As a stay-at-home mom and parent of a gifted kindergartner, I found tremendous value in attending the NAGC 62nd Annual Convention in downtown Phoenix, November 12-15, 2015. Throughout the many breakout and general sessions, I experienced what NAGC Board President George Betts outlined as the three emphases for NAGC this year: educating and supporting the whole gifted child (developing the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical domains), supporting their parents, and really listening to NAGC members.
Here are my top 5 takeaways from the conference:
1. Boredom at home can lead to interesting explorations. Despite the multitude of enrichment classes and experiences available to our children, we need to let our gifted children get bored to foster resiliency and creativity. Before Joe Hudy, one of the general session speakers, graduated from Herberger Young Scholars Academy, became the youngest ever intern at Intel, or presented at 25 international Maker Faires, he got really bored at home and started making bottle rockets in the front yard. Gifted kids need time and space to discover themselves and their passions.
2. Social-emotional skills are better predictors of success than intellectual potential. We want our children to be successful and feel responsible for maximizing our children’s great potential. Our gifted children are capable in so many ways, and we need to remember that teaching them to navigate their own (sometimes very intense) emotional lives and engaging with others will better prepare them for their future than myriad academic achievements.
3. Educators embrace student self-advocacy. When I was a child, my teachers taught lessons from text books. Assignments were non-negotiable. I was surprised and impressed to learn that now students are encouraged to understand their individual learning styles and advocate for themselves in the classroom. They are empowered to speak up for themselves, have a right to learn in a way that makes sense for them, and can demonstrate knowledge in ways that are meaningful to them.
4. This is an amazing time to be a gifted child. The resources available to families of gifted children are bountiful. The amount of literature, online information, communities, enrichment classes, summer camps, toys, activities, etc. are plentiful. Clearly much more work can be done to meet the needs of all children, but the amount of research, programs, and understanding in this field has grown tremendously since my childhood. It’s also an amazing time to be a gifted parent, as attending events like this provides an opportunity for learning and productive self reflection.
5. We’re all in this together. The convention really was a “family reunion,” where everyone in the room understood that our family operates a little differently than other families. We were all familiar with Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities because of our daily experiences with our own students and children (even if we had never heard of anyone named Dabrowski prior to November 12th.) I was moved by the atmosphere of compassion and connection with parents, educators, and other experts of gifted children.
In conclusion, I was surprisingly intellectually and emotionally drained at the end of the convention and have ample material to work with until the next such opportunity. I am grateful for the dedication and creativity of the many people in this field who help gifted children all over the country oftentimes with limited resources. This experience has reinforced my gratitude that our son’s needs are being met through his gifted program at school and the many resources available for the inevitable changes and challenges that will arise.
The NAGC Annual Convention has left me with a clear understanding that this is an expanding field and growing community working for all of our gifted children and those who support them.
Jamie Houseweart is a parent at Desert Trails Elementary in the Paradise Valley Unified School District