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  • Here is an excerpt of a recent blog post by Louise Tapper.

    I think we have to be careful with the emotive hyperbole that is often attached to the debate over forms of ability grouping, such as streaming. Do we have to have an either/or approach to streaming, for example? Do we really believe in an educational philosophy which supports the premise that if a practice does not serve one section of the student population then we need to take it away from the group of students whom it does benefit?  

    See the full post at http://giftednz.org.nz/lets-not-throw/ 

  • Here is an excerpt of a new blog post by Tracy Riley.

    ...we need to remember that giftedness isn’t only present during school hours. Behaviours associated with special abilities and qualities may present themselves in different ways in different contexts, including after school on the sports field, on the weekend at the marae, at bedtime while Nana reads a story, during Sunday church services, on Tuesday in their one day a week programme, or busking on the street corner Saturday morning. Therefore, our identification needs to be inclusive of parents and whanau, community providers, church leaders, sport coaches, and private providers of gifted education. Gathering the many different perspectives of giftedness will provide a more complete picture of giftedness and talent.

    See the full post at http://giftednz.org.nz/247-challenge/  

  • Sue Breen, giftEDnz board member, writes for the International Week of the Gifted.

    #IWG12 Logo

    The ineffective gifted label

     

    Given the time, energy, research and commitment given to the gifted cause throughout the last decades one could assume that most people would now understand the importance for our young gifted to have their learning and emotional needs met.

    Why is this not the case?
    Why are we still fighting for equitable funding and appropriate educational opportunities?

    One reason is that these young gifted students are still perceived as being over-advantaged to begin with. When advocating for resources for the gifted we don’t have the ‘heart-string-pulling’ that other children with their own special needs can evoke.

    Another reason is that there is not single universal definition for giftedness, and each child comes with their own areas of strength and areas of weakness. So easy for everyone to concentrate on what a child is not able to achieve and organise a programme to ‘fix’ the under-achieving areas. (Socialisation and fine motor skills to mention just two.)

    Why is the gifted term so divisive?
    “All children are gifted” or “I haven’t had an Einstein go through my school - ever!”
    These are two common, yet totally opposing views that are often heard.
    A universal definition would be so advantageous.
    If you are saying your child is gifted then what I am hearing is that you think your child is better than my child.
    I have a whole group of individuals in my class. Why are you bringing me a psychologists report? I’ll be evaluating your child with how he/she performs in my class.

    What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’?

    In NZ schools these terms tend to be used as:

    • gifted=intellectual and talented=creative
    • interchangeably (two words meaning exactly the same thing), or
    • as if it was one ‘gifted-and-talented’ term (to be inclusive and because we are not really sure where the dividing line is).

    What can we do to help this situation?
    Given that I can’t see a universal definition happening anytime soon, we have to be stressing that we are talking about equity of opportunity/resources and catering for the individual child’s learning/emotional needs.

    We need to provide teachers (and other professionals who interact with our gifted youth) with relevant information, professional development opportunties, resources and give parents and the students themselves the tools to allow them to interact effectively with those within the school system.

    If we cannot all be singing the same song, in the same key, then at least let us all be singing from the same songbook.

    Onion Singers by David Allen and Travis Price. 

    Onion Singers image by David Allen and Travis Price.

     

  • imageRevised 2012 Gifted and Talented handbook live on TKI

    This week, 6-13 August, is International Week of the Gifted and is being celebrated by organisations and communities around the globe. In many ways, there couldn’t be a better context in which to announce that the updated Gifted and Talented ‘handbook,’ more correctly known as Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools, has now been completed and is available from the TKI website.

    Traditionally, ‘giftedness’ and talent have been narrowly recognised in intellectual contexts. However, the “gifted and talented” description applies to a wide range of abilities and qualities that are evident in every demographic. This includes different ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, gender and disability groups. 

    As the handbook indicates, some students may have exceptional abilities in science or technology, some in art or poetry, and still others in social leadership. Spiritual, emotional and group giftedness are acknowledged in a broad and wide-ranging concept of giftedness that values many areas, including cultural knowledge, skills, and customs, alongside values, beliefs and qualities.

    In this context the handbook sets out the following vision:

    Gifted and talented learners are recognised, valued, and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities through equitable access to differentiated and culturally responsive provisions.

    We have seen examples of wonderful progress in recent years and we need to continue to support New Zealand schools, teachers and communities to assist gifted and talented students to reach their full potential academically, emotionally, and socially.

