O.A.G.C. Conference

I attended the O.A.G.C. Conference this past Monday and Tuesday. While some of the presentations obviously target teachers and educators more than parents, there was no lack of items of interest. In fact for some of the time periods I was forced to make tough decisions between several desirable options. Sometimes I even chose a teacher-targeted option: after all, it’s good to look through someone else’s eyes on occasion.

I did not attend the Sunday Parent Fair. Perhaps we can get someone else to report their experience there. From my experience at the larger conference, I would assume that the Parent Conference might be a “best buy” for many of you next year. It does not require the commitment in dollars or time – just a Sunday afternoon; and it features program items targeted to parents.

The Monday keynote by Del Siegle (“Getting to the Heart of the Matter: What I’ve Learned from Gifted Students”) was a good key note, as it echoed in other presentations! Dr. Siegle drew on his experience as a teacher as well as his academic studies, with observations and suggestions that rang true to me. He spoke at length about the diversity of gifted kids, their learning styles, interests, and motivations. He noted that kids don’t always love learning everything(!), and can be motivated to seek mastery and/or to seek intellectual stimulation. He encouraged those working with our kids to “service the strength.”

Perhaps one of the best things Siegle said was that students need to know about their giftedness, but then also take responsibility for it. In accord with what I experienced in another workshop about perfectionism, this knowing about giftedness should be more about learning to develop gifts into talents. The problem here is that a kid who believes giftedness is “set” will get caught up into performing just to perform, and lose the joy. Every challenge then becomes a “test” which challenges his/her identity. (Think of testing mania!) Conversely, a kid who believes that abilities are malleable will approach learning and mastery for the challenge and joy of it, and will want to tackle new things. (Hence giftedness does not mean “everything must come easy, or I’ve failed.” It means that if I’m willing to invest the effort, amazing things are possible!)

Another notable presenter was Nathan Levy. Now a vendor of materials for GT ed., Levy spent many years in the trenches in some of the most challenging New York City schools. His “Stories with Holes” (sort of like riddles) were shown as a tool to develop a culture of learning, where kids learn to speak up, take chances, know that it’s good to think “outside the school day,” and get “caught being good.” On the perfectionism trap, Levy observed: “Excellence is not equal to perfection.” Levy tried his methodology on the audience, with his Socratic challenging that reminded me of a professor I once had: you don’t dare quit paying attention in his class, but if you don’t get the answer right away, you try and try again.

There were also presentations by teachers of how they had approached certain projects for “differentiated” learning with groups of children with diverse gifts. For example, one team used the process of planning construction of a youth center to teach a diverse group of students many math skills. Project learning can be so much better than drill and fill! There was also a presentation by the developer of the Model United Nations. In all these things we find the students actively engaged in their learning, learning not just facts, but processes – including how to figure out other things in the future.

If you would like to rummage through O.A.G.C. 2006 Fall Conference Documents including Exhibitor Keynote Speaker and Small Session Information, you may find them on the O.A.G.C. website:
The information has been taken down, as promised, as of December 2006. if there is something that you particularly want to see, ask. Some of us have some of the information.