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  • Designer label picture made for Sue's post.
    Image made for this post, CC BY Mary St George.

    Sue Breen is a board member of giftEDnz, and contributes to our Special Interest Group on the Early Years.

    Here, Sue questions the ways in which we label gifted children, and in which they wear those labels.

    Everyone wears many labels at any one time. They wear them whether or not they want a particular label - or even whether they realise they are wearing it.
    young/old, friendly, tall/short, glass-half-full/glass-half-empty, musical, creative, bookworm, geek, confident/shy, lonely, sad, busy ..........

    Some try very hard to make everyone aware they are wearing a label while others try just as hard to hide their label from view.

    If we look at designer clothing labels: - wearing a designer label can make you feel good and look good. (Do you look good because you feel good or feel good because you look good?)

    What is it about a designer label? 
    Certainly there is the feel, and the look, of quality. Better materials and a better finish are part of the appeal. They are often unique, one-off items. There is a status value.  This is why ‘knock-offs’ are so plentiful and readily available. They allow people who are unable to purchase the actual designer label item to be able to look the part and feel (almost) as ‘special’.

    Whether or not the person wearing the designer label item actually intends to give the impression: “Look at me. I am rich. I have good taste. I can afford to wear these incredibly expensive items! Don’t you wish you could too? Aren’t you envious?”  - the person looking on can feel this is what is being loudly stated.

    Our gifted students are well aware of this problem. It is difficult to celebrate your achievements when others aren’t yet there. You can be seen as bragging or showing off. If you say/show “I can” - what others hear is: “You think you are better than me”.

    Designer labels are often placed very visibly on the outside of the garment. They are often overseas labels, recognisable by a simple and effective logo. A status symbol. (Are overseas labels better than home-grown ones?)

    There are many reasons why a designer label is no longer a valued item. 
    Is it still a valued designer logo if it has snags, or has a hole or after it has been dropped in the mud? 
    Does this equate to becoming depressed and tuning out because no-one understands or to being excluded from the group’s activities because no-one relates to your interests, because you are seen as being different.

    What about new trendy labels trying to find their place as a ‘must-have brand?
    (Our gifted students who are mis-diagnosed by non-specialists in the specific field as ADD, ADHD, ODD, PDA or on the autism spectrum etc.) 

    Is giftedness a designer label?
    Unlike sports teams proudly wearing their top of the line clothing we find many of our gifted are unlikely to wear their label with pride. They are more likely to be wearing their label on the inside rather than having it on display for all to see. 
    (Sometimes they wish they could do this but the label keeps sticking up at the back of the neck.) 
    Those verbally gifted who try to stay under the radar or the avid scientists who become so excited their enthusiasm infects everyone around them are examples of this. What of the student who is uncomfortable with the label at the back of the neck scratching and irritating the skin? 

    Often our gifted students are wearing sticky labels that tend to fall off their shirts. This could be students who stand out in one specific area so is only noticeable to those around at that particular time or for that particular activity or under special circumstances - or it could be students chosen for a programme one year but omitted for the following year. The label still belongs to the shirt - it has just been misplaced. This is particularly true for our twice-exceptional gifted students. 

    Some of our gifted wear recognisable labels, such as those who are comfortable with their giftedness and are happy within themselves. Those wearing cultural shirts with ethnic motifs also belong here.
    Some of our gifted wear unlabelled clothing - either by choice or because of external factors.

    The designer label knock-offs can equate to ad hoc programmes, fun activities, ‘one-size-fits-all’ programmes that are put in place with little validity or research base.

    The Gifted Education Centre run a number of programmes for gifted students. Often those taking part talk to staff and other participants about the excellence of the programmes and the value they place on being able to take part. They talk about what a difference that finding the Centre has made to their lives. They make huge financial and time commitments to ensure their family is able to continue to benefit. 

    Usually when you find a valuable, effective product you share your delight with everyone. Our programmes are excellent - but we don’t have all our extremely-happy-with-the-the-programme people sharing their experiences with others. There are those who prefer to keep quiet and ‘fit in’.  

    Often they feel not even able to share their enjoyment and their achievements with close friends or family. A large number would love to have the programmes promoted and advertised widely - so long as someone else is the face on the poster or in the magazine or on the television. They prefer their designer labels to stay in the closet.

    If only we could allow all our gifted students, and their families, to wear their gifted label with pride. 

    Can we, should we, promote a gifted designer label?

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

    #NZGAW Blog Tour


    Photo of whispering statues by Ivan Walsh.

    Photo CC BY IvanWalsh.com

    Mary St George has been co-optedboard to the Board of giftEDnz to assist with online activities. Here she asks whose ear you'll have a word in this Gifted Awareness Week.