     The revised handbook has been updated to include:

    • An updated set of principles for gifted and talented education that are aligned to the NZ curriculum
    • Greater guidance for defining gifted and talented from a NZ perspective, including Maori and Pasifika concepts based on NZ practice and research
    • NZ-developed self-review tools for determining effectiveness and targeting areas for development
    • Links to a range of NZ-based resources, including the tki website and tki mailing list
    • A continuum of provisions for gifted and talented learners, including examples of NZ practice in schools

    This resource has been specifically designed to assist schools and, particularly, those with responsibility for gifted and talented learners, in identifying gifted and talented students and developing differentiated provisions to match their needs. It highlights principles and practices that support the education of gifted and talented students and presents models and New Zealand-based research that schools can refer to as they review and develop their own approaches to meeting the needs of these learners.

     You can view or download the resource online from the TKI website: http://gifted.tki.org.nz/For-schools-and-teachers More information about International Week of the Gifted is available through the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children: http://www.world-gifted.org/news. 2013 is the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity and New Zealand will be hosting the World Conference on Gifted and Talented (held in Auckland in August 2013). Learn more about the conference by following the link.

  • image
    Image by James Fyfe, TV3 News
     
    I have been following the news on asset sales; how can anyone in New Zealand not be aware of the growing opposition to the Government's legislation as it passed its second reading last week?  
     
    The media commentaries, political blogs, social networking posts, and protest placards carrying arguments against these sales provide some lessons for advocates following Gifted Awareness Week. After all, aren't gifted and talented learners often referred to as our greatest assets? 
     
    I have trolled through the web and found a few statements related to asset sales that we might be able to learn from - and it is startling how much these parallel the situation in gifted and talented education today. 
     

    "They have asset stripped, rather than investing." 

    With so little invested in the identification and development of our children's gifts and talents, are we stripping them of their potential? Shouldn't we be investing? 
     

    "Remember, this is no time for amnesia!"  

    We needn't forget the promises made by our Government in the lead up to last year's election, as provided on this web page. I am particularly intrigued by this statement:
     

    "It is critical that we provide schools, teachers, parents and the students themselves with the information, resources, and support networks to both identify and provide for New Zealand's gifted and talented young people. "

    The cynic in me wonders if this is anything beyond virtual resourcing, supporting and networking, or just acknowledging the critical nature of provision. Regardless, the fact is, the Government promised support. Have they delivered? Or have they sold our learners short?
     

    "There are more arguments against these asset sales than column-space to carry them."

    What are the arguments against selling our gifted and talented students short? It is a matter of equity: all students deserve an opportunity to learn. Those with exceptional abilities and qualities learn at a faster pace and rate than their same age peers. Providing them with quantitative differentiation - or more of the same - will not meet their thirst for learning. It is time we start reaching for this vision, adopted by the Ministry of Education, but not yet published as promised:
     
    All gifted and talented learners have equitable access to a differentiated and culturally responsive education. They are recognised, valued, and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities.

    "Either they are trying to hide the truth from New Zealanders or, just as worryingly, they don't know themselves."

    Recommendations have been made to the Ministry of Education, as outlined by several national and regional organizations in a letter sent to all Members of Parliament. These recommendations, if implemented, would elevate the profile and priority of gifted and talented education within the Ministry, as well as provide greater support to school leaders and coordinators through professional development and advanced study, resource development, and research. 

    "This is only just coming into public consciousness and it is a vital issue of New Zealand sovereignty."

    Although advocates for gifted and talented students have worked hard for many years to raise awareness, it is a tough battle changing public perceptions. I do believe awareness is growing; but do the mums and dads of New Zealand understand the danger in stripping, rather than investing  in, our assets? And not unlike the asset sales debate, is the public aware of the costs already spent to enlist policy advice only to have it ignored by the Ministry?
     

    "Look what has happened – he has done U-turns on two or three other things. I'm quite sure if there's enough pressure coming on he'll do a U-turn on this as well.”

    Is it too late for a U-turn on gifted and talented education? Can we put the pressure on?
     

    "I think we can make a difference."

    I know we can!
     

    "We will not be divided like our assets. We will be united, we will not be silenced, we will resist this together."

    This is the only way forward ... we must be united, vibrant, noisy and together!
     

    "Don't sell my future!"

