February 25, 2010

My Research Paper in 500-600 Words

As requested by Brian, for the school newspaper.

Gifted education and why it's important in five hundred words. This should be interesting.

I'm not certain that I get an introduction, so I'll start with that:

I chose to write my junior year research program on gifted education. I wanted to do how to teach gifted kids- this turned out to be very complicated. I focused instead on what gifted programs are and why they're important.

Every child is unique; gifted kids just seem exceptionally so. They'll read Jane Eyre or The Origin of Species under their desks in elementary school, or absorb higher-level mathematics textbooks and learn computer programming before starting high school. They'll spot an interesting rock and spend the next three months reading geology textbooks with a flashlight after their parents have gone to bed.

A standard school curriculum, such as the middle school classes we all took together, is not enough to sate this curiosity. We've all been bored in class at one point or another- imagine if this boredom was every day. I interviewed former gifted kids (I suppose you'd call them gifted teens at this point) about how they cope with boring classes. Each offered a list of activities, including staring at the clock in such a way that six hands seem to appear, playing snake on calculators, filling notebooks with doodles, and-this is the one that shocked me, the classic physical activity-phobic nerd-discreetly exercising by contracting various muscles or doing calf raises, to the point that this particular student would experience muscle soreness the next day.

This boredom is more than just boring. It keeps students from learning new material. It also keeps them from learning good study habits, how to learn effectively, and how to face and defeat an academic challenge. Some students interviewed spoke of severe difficulty keeping up at all when they finally found a challenging class. Others looked at me blankly when asked how they dealt with a difficult course; they apparently hadn't found one yet. Challenge, however, is an important part of learning, and gifted students need to experience that challenge in order to have any intellectual growth.

There are many conflicting views about how best to provide that intellectual stimulation. The method most familiar to Paperclip students is likely the Workshop program at the town's elementary and middle schools. This is what is known as a pullout program. Kids miss class to attend it, and it meets once a week, a tiny percentage of time when compared to the hours spent staring a walls. That's the biggest issue with these programs- they simply aren't enough.

Another form of gifted education, and one that provides something much closer to enough, is so omnipresent at Paperclip that most students don't give it a second thought. However, academic classes separated by ability are...

I'll finish this later. I'm tired, and at this point, I really don't care.