankfully, a caring school and intense therapy and a ton of work by his parents I hope has his feet more firmer on the ground.

Kids adapted to this higher learning process AND assimilated into the “normal” sense of an educational experience I can assure you is the exception and not the norm.

JLeslie's avatar

@Cruiser So he was in a gifted program in secondary school? Or, just one of the “smart kids” so to speak? I take very seriously kids feeling on the outside and being bullied, don’t misunderstand. I also completely understand a child not revealing to his own parents how difficult things are. This is why you will see all over fluther my criticism of parents who are so sure they know everything about their kids amd are sure their children would always come to them with problems. Usually it comes up in discussions about sex, pregnancy, etc, but it is true for almost everything.

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