    The lack of ongoing commitment  - by Government and its Ministry - is robbing our gifted and talented children.  This is not just about money, but about adopting a vision, principles and strategy for gifted and talented education, and having people make it happen! We can help, as advocates and as partners with the Government and Ministry, but we are not for sale.

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

     

    #NZGAW Blog Tour
  • Sue Breen, giftEDnz board member, shares an extended metaphor about being adequately equipped for life's journey with all of its challenges and adventures. Sue has written this post to the gifted learner, but I suspect that many parents and teachers of the gifted who read it will realise that they value similar equipment.

    Public domain backpack image by lalolalo from OpenClipart.

    Along the way through your journey there are going to be those (hopefully a large number) who understand you and are excited about the journey you are on. There will also be those who think the journey is the wrong one for you. Some of your ‘backpack’ items may help them begin to understand your journey and your reasons for it. There will be some (hopefully only a few) who will make it more difficult.

    I have put together a backpack of essential items you may need along the way.

    backpack:

    (Commonly known as a ‘bag of holding’.)
    This works similarly to The Doctor’s Tardis - much larger on the inside than it appears from the outside.
    This is needed to store the essential items. It needs to fit well because it will be carried a very long way.

    binoculars:

    To enable you to see far into the distance and to bring concepts or ideas closer and into focus.
    Others may also be able to see what you see so clearly if you allow them to use your binoculars. You can be generous with sharing them before, during and after each adventure.

    camera:

    To record your journey for those who could not be with you - and for those who wish to make the journey later. A good record for you to keep as well.
    Take many, many pictures.
    Some pictures are better when displayed in a landscape orientation, some in portrait. Choose the best setting to capture the ‘lay of the land’.

    cell phone: (or two-way radio, satellite phone)

    This is to keep in contact with, and to reassure, those who are concerned about you (and possibly even to keep in touch with the media.)

    clothing:

    (Extra and appropriate clothing for the various environments.)
    A hat will prove helpful in shielding you when the ‘weather’ turns nasty unexpectedly. Sometimes even the sun can be a little bright and it is nice to be able to hide away.
    Rain gear and extra clothing may be necessary.
    (The weather man does not always get it right.)
    Make sure your raincoat is of good quality and has many, many pockets.
    Use those pockets to keep all of your ‘bits and bobs’.
    Your journey may be mostly in good weather but you need to be prepared for the occasional bout of rain or sleet.
    An extra pair of dry socks is also a good idea for when you just have to jump into those mud puddles.
    Nice comfortable socks are like a friend, they are soft for cushioning the blows and they protect your toes.

    code book:

    This is necessary to be able to explain your journey to others you meet along the way - and to explain to those who will meet you on your return. Some of those you meet will already know the code. Remember to leave a copy behind for those who may follow later.

    compass:

    This is essential to locate where you are when you are off into the unknown.
    While the intent may be to be able to navigate your way to your destination you also need to be able to find your way to the new, alternate, destination or to find your way back should you get lost.
    Your compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain, especially in bad weather or where you can't see the landmarks you were intending to use as locator beacons.
    A compass also reminds us that there will be both positive and negative views, reactions and interactions.

    fire starter:

    The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help when you need a pick-me-up and fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost.
    (Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.)

    first aid kit:

    For those bruises and cuts you will get throughout your journey when others are unsympathetic or hurt you through their insensitivity or indifference.
    You may also need to take a basic first aid class so that you can better understand what to do when bruises and cuts occur and also how to prevent avoidable wounds such as blisters on your heels.

    flag:

    This can signify the conquering of your journey, help with an SOS, or represent where you stand. Make your own flag to represent ‘you’ and look out for others’ flags - enjoy sharing each other’s cultures.

    food:

    Take an energy bar or two - fresh fruit and/or some nuts.
    Packing some extra will give you a cushion in case you're out longer than you intend.
    Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: a lengthy detour, getting lost, an injury, difficult terrain.
    Extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
    An offering of food and drink is often part of friendship rituals.
    Make sure you pack extra food to provide for others who join you for a while and those you may meet.

    friend:

    It is important to have someone - or to find someone along the way - who can ‘be there’ for you, catch you when you fall, ‘have your back’ or point you in the right direction.
    Someone you can laugh (or cry) with. Someone who understands you. If you are starting out alone be prepared for the ‘inconveniences’ of having a companion. (When two people meet there are the possibilities of differing points of view.)
    Note: More than one of these precious items will fit in your back pack.

    hiking boots or quality walking shoes:

