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Why the Changes in Middle School are Good for my GT Daughter

April 9, 2010

One thing I have learned from reading, listening to speakers, and living with a couple of GT kids is that every GT child is different.  One of my children is creative with their jokes, the other memorizes random facts and is a walking encyclopedia, and if you toss my GT husband into the mix, I live with a never-ending attention span.  They are each so different and yet so alike.  Our home is full of questions.  They are not always spoken aloud, but you can see their presence in the piles of books we have.   Each library trip makes me smile because it is in the library that I particularly learn what my kids are questioning….what they are wrestling with.  There are also piles of projects around my home.  Collections of rocks, towers of tubes, and the occasional chemistry experiment in my kitchen. 

How are educators supposed to meet all the various needs, challenges, expectations, strengths, and weaknesses of our GT kids who are a very diverse bunch?  I think the new changes to the middle school GT program will address these issues and better meet the educational needs of students in the GT program.  The new middle school GT classes are going to teach my daughter (currently 6th grade) and someday my son how to explore things for themselves.  They are not going to focus on learning more facts quicker or give more homework.  They will take exploration to the next step of critical thinking about the implications of what they have learned and teach my kids how to communicate it to others.

Encourages Critical Thinking.  Along with the GT Math and GT Language Arts courses that will still be offered, I am particularly excited about the addition of GT Social Studies and GT Science classes.  Too often, social studies and science become classes about the past, memorizing facts and regurgitating information.  Our children need to be able to learn from the past, and apply the lessons to the future.   Leadership in our communities, whether PTO, city council, business, or the United Nations requires the ability to have new thoughts, to test them, and then to communicate them.  My daughter can memorize just about anything in only a few minutes.  She shines brightly in a traditional classroom where knowing facts gets the good grade.  But, she is being cheated if she is not allowed or required to apply those facts to some purpose. 

Challenges the GT student. I believe the middle school GT courses could be that long awaited challenge GT students have searched for.  They could find the GT courses more thought provoking, open ended, or even frustrating, especially if they like things definitive, black & white.  However, it is exactly those experiences that our kids should struggle thru and adapt to in middle school, rather than high school, college, or in adult life.  In my opinion, middle school is the perfect and safe place for GT students to stumble and succeed or run and fall.  The educational adversity and challenge these students may experience is healthy for any student, especially a GT student who may have always excelled in school.  What better time to gain this experience that will only better prepare them to succeed in high school, college, professional life and personal life. 

Prepares for future career.  Today’s education must prepare students for a future that we cannot predict because of the ever-changing global climate and technology.   Educators are preparing students for careers that don’t even exist yet.  Supplying and enabling them with the tools they will need to take on these “to be determined” jobs is a tall order but one that will be fulfilled in the middle school GT courses.  Careers certainly thrive when workers can learn, think, innovate, apply, and communicate thoughts for themselves.  The great medical breakthroughs, engineering feats, and new social policies all required the skills our kids will be exposed to in middle school GT classes. 

With the GT courses in the core areas of Social Studies, Math, Science and Language Arts, what a fantastic opportunity our GT students will have in middle school next year.  It is my hope that every GT student will take full advantage to push themselves to stretch their brainpower, looking at challenge and adversity head on during the manageable years of middle school, and by doing so, prepare for a future we have yet to predict.  I am excited about the changes happening in middle school and look forward to seeing the methods of teaching my daughter will experience.

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