    Next week, 18-24 June, is Gifted Awareness Week. It is a time to create awareness of all the different gifts and talents we value, and the variety of ways in which we can foster them, especially in the young. But who are we inviting to become aware of this?

    The risk is that people who are already interested in gifted advocacy and education will network enthusiastically with one another, but go no further. Don't get me wrong on this - networking with other members of the gifted advocacy community is encouraging, challenging, and thoroughly worthwhile. Developing a personal learning network within the online gifted advocacy movement has been a very exciting development in my teaching. Like many teachers who specialise, I have been aware of my professional isolation at times; a situation that reduces opportunities for informed critique by peers just as certainly as it inhibits friendly interchanges, and the sharing of goals, resources, and the joy of our work. This has changed as my online networks have grown to augment the professional relationships I enjoy in real life. Whether we are involved in giftedness as gifted people, as parents, or as teachers, becoming aware of others who walk the same paths and making connections with them is valuable.

    However, Gifted Awareness Week is about more than that. It is also an opportunity to create awareness of giftedness, and especially of the educational provisions that are needed to meet the needs of gifted and twice exceptional children, among those who do not routinely seek this information. Therefore, I ask you to do as many of these things as you can this Gifted Awareness Week:

    Write to a Member of Parliament about the needs of gifted children as you see them. You may draw on the letter giftEDnz has sent, together with other groups,  or the template letter they have created, or you may use your own words.

    Contact a member of the news media about giftedness. Use social media, telephone, write letters, or talk to journalists in person.

    Choose a blog post from the #NZGAW Blog Tour or an image from Gifted Education PhotoQuotes to share with one teacher who is not yet known for his or her involvement in gifted education and advocacy.

    Try one of the suggestions on this list by GiftEDnz.

    Please join us, and all of the other organizations who work together to support Gifted Awareness Week, in taking our message to the widest audience possible. 

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

    #NZGAW Blog Tour Itinerary

  • School near Woodville. CC BY-ND Neville10.

    Photo CC BY-ND Neville10.

    Sue Breen is a board member of giftEDnz, and contributes to our Special Interest Group on the Early Years.

    Sue draws on memories of her own school days to illustrate some essential characteristics for teachers of gifted students.


    Mr Dunmill is the reason I became a teacher. He is also the reason I am the kind of teacher that I am today.

    He is the teacher I remember with fondness -  I can still see him at his desk, discussing a piece of writing with a student.

    I visited him, unannounced, when he was a principal about to retire, to thank him for all he did for me. He is the only teacher I have ever visited.

    He smiled, turned around, opened a filing cabinet and brought out a poem I had written about thirty years earlier. 

    We talked for a long time. He reminded me of events and achievements that I had long forgotten. What I hadn’t forgotten was how I felt when I was in his class. How he encouraged me and how he tried to make a misfit feel as if she did, in fact, belong.

    I was so fortunate to have had this wonderful teacher for two years, both as a 7 year old and as a 12 year old. 

    How many teachers would have remembered so much about one of the many hundreds of children who had passed through their hands?

    That he had kept a piece of my writing was such a huge and positive message.

    I know there are many other adults and children who have been fortunate to have one, or more, of their own memorable extra-special teachers.

    I hope that I have made a difference in the lives of some of those I have had in my care over the years and that there are people who regard me in a similar light.

    What made Peter Dunmill so special and so effective as a teacher?

    He was enthusiastic - he enjoyed teaching.
    He was prepared. There was always ‘something extra’ for those who needed it. (Only now do I realise how much extra preparation was needed! A differentiated curriculum before differentiation was the ‘in’ word.)
    He was flexible and creative
    He listened
    He communicated clearly and gave consistent messages.
    He had expectations; set high, attainable goals. He explained
    He was available
    He made allowances, was patient and he persevered - especially with me - difficult as it must have been. 
    He motivated us.
    He was both competent and confident.
    He smiled a  lot and used humour effectively.
    He treated each pupil as an individual and worked with each on their strengths and their areas of weakness.
    He was fair.

    He was respectful.

    He believed in me.

    Gifted Awareness Week is a good time to reflect on the  role of the teacher.

    What do you regard as essential characteristics for a NZ teacher in 2012?

    Are they the same list of characteristics that I observed in 1959 and 1964?

    I realise that - as you are reading this - these are just eighteen words in bold.  To me they ARE the person! They bring back memories of two years of special classroom experiences.

    How can we ensure that those teaching our children are given the tools and the opportunities to enable them to become positively memorable to their students? 

    Teaching is so much more than imparting knowledge. 
    How can we ensure that our potential and current teachers are given opportunities to gain the skills that are needed to nurture as well as impart knowledge?