    Whatever type of footwear you pick, make sure it fits well and is comfortable. Otherwise your adventure could quickly become a nightmare. (Hopefully you won’t have to pick your way through the minefield.)

    ice axe:

    For glacier or snow field travel. Your journey may not need one - but better to be prepared. (Your bag of holding means you won’t feel the extra weight.)

    identification:

    Have a picture ID always with you. This will help others identify you and help them understand you.
    You should always carry information about any medical conditions or allergic reactions. (People may be more understanding if they know that you also have specific learning needs.)
    Remember to update your identification regularly as you grow and change.

    keepsake:

    A photo, a note from a special person or a well loved toy can be important. The road may have uphill, or even steep, slopes. Familiar and well-loved items will help to keep up your morale.

    swiss army knife:

    This will enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters and perform repairs on malfunctioning gear.
    (A tool kit of multiple skills.)
    When opening your box - which learning tool(s) will you decide to use?

    magnifying glass:

    Don’t forget to ‘stop and smell the roses’ occasionally.
    Your magnifying glass will help you examine things more closely. You can get a totally different perspective.

    map:

    A map tells you where you are and how far you have to go and helps you to chart future journeys. It also helps you to show others where you have come from and where you are headed.
    Your map needs to be one without borders, without the limits of the edges found on regular two-dimensional maps.
    If you don’t see a path ahead you can cut your own path.

    miner’s lamp: (head mounted lamp)

    This is used to shine your way into new territory.
    Sometimes your road will need to be travelled at night.
    It can shine in places where a torch is less useful and can be used to illuminate your ideas when they are a bit foggy.
    A head mounted lamp leaves your hands free.

    net:

    To provide a safeguard - or to catch you if you start to fall or if you need to climb to new heights.

    plastic tarp:

    You will need this for shelter. It can also be used to collect water. Make sure it is big enough to share with others.

    repair kit:

    This should include duct tape and basic sewing materials.
    (Read the enclosed booklet - “1001 uses for duct tape”.)

    rope:

    Very handy for unexpected situation. You may need to cross rivers or abseil down slopes.
    A rope is very useful when you need to ‘tie’ your ideas together.
    A rope’s strength comes from the intertwining of many fibres. You can also think of it as a rope of friendship and connections.

    shield:

    For protection from those on a different journey and who see your journey as a threat. You may also need it for those ‘slings and arrows’ moments.
    Can be decorated with heraldic symbols or your family crest.

    signalling device:

    (a whistle, unbreakable signal mirror or a flare)
    For those times when there is no cell phone coverage.
    People left behind will worry if there is no news for a while. Remember that communication is important.

    sun glasses, sunscreen and insect repellent:

    So you don't have sunburn or itching bites to deal with upon your return home. When there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you'll need sunglasses to prevent snow-blindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn. (Good vision is essential.)

    toilet paper:

    Toilet paper also doubles as tinder for starting a fire and can be used to wrap up your precious ideas.
    In its original use it reminds us that not all ideas are good ideas and it is fine to discard these - flush them away. Make sure your toilet paper (and any disposal of it) is green and eco-friendly.

    torch:

    Remember if you take a dynamo torch you don’t need to worry about running out of batteries.
    Your torch can also be used to light the way for others.

    translation book:

    To understand where others are at and to help them understand you. You may need two - a child version and an adult version because the language needed for children and adults can be different.

    walking stick:

    For when the going gets tough. Use to lean on, to help
    (A ‘forked’ divining stick can also help you find water.)

    water:

    It's advisable to take more if you are in an unfamiliar area, just in case you get lost. Sometime the journey is so exciting and fascinating that you will need more sustenance than you have packed. Water will allow you to keep going.

    Enjoy the journey. 

    Remember always tell someone your planned route and when you intend to return.

      

    (What else needs to be added? What extra uses can you suggest for the items already listed?)

     

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

     

    #NZGAW Blog Tour

     

  • Teachers love to talk shop. Teachers' spouses and children who have accidentally strayed near this blog are probably shouting something about understatements at the screen right now. We can be just a tiny bit unstoppable, I'm afraid, when we talk about education with our colleagues. However, when teachers shift their professional focus to include specialised areas such as gifted education, the customary stream of chatter can run dry. Teachers who are used to co-constructing meaning about better ways to teach suddenly find themselves figuring it out alone. This heightened autonomy in professional learning can be freeing and exhilarating. It can also be daunting, and even lonely. Online Personal Learning Networks (PLN's, also called Professional Learning Networks) can help to address the problem of professional isolation.

