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This January, assuming enough students sign up for it, I will start teaching a 15 week course through GHF Online (Gifted Homeschoolers Forum). (See link at bottom.)
Powers Beyond the Ordinary: ‘Super’ Women and Men in Science Fiction and Fantasy
In addition to the titles/topics listed, I am interested in your thoughts on what would be good works to include - books, movies, plays, etc. I know I won't even remotely have time to even check out all of them between now and then, but I know I will look at many of them and make note of the others - including them in a broader list for students who want to go further in the topic. (Students should be 12 years old and up for this course.)

A few of the items on my list beyond those mentioned in the course outline: )
There is no way that I will even thoroughly cover the topics I already have - but I imagine I will be teaching this again!

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Course description as well as outline are at the link.

Click here for the course description and outline.
joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Melissa Bilash.

School of Thought

He sat in the waiting room, running through both his responses to likely questions and his own questions for the interviewer or interviewers. The key, he was sure, was his understanding the school’s philosophy. That was the problem. He had read the school philosophy and mission statement and found himself with more questions than answers.

What is the philosophy of this school?

That was what the school’s philosophy page said. The mission statement was ever so much more helpful: “To help us to develop an answer to the question posed in our philosophy section.
It was almost enough to make him wonder why he’d come for the interview, but he found it intriguing in ways that schools had not been for him in many years, if ever. Hence his presence and his thoughts. Sample lesson? Maybe. Personal philosophy of education? Almost certainly. Preferred subjects? Perhaps, but that was covered on his resume. Why was he looking to change jobs? Seemed likely.

Determining the right questions to ask felt harder. Payroll and benefits questions were out, even if he wanted to ask them, which he generally didn’t. How much prep time per classroom hour seemed fair. Chances for collaboration with other teachers seemed both fair and desirable. Bringing the inside out and the outside in! One of his strengths and a good thing to raise if they don’t. And something about their philosophy and mission seemed called for, but damned if he could figure out how to phrase it.

A woman opened the door. “Hi Michael, I’m Thea. Thank you for coming. Let me introduce you to the others.” She went around the table, giving their names, but each of them also had a tented paper in front with their name on it. She handed Michael another of the tented papers and a few colored markers and invited him to do the same. “Granted, we are likelier to remember your name, since we each have a copy of your resume in front of us, but fair is fair! And we figured to not make this a contest to see how many names you can remember after an initial introduction. Though I did know a school psychologist once who thought that was a valid way of gaining information about the intelligence of candidates.” That last was said with a broad, welcoming smile.

Petra spoke up. “This is not going to be a standard interview, Michael. I’m not even sure most folks would call it an interview at all. We’d like to have a conversation with you, rather than just a Q & A session.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in. “In your cover letter, you introduced the concept of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out. We banged on that a bit in our applicant review process and decided we really needed your input to make sure we understood what you meant by it, as we presumed you were going beyond guest speakers and field trips, but we knew that a cover letter would not really give you the space you needed to present the idea thoroughly.”

Even as Michael engaged the topic and shared some of his ideas, he thought to himself, “Oh. I think I’m beginning to get it.”
joshwriting: (Default)
I am starting with my edit, because while this is an addendum to my thoughts on the funding issue, this is the most vital piece of the response to me.

Why advocating for the gifted in underfunded schools and where kids are in poverty is VITAL
a) Raising the top students of a school tends to raise the whole school more than any other approach we have tried.

b) The argument that one should not ask for specific spending on gifted is, to me, like not asking for SPED money for special education students -->
gifted education is not a FRILL. It is a need.

c) When you consider that gifted programs are often getting less than a penny on the dollar, asking for spending on gifted is not exactly asking for much - As a quick example... in the Texas 2011-2012 legislative cycle, Gifted Education got $56 million. The full budget for that cycle was $91 billion. Gifted got .0006 (or .06%).

d) The funding of gifted programs is itself a red herring. Pull-out programs are among the least cost-effective ways to meet the needs of gifted kids.