    This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

    #NZGAW Blog Tour

  • Gifted Awareness Week begins on 18 June, and the #NZGAW Blog Tour begins today. A blog tour connects readers and writers across the blogosphere with regards to a particular interest. In our case, that interest is gifted education and advocacy. Posts are varied in style, content, and philosophy of giftedness - you're bound to find something to agree with, and you'll probably find something to disagree with, too. The idea is to raise awareness, rather than to homogenise views.

    Posts from giftEDnz board members will be shared on this blog. You can find out more about the blog tour, including how to join it, at http://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/nzgaw-blog-tour-starts-monday/ or follow the tour from the growing list of posts at http://ultranet.giftededucation.org.nz/WebSpace/696/.

    Posts on other blogs today include http://worldgifted2013.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/something-to-smile-about.html and http://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/needs-versus-merit-in-selection-for-gifted-programmes/.


  • We all have one. Mine was called “Mrs T.” Mrs T asked interesting questions, pushed the boundaries of our thinking, listened to and valued our opinions, and trusted us. She was witty and sharp, a ‘rule-breaker’, supplying us with contraband chewing gum and a couch to lounge on while we read George Orwell’s Animal Farm (not on the curriculum in Mississippi in the late 1970s). Mrs T gave us 35mm cameras, took us to the old town cemetery for a shoot and then gave us the school’s darkroom as our lab for creativity. She even had a computer in her classroom! Because of her, three high school female freshmen became good friends, and eventually the school’s newspaper editors, honour graduates, school leaders, and so on. Many memories were made.

    And Mrs T, as it happened, was my favourite teacher. She remained my inspiration as I sat my final examination to be certified as a teacher and had to write about my philosophy of teaching. It wasn’t until I began my postgraduate studies that I came to realise that the class Mrs T was running was the school’s pull-out enrichment programme for gifted and talented students. I have often wondered … is it the principles and practices of ‘gifted education’ that make these memories so strong, or was it something about Mrs T?

    It seems fitting during Gifted Awareness Week to think about and reflect upon how teachers affect the lives of their students. What influence do teachers have upon the hopes and aspirations of gifted and talented students? What knowledge, skills, and qualities are needed to work with gifted and talented students? We can turn to theory and research for lists of the characteristics of ‘teachers of the gifted’ – see for example, a blog by Carol Fertig which highlights a range of personal qualities, social skills, and intellectual abilities.

    I am often asked … do you need to be gifted to teacher the gifted? Research conducted by Australian colleagues, Wilma Vialle and Siobhan Quigley, found that gifted students valued the personal-social qualities of teachers more highly than intellectual qualities; however these two sets of qualities were not that easily dichotomised. As these authors conclude, “…teachers’ personal qualities are inextricably linked with the teachers’ intellectual characteristics and their teaching strategies.” Not surprisingly, Vialle and Quigley recommend changes to teacher education, but also careful selection of teachers to ensure those of gifted students have enthusiasm for both the subjects and students they teach.

    There are consistent calls in New Zealand’s research (e.g., Education Review Office’s 2008 report) for pre-service teacher education and ongoing professional learning and development. Gifted Awareness Week provides an opportunity to reflect upon our teacher education programmes. Is it still the case today of the “one-off” lecture or reading on giftedness and talent? How can we support our pre-service educators to ensure our teaching graduates are prepared for working with gifted students?

    What opportunities are available for ongoing professional learning and development? (We can ask the same question in terms of the “one-off” pd day or workshop!) How can we ensure all teachers have opportunities for ongoing support as they work with gifted students? What advanced study should be facilitated and offered to those with responsibility, interests, or passions for gifted and talented education? How important is ‘informal’ relationship-building, networking and support for professional growth and development?

    And then I wonder … did Mrs T need any sort of specialised professional development or advanced study as a teacher of the gifted … or was she simply a gifted teacher?

  • Fantastic news from America!

    The Awards Ceremony for the International Finals was held in La Crosse Wisconsin overnight NZ time and I'm thrilled that NZ teams will be coming home with an amazing 13 trophies this year!!

    There were several new countries competing this year so the standard is ramped up every year.

    The results:

    Problem Solving:

    Junior Division Education - Oturu School -

    2nd Junior Division Individual - Hamish Hall, Kerikeri Primary School 2nd!! (Hamish was our first every Individual Community Problem Solver!)

    Middle Division Education - Mission heights Junior College - 1st!!

    Scenario Writing: Middle Division - Daniel coats - Christchurch -

    3rd Presentation of Action Plan: Junior Division - Nelson College -

    5th Junior Division - Cobham Int - 1st!!

    Senior Division - Nelson College - 3rd (There were NZ teams in all 3 finals of the Presentation of Action Plan)

    Global Issues Problem Solving: Alternates - Cobham Intermediate -

    2nd Middle Individual - Hugo Lawrence,

    Nelson College - 3rd Junior Division - Selwyn House -

    8th Junior Division - Cobham Intermediate -

    5th Middle Division - Tauranga Boys/Girls -

    6th Middle Division - Tauranga Boys/Girls - 1st!!!!!!!