    A Numeracy Approach - Or how creating an online PLN is not usually done.

    Count your friends. Subtract all friends who are not teachers. Then subtract all friends who are not interested in gifted education (or the educational specialty of your choice). Then subtract all friends who don't like the internet. Then drag your one remaining friend online, chat a little, and wonder why you didn't just meet for coffee.

    PLN Numeracy - not the way to go! - CC BY Mary St George.

    A Literacy Lurkeracy Approach - Or how creating an online PLN often begins.

    Find friends who you know in real life online. Any friends will do. Twitter friends, Facebook friends, Linked In friends, it doesn't really matter. They don't even have to be teachers. Chat with them and read their posts until you are somewhat confident in using the social network concerned, then keep at it until you are just bored enough to try something new. Now search your social network for giftedness (or the educational specialty of your choice). You'll almost always find it. Now lurk!

    Lurking is when you read wall posts, chats and shared links on a social networking site without posting any replies. If time allows, lurk in two or three groups so that you can decide which seems to offer the best combination of friendliness, responsiveness and relevance. Lurk until you are somewhat confident in the modus operandi of the group concerned, then keep at it until you are just bored enough to try something new. Now dive into the conversation.

    It won't be quite like a staffroom conversation. There will be no tea stained sign telling you to put your own mug in the dishwasher, and you'll probably all be complaining about different kinds of weather. The conversation is likely to be written down, and there may well be some parents chiming in. However, as happens in a staffroom, you'll find some people whose professional goals and interests are similar to your own, and you'll have your deepest conversations with these people. Once you've found them, your PLN has begun. Question, share, learn, debate, reflect. It's what people in PLN's do, and it can really make a difference to your sense of professional isolation. 

    Here are a some pointers and links to help you out if your current teaching interest is gifted education:

    On Twitter, hashtags help you to find and share relevant content. You can put them in your own posts, and they will also serve as links to all other current posts with the same hashtag. Gifted specific hashtags include #gtchat (a global gifted and talented chat), #gtvoice (UK based), #gtie (Ireland), #tagt (Texas), #nagc (US), #gtala (Alabama) and #2ekids (twice exceptional). Some of these hashtags are used for a Twitter chat during the week, and it is easier to follow these via Tweetchat than directly through Twitter. #gtchat is on Saturdays in NZ time, so tends to be easiest for our teachers to attend. Add posts with potentially interesting links to your Twitter favourites during busy chats so that you can find them again later and read them easily.

    On Facebook, most of the gifted education groups are busier than the gifted education pages. Material that you contribute within a group will also be more visible than on a page too, so you will get more responses. Gifted education groups include Mary's Gifted Contacts and Davidson Insititute Educator's Guild. Pages are not designed to facilitate conversation to the same extent, but may be really good sources of information. Interesting pages include Teaching for High Potential and SENG's Facebook page. Further gifted education and advocacy pages and groups on Facebook can be found in Gifted Online's note.

    On Linked In, gifted education groups tend to be less busy than Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags. This can be an asset or a problem depending how much time you like to spend online. Gifted groups on Linked In include the Gifted and Talented Network and International Gifted Education

    We also have homegrown Kiwi gifted networks including the NZAGC Forum, the very helpful TKI Gifted and Talented Mailing List and the small but growing giftEDnz group here on the VLN.

    Some people do find it a bit daunting beginning a PLN online. If you feel that way, please be reassured that you are not alone. It's quite OK to lurk a little longer. It's also fine to ask for help. Just message me here, if you're a member of the VLN, or perhaps try me on Twitter. I'm sure you will find the support available in online groups well worth moving a little outside your comfort zone, and it's quite OK to make that movement one small step at a time.

     

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

     

    #NZGAW Blog Tour

     

  • Celebrate giftedness – but what does it really mean?

    What does giftedness really mean? CC BY Mary St George.

    As we near the end of Gifted Awareness Week I wonder if we should be thinking about what we really mean when we talk about the concept of ‘giftedness’ here in Aotearoa New Zealand? The debate has certainly been raging internationally with NAGC releasing a new definition recently (see http://www.nagc.org/uploadedFiles/About_NAGC/Redefining%20Giftedness%20for%20a%20New%20Century.pdf).

