I thought back to one of the screeners my district uses to help identify students for testing for the Talented and Gifted Program called CISS. During this process, teachers observe students and see if they have any of the following characteristics: motivation, interests, communication skills, problem solving abilities, memory, inquiry, insight, reasoning, creativity, and humor. They check off the areas they can see students display. His teacher, another teacher, and myself were around each other and the student came up in conversation. I mentioned to his teacher, "I think he shows signs of giftedness." When I mentioned that one phrase, the teacher immediately grew enraged and upset. The teacher responded with, "No. He is not." So I continued by saying, "I think he shows signs of it. My friend and mentor was a TAG teacher and we have had many conversations about what giftedness looks like. Just because the behavior is not always displayed positively does not mean he does does not show signs of giftedness. He can be out of the box with his thinking." Teacher's response: "He is not out of the box with this thinking. I know what giftedness looks like. I went to school for education. I know giftedness does not always have to be displayed positively. He does not think outside the box." I could tell that conversation was going no where so I simply ended it with this, "Well keep in mind, how are you going to push him this year to help him think outside the box?" The teacher eventually got up and walked out.
As I talked to the other teacher in the room. This particular teacher pointed out how they can see this child shows signs of giftedness. The child has been sent to this teacher's room before. The teacher gave the child some paper and allowed him to create whatever he wanted. Only using paper, scissors, glue, and crayons (think color pencils) he pretty much created a 2-D robot that can move...nearly life size. That shows he has several of those characteristics I wrote previously about with the CISS process. After conversing for a moment with the other teacher, I began to think.
The teacher of this student is not of the same culture as him. Let's remember, culture does not encompass race. There is a difference between culture and race; although at times, race can have its own cultural experiences. For the teacher, I thought it was interesting they had to throw in, "I went to school for this. I know what giftedness looks like." Many educators typically do go to school for education; however, giftedness is typically a separate program and requires an endorsement or certification in order for a teacher to teach it. Also for this particular teacher, where they did their student teaching experience and where they work looks completely different. I can relate because my demographics were pretty much the same where I did student teaching. I worked around predominately white, upper middle class families, where parents appear to place value on education, who were very involved, and again very well off financially (e.g. parents were engineers, college professors, etc.). Well that is complete contrast to the demographic of students we both work with now. It is a very different culture. Not to say parents don't care about their child's education; however, too many life circumstances take precedence over things that we feel should matter. Having been in this environment for a while now and have gotten students qualified for this process and who made it in, I do know what giftedness looks like to an extent!
Too make a long story short, this has taught me several things. One, I will be working with this student myself to make sure he is pushed. Thank God for my new role. Two, identify your bias and work on it. Another thing, as educators, we have to start learning to push students to think more critically. If we do not see they have certain skills, how are we going to scaffold students so they have certain traits beyond content standards? The most important lesson this taught me though was, we do not know everything as educators, especially during your first year of teaching. Listen to what others have to say. As I type this, I can't help but think about another critical lesson, "Never underestimate the power of a child's mind." Stop placing limits on kids and what they can't do!