    Three first places and three 2nds is AMAZING! I'm very proud of them all!

    Today is the beginning of Gifted Awareness Week in NZ - seems a fitting start to the week.

    Cheers Robyn

    http://fpsnz2011.wikispaces.com/ for more information about the Future Problem Solving programme


  • How Not to Talk to Your Kids


    One of my wonderful Cluster Directors sent this link to me today (thanks Tracey). The article was written in 2007 and asks us to consider whether praise actually builds confidence in gifted children or in fact diminishes it. We all know gifted children who refuse to attempt tasks if there is any risk that they might fail, even if the failure is only in their own eyes.

    Many of you will be familiar with the work of Carol Dweck and her work on the effect of praise on students in New York schools. Dweck concluded that praise can have the opposite effect to that intended and that we should be praising our children for the effort they expend to achieve success, rather than attribute their success to high ability or intelligence. Dweck found that children who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. "I am smart, I don’t need to put out effort." Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.

    Check out the following youTube links: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTXrV0_3UjY (the experiment) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jDVd-nCEYc&feature=relmfu (interview with Carol Dweck).

    My MEd research investigated the impact of strategy instruction combined with attribution retraining on gifted children who also experienced significant difficulties with some aspects of learning. One of the findings was that students felt more positive as learners when their success was attributed to effort plus the use of the strategy rather than to simply to their 'natural ability.'

    What do you think?

  • • … it is Gifted Awareness Week from 13 to 19 June 2011?
    • … gifted and talented children are found in all cultures, socioeconomic groups, and amongst those with disabilities?
    • ... gifts and talents can be demonstrated in a wide range of intellectual, academic, creative, cultural, leadership, artistic, and physical abilities and qualities?
    • … some children can be gifted and talented but also have learning or behavioural disabilities such as ADHD, Aspergers, dyslexia or dyspraxia?
    • … all schools in New Zealand are required to identify and provide appropriately for gifted and
    talented students under the National Administration Guidelines?


    • … there are no explicit requirements for gifted and talented children in early childhood education to be identified or provided for appropriately?
    • … only $1.2 million is allocated by Government for gifted and talented education this year? If 5%
    of New Zealand’s school students are gifted and talented, this amounts to about $35 per child per
    • … schools’ reporting for performance on National Standards to the Ministry of Education only
    acknowledges those above the standard, but not well-above the standard?
    • … gifted and talented students are not entitled to receive assessment and intervention services through Group Special Education?


    • … the schools identified by ERO as providing most appropriately for gifted and talented students were those that had received significant professional learning support?
    • … giftEDnz advocates for the needs of over 200 professionals working with gifted and talented
    children, young people, and those who support them?
    • … you can join giftEDnz, a professional association aiming for equitable opportunities and outcomes for gifted and talented children and young people through advocacy, communication, networking, and support?

    Did you know you can show your support for our country’s future leaders by saying YES to gifted and talented education?

    You CAN make a difference!

    Join giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education


  • I'm an analytical thinker so when I hear catch phrases such as 'personalising learning' or 'engagement' my brain begins the process of analysing the language, considering its colloquial and professional contexts, and wondering how it will be interpreted (and misinterpreted) by those on the receiving end of the communication. Most recently I've been thinking about the term 'meaningful learning' and what it means within a learning context. I asked a few students the question 'What is meaningful learning for you?' and received varied responses:

    "Learning is meaningful if I'm interested in it. Sometimes I'm interested because it's something I want to know more about for its own sake and sometimes it's because it will lead to qualifications that I'm interested in gaining."

    "Learning has meaning for me if it leads me to take action. Some learning seems to have more meaning for the teachers than for me but I have to do it anyway."

    "Meaningful - mmm. What does THAT mean? I guess it would have to be real - I have to be able to see a fit between what I'm learning about and how I can apply it in real life."

    "This has to be different for different people. I love Art and History so learning is meaningful when I'm involved in something related to these areas because it's important to who I am. It's also meaningful when it touches me personally and respects my culture because that's who I am."

    Dr Judith Boettcher addresses the question of what constitutes meaningful learning in her paper entitled 'What is Meaningful Learning? From Bits and Bytes to Knowledge and Skills in 15 Weeks…'

    She suggests some of the following definitions for meaningful learning.

    • Learning that changes one’s brain structure;
    • Learning that supports and enables growth of more knowledge
    • Learning that changes a person’s life. 

    Meaningful learning, in short, is learning that makes a difference—in one’s mind and in one’s life.

    It would seem that Dr Boettcher and the students share similar ideas about what makes learning meaningful - what are your thoughts?

    Have a look at my 2010 Social Sciences class (year 10) website for an example of inquiry-based learning leading to social action.