    It seems to me that many of the teachers in our schools and centres, those who are charged with writing the policies, with developing the programmes, with identifying the students who take part in these programmes, yes, those ‘at the coalface’, are still struggling with the concept itself. In New Zealand, policy makers have adopted a laissez-faire approach towards developing any kind of single definition of giftedness. However, Don McAlpine, in his chapter in McAlpine and Moltzen (2004) does remind us that:

    “Discussions on the nature of giftedness and talent are at the very heart of gifted education. Parameters of giftedness determine who will be identified as gifted and what the nature of programmes will be that cater for their learning needs. The interrelationship between concept, characteristics, identification and programming is crucial to the understanding of gifted education.” (p.59)

    So basically he is saying that you should probably never start on identification or programming without a sound understanding of what you and your school and community understand the concept of giftedness to be about.

    ERO’s 2008 review expected that “…the school’s definition of giftedness and talent reflected the context and values of the school community, was multi-categorical, incorporated Maori concepts, incorporated multi-cultural concepts and was grounded in sound research and theory” but in the ERO review report only 5% of schools were found to be working from “highly inclusive and appropriate conceptualisations”. So it would seem that uncertainty does reign!

    I wonder if when we use too broad and inclusive a conception, this can cause confusion for teachers who are left with little to support them, especially in terms of professional development that involves current “research and theory”. It is difficult for teachers to develop a conceptual framework to guide their pedagogical practices without such support.

    I wonder if too often we miss the first step, the chance to debate and discuss conceptualisations of giftedness, and rush on to the next one – the one that understandably worries many teachers – identification.

    I wonder if this, in turn, can be driven by compliance issues - the need to fill in the spaces on the Gifted Register, to be ready for the next ERO visit, to justify identification criteria to a parent community? And in doing so do we in turn rely on what I call ‘identification crutches’ – NCEA results, National Standards, PATs, generic checklists, entrance test results without really understanding the conceptual framework around which we base the identification process?

    There is no doubt that we have some strong foundation principles in New Zealand on which to base our conceptions - the clear support for a multi-categorical understanding of giftedness, the recognition of a developmentalist approach that identifies potential as well as performance, and the understanding that giftedness is apparent across all societal groups and is in relation to what is valued by a particular culture.

    But I argue that teachers need the opportunity to expand on these foundation principles within the context of their own schools, centres and communities and under the guidance of professionals with the research and pedagogical background to lead debate and discussion. It all comes back to PLD, doesn’t it? Support teachers to get that first step right and those next steps – identification and programming – might just be easier to take!

    References:

    McAlpine, D. (2004). What do we mean by gifted and talented? Concepts and definitions. In D. McAlpine & R. Moltzen (Eds.), Gifted and Talented: New Zealand Perspectives (2nd ed., pp. 33-66). Palmerston North: Kanuka Grove Press.

    Education Review Office. (2008). Schools' provisions for gifted and talented students. Wellington: Education Review Office.


    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

     

    #NZGAW Blog Tour


  • Image CC By Christchurch City Libraries

    Image CC by Christchuch City Libraries

    Ngā mihi o te wā Matariki ki a koutou katoa.  Happy Māori new year to you all. 

     

    As we write to celebrate gifted awareness week we are reminded that it is te wā o Matariki (Maori New Year).  Celebrating a new year in June seems to be a constructive metaphor to reflect upon and explore giftedness from a Maori perspective

    Matariki is the Māori name for the small cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters, in the Taurus constellation. In New Zealand it comes into view low on the north-eastern horizon, appearing in the tail of the Milky Way in the last days of May or in early June, just before dawn. Matariki occurred at the end of harvesting, when food stores were plentiful, having been gathered, preserved and made available for feasting. 

    The Relevance of Matariki to Gifted Education

    A June new year enables Māori to reflect on their relationship with the land and their environment.  More recently, Matariki is an opportunity for Māori to celebrate being Māori and is an acknowledgement that the traditions of the past are still, if not more, relevant in today’s changing world. Drawing from this understanding of Matariki, how do we celebrate the essence of what it is to be gifted? How do we acknowledge that being gifted is relevant in today’s changing world and how are we enabling opportunities to celebrate the giftedness amongst us?

