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New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.

 

Black holes, Summer Light and a Dragon:  

The dark and light of transitioning learners into the new school year

 

 

 

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua  

My past is my present is my future. I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past.  

 

 

Transitions can be Tough

Let me just start by acknowledging that transitions can be tough. The beginning of a new school year - possibly a new school, probably a new teacher, new rhythms, routines and expectations and new classmates - it's anxiety provoking at the best of times, for students and for their families. Let's face it. The unknown can be scary. Yet on the other hand...it is the unknown which can also give us hope. 

If you carry with you, shadows of heart-break from the experiences of previous years, then you will no doubt be hoping with all your might, for a good fit for your child this time round. A classroom in which your child feels they are understood and valued, has an unwavering sense of safety and belonging, and where they have consistent opportunities to truly be learning. We at the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education are right there with you, hoping for the very same outcomes for your child in their new school year! 

 

Perspectives on Light and Dark

But let's not linger on these unknowns for too long. I am sure you have spent enough time pondering these very things over the (so-called) summer while the kids have had school holidays. So let me instead present you with a brief interlude, a journey to another time and place to consider a juxtaposition in science; light and dark. Before we begin however, whether you revel in the theory of "dark-suckers" or tend toward the prevailing notion of "light-emitters", I ask you to consider this...are light and dark truly opposing in nature?   

Dr. John Muntean states that "Our scientific interpretation of nature often depends upon our point of view. Perspective matters." Black holes are a great example of this when we think about the role of light and dark. While we cannot see the black hole per se, the faint ring of light around a region of darkness in space, which curiously is referred to as a black holes shadow, allows us to infer its presence and begin to recognise and understand its unique qualities.  

 

Tools and Knowledge 

Clearly we need to have the tools at hand to be able to look to begin with, as well as knowing where to look and what we are actually looking for in order to recognise it, and this applies to in our classrooms as much as it does in space. The right tools and approaches are needed as is the knowledge of what to look for. In the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education MindPlus, Small Poppies and Gifted Online programmes this means specialist educators trained in gifted and talented education who provide a learning environment responsive to the individual strengths, interests and learning needs of students, where strengths-based practice lays the foundation for children to thrive.  

As poet and professor Dorianne Laux so eloquently puts it; Our shadow follows us, or walks before us, or stands under our feet, our other self, the only one we cannot run from. Just as with black holes, it is necessary to look for "shadows" so that a child can be understood more holistically. Take a moment to watch the following video about a shadow sculpture made out of Lego. Metaphorically the sculpture is a child and the lights are representative of the the perspectives of you and your child's teacher (I will let you reflect on who might see the dragon and who might see the butterfly!).  

 

 

 

At times it can seem that when we have a conversation with a teacher (or principal) (or receive a school report) that you are talking about different children. It can seem incomprehensible - to both parties - yet it is really a simple matter or context and perspective, as we can see in the video.  At times this may stem from seeing what is being looked for, rather than noticing what actually is. This is what makes it so important for us as whānau to be able to work collaboratively with the teacher (and specialists) as a team approach, to be able to have what can admittedly at times, be very difficult conversations. 

 

Continuity of Understanding and Learning Contexts

Does the very idea of this make your stomach begin to knot? Are those shadows of heart-break from previous experiences looming over-head ominously as I suggest this? Even as a specialist educator in giftedness and talent, this is how I feel at the start of a new school year with my own children. That gnawing fear that the teacher won't be receptive to hearing what we see in our child at home if/when it is vastly different from what is seen in the classroom.  But what got me through were three things for which I am ever grateful.  

  • I was grateful that my child had the continuity of attending a one-day a week gifted programme where he felt understood, found his fit and was learning at his pace and in an enjoyable and engaging way. The start of the year came with the knowledge that this  safe space was guaranteed. 
  • I was grateful that I had one teacher who I knew would definitely understand and be open to conversations about the abilities, qualities and needs of my child - and the challenges of parenting that come with this - yeah, you know what I mean!  
  • Thirdly, I was grateful that at the beginning of each year came new hope and the chance for fresh beginnings for my child in the regular school environment. The hope for a teacher who was knowledgeable, or willing to learn about, the characteristics of giftedness, who would welcome us and our knowledge and the experiences of our child, and who would strive to meet the unique needs that stem from this different way of experiencing and responding to the world. 

 

When we look up into the night sky, it is said that we are looking into the past. Let us walk backwards into the future, looking into the shadows and hearing the voices of the past, together drawing on what we and others have learnt so that collectively we are better equipped to "raise up, to bring the light" and create a brighter future for our gifted youngsters. With the combined understanding and families and educators, we can help our kids who are gifted to be recognised and valued for who they truly are so that they have the opportunities and support that they each need in the school year ahead. 

 

"I still hear your voice, echoing through the starry sky, out of the shadows. Summer light, summer light, summer drifting up, drifting to distort the sky, reflect the sun, raising up to bring the light." 

Thoughtful strategies and management enable the shadows to dance with the light.

 

 

Bonus links - creativity with shadows.

Shadow doodles and a shadow dance with violinist Lindsey Stirling.

 

 

'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.

 

We would love to hear from you.  Grab a virtual cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.

 

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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

 

Image Credit: Junk Image by Keven is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Black holes, summer light and a dragon

 
 
 
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