If you want to serve the kids in poverty, then more attention to gifted kids (or even some!) is going to have a more beneficial result than less attention will. This is the sub-population within the gifted that is hurt *most* by abandonment of the fight.

And dropping the gifted word makes that advocacy harder, not easier.

Children matter - not just gifted children
When I was previously teaching in the public schools, my principal, after observing class, wondered to me: "I get why you are good with the bright kids - it's why I hired you! But why are you good with the slow kids?!"

I explained to him that I teach people, not subjects, and that I sought to understand what each kid knew and how each kid learned and how each kid needed to have their needs met, to the best of my ability.

Why I advocate for gifted children
I advocate for gifted children because they lack sufficient advocacy. I advocate for funds for gifted children because their needs are no less real and because in a vacuum of such advocacy, the voices for other children are heard and gifted children's needs are set aside.

I push for that funding because it is a drop in the bucket compared with the rest of academic funding - and because the argument that if they give gifted kids funding, then they will have to cut funding for other programs is a FALSE argument designed to divide and to set populations against each other, making it harder for BOTH to have their needs met.

In pushing for certain additional children to be included in a certain program, an administrator noted that it was totally to be expected that I would advocate for my program. He didn't get it! If there were no need for them to be in the program, I would not want them there - that would do nothing to help the kids already in it, while possibly being negative for everybody concerned.

I advocate for these kids and these programs because even the mediocre programs do something worthwhile that these kids need.

Alternative Words, Part 1
I do not like the term “children of high intelligence” because that is not (all of) what I mean by gifted!”

I mean children with artistic and emotional gifts, leadership and wisdom gifts, and others less readily defined – I mean children for whom their innate higher aptitude leads them to need a qualitatively different kind of support from their parents, their teachers, and their counselors.

Alternative Words, Part 2
My friend noted that she never wants to tell a kid that s/he is ungifted.

Yeah, that is a pretty harsh thing to say, right?

How about "below average?"

"Not tall."

"Not able to dance well enough."

"Not athletic."

We do all of those things. Is it fun? No. We don't have to use "ungifted" to have a problem. "You are not highly intelligent." "You aren't smart enough to be in this program."

Still pretty harsh.

I don't see how changing the word fixes that problem, either.

Alternative Words, Part 3
I oppose the change in terminology not because I am wedded to the word GIFTED, but because the push to change it is a red herring.

I grew up in a school system in which there were no gifted children – it was school policy – but that did nothing to enhance the education of the children of high intelligence, nor to reduce the bullying behaviors toward the children of big vocabularies or the children of androgynous behaviors or the children who got the answers right too often in class by the children who resented kids who would have been called gifted in other schools but were never called that there (or the adults who felt the same way).

I have lived most of my life in a state in which the NAGC affiliate was named the Massachusetts Association for the Advancement of Individual Potential to avoid offense – but it did nothing to advance our cause or to help our children.

I live in a state in which we have a certification for teachers of Academically Advanced learners, but for which there are no courses offered that would lead to such a degree nor an approved pathway for an organization to base a program upon.

To what end, then, changing the word?

The kids still get bullied, the programs still get short shrift, the teachers still get no training.

I work with gifted children - no matter what you call them.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”). To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at
 photo Hoagies_Blog_Hop-G-word.jpg
joshwriting: (Default)
No, really.

I am discussing with the author of whether or not his blog's comment system is working. I have suggested to him that it is not, while he thinks that it is.

This is not to suggest that none of the entries on it are worth looking at, merely that I am not explicitly calling your attention to this entry!
joshwriting: (Default)
I am about to teach a course on Improbable Histories (for Voyagers, a home school resource center and collective) to junior high and senior high school students (and possibly an on-line version of the same thing). How many novels, short stories, and essays should I be assigning? How much reading is too much? How much is too little?

I have been wrestling with that question for a couple of weeks, since I committed to doing the course. As is often the case, that question came up on the web, this time around on the education policy blog I watch. The beginning is just below the link.
What do you think is the answer? )

A separate entry on the course and the on-line version will probably follow shortly.


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