    The celebration of Matariki across Aotearoa is not dissimilar to the celebration of the Chinese New Year in that in a superficial sense, our cultures are able to find welcoming spaces across our landscape and, even if only for a brief moment, are able to shine positively about who we are as peoples. Extending this to our thinking and approaches to giftedness, to what extent are Māori children given opportunities to shine?  Do our schools have policies that identify, draw upon and acknowledge Maori ways of knowing and being – and thus what Māori giftedness might look like?  Do we create spaces that even if only for a brief moment, celebrate and include our diverse perceptions of giftedness?

    Matariki depicts a time of resiliency and steadfastness. Matariki is also a time to reflect and so we encourage teachers during this time of Matariki to reflect on what it is they have achieved in gifted education and to remain steadfast and resilient in their continued advocacy of gifted education, definition, identification and provision for gifted learners.

    In closing, be courageous and steadfast in gifted education in order to best serve our gifted learners. 

    Kia maia

    Kia manawanui

    Poipoia a tātou tamariki ihumanea. 

    Leeana Herewini & Sarah Jane Tiakiwai

     

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  • Red Gerbera Daisies CC BY Clyde Robinson
    Image CC BY Clyde Robinson.

    Tracy Riley, Chairperson of giftEDnz, writes on strengthening connections this Gifted Awareness Week.

     

    This year marks the 5th anniversary of New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week.  As I reflect back to 2008, our first year, I can’t help but wonder how, in the face of a stronger, united front, we have seen a diminished provision, commitment and oversight of gifted and talented education.  

    Back in June 2008, Chris Carter was the Minister of Education and the Ministry was undergoing a review – of everything, if my memory serves me right, and definitely of gifted and talented initiatives. The Talent Development Initiatives were winding down and put ‘on hold.’ 

    In 2009, just weeks before Gifted Awareness Week, National’s Vote Education eliminated the positions of advisors in gifted and talented, and, in doing, so, diminished our funding to half: an annual budget of around $1.27 million.  But we had an Associate Minister of Education seeking responsibility for gifted!

    Heather Roy established a Working Party in response to a collaborative letter bringing her attention to the cuts and also the fact that the Ministry of Education review of its provisions (from 2008) had yet to see the light of day. Later that year a Ministerial Advisory Group was established, and a call for proposals was released for professional learning and development.

    Ministerial responsibilities held steady into June 2010, with the politicians blogging and questions being raised in the House. The Ministry of Education funded the redevelopment of the tki gifted and talented community, and some regional and national programmes of professional learning and development. 

    Two months later, there was no one in Government responsible for gifted and talented! But things were set in motion: a ‘rollover’ of contracts; development of an online National Standards resource; and revisions to the handbook on gifted education. 

    Rodney Hide had a tough act to follow (no pun intended!), and  by June 2011, despite being rolled as leader of his party, he re-established a Ministry of Education Policy Advisory Group which was given an opportunity to develop a strategy. Between the end of June and November, the vision, principles and recommendations were developed, reviewed by over 240 stakeholders, and forwarded to the Ministry’s Management Team for consideration. 

    So here we are today – June 2012. Gifted and talented is the responsibility of Minister of Education Hekia Parata and appears to be ‘shared’ within the Ministry of Education. The vision and principles have been adopted for inclusion in the handbook, but decisions are still being made in terms of the recommendations. The Advisory Group has not met since September 2011. Professional learning and development is being provided by two consortia, supported by the ongoing development of the tki community and its mailing list. 

    Looking back: four Ministers with responsibility for gifted, implemented by an ever-shifting and changing cadre of Ministry personnel, and no one, in my view, with any oversight, follow-through or commitment to gifted and talented learners in New Zealand ... except us, the gifted and talented community!

    Did you know that a gift of wood, representing strength and a solidified relationship, or silverware, representing connectedness, is suggested for 5th wedding anniversaries?  Strengthening connections is the theme of this year’s Gifted Awareness Week. Whether by accident, design, or sheer necessity, the relationships between and amongst advocates for New Zealand’s gifted and talented learners have developed, solidified, and grown stronger over the last 5 years. 

    The flower for 5th anniversaries is the daisy. Is the Government and Ministry of Education taking a “she loves me, she loves me not” approach to determining its relationship with the gifted and talented community? Or is it a case of a bunch of red daisies, representing beauty that is unknown to the possessor? Could our strengths as a gifted and talented community be maximised to work together to make this vision a reality?

    All gifted and talented learners have equitable access to a differentiated and culturally responsive education.  They are recognised, valued, and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities (Ministry of Education Policy Advisory Group on Gifted, 2011 - unpublished and unrealised).

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

    #NZGAW Blog Tour