Friday, October 22, 2010

Purpose and Passion Part 2

Teachers With Passion

We all know that our teachers can pass through their entire basic training without ever hearing about gifted education at all. Once out, they are faced with classes of maybe thirty students of wide-ranging ability and a good sprinkling of various learning and behavioural difficulties. How they deal with all this on top of getting our children through the curriculum to our satisfaction is, quite frankly, a miracle. When it comes to CPD, given that only 3% to 5% of children are gifted, I wouldn't imagine that gifted is too high up their priority list. Why would it be?

However, through Twitter, Dazzled and I have discovered a whole world of teachers with passion. These teachers are tweeting and blogging their hearts out. There are a few things which have struck me about them: they are engaging with each other to collaborate and share ideas, they are incredibly generous, they are innovative and open to new ideas. Most importantly, they very obviously LOVE what they do. Sometimes I sign into Twitter just to catch some of their infectious enthusiasm! I can only imagine what it must be like to be a student in one of their classrooms.

Whilst there are many teachers globally who are gifted and talented education specialists, I think most of the Irish ones are not. They probably have little idea about the niceties of gifted education theory. But, you know what? It doesn't matter. They are already well on the way to doing what our children need. They must surely be inspiring their students to love learning, just like they do. They are open to new ideas and that is where I feel parents have a role to play.

Unlike these teachers who must deal with every possible learning scenario, parents of gifted children have the luxury, if you will, of being able to focus on gifted issues alone. Given that it often seems to run in families, many parents of gifted children are themselves gifted. Which means that they tend to go at things which interest them with gusto and to learn quickly. Many are extremely well-informed when it comes to gifted education and psychology. However, what most of us don't have is training in education and knowledge of what happens or what works in our children's classrooms. 

It strikes me that if we could all work together, we could really make progress. For that to happen, parents must be prepared to speak up, but in a supportive and encouraging way. Teachers must accept that, whilst they are the educational professionals, parents sometimes have more knowledge in a particular field that they do. Sometimes parents can come across as pushy and critical and sometimes they are just that. But often, they are just frustrated.

In terms of provision for gifted education in Ireland, we have draft guidelines from the NCCA and the SESS has resources and a pilot project, Equality of Challenge. So, progress is being made and some groundwork has been done. However, in reality for the vast majority of us, nothing is happening. I propose that we stop waiting around for change and we just get on with it by connecting with each other and working together.

Twitter is a great place for this to begin. As one teacher commented: "For me Twitter is like the biggest staffroom in the world. Full of wonderful, inspirational, helpful people". Here is a tiny example of what our teachers are up to:

@HumphreyJones is a science teacher in St Columbas College in Dublin. He also has a blog

@TheFrogBlog is the science department of St Columba's  and has an award-winning blog, The Frog Blog.

@sccenglish is the English department of St Columba's has a fantastic English blog.

@physicsteacher, Noel Cunningham from King's Hospital School, has a superb physics blog:

@simonmlewis, Simon Lewis, is the Principal of Carlow Educate Together NS. He runs two sites which are fantastic resources for primary school teachers: and

If you ever need proof that Ireland has teachers with passion, check these guys out. I was completely blown away by how they tweeted and blogged all summer long...we even had some tweets from France! (Not sure how that went down with their wives...)

We all have so much to learn from each other. Through social media tools like Twitter and blogs, we have an opportunity like never before to really engage and collaborate; to dispel the myths and false ideas we have about each other. We all want the same thing: to support and encourage our children as they negotiate their way through our education system into adulthood. We need to support and encourage each other too.


  1. In my experience in the U.S. educational system, I think two issues need to be addressed in this discussion. More courses on gifted teaching at the university level need to be required for all teachers. Professional Development opportunities for established teachers is also important, but I have found that older teachers are extremely biased against any form of gifted ed. (atleast in the US) with the possible exception of those who have gifted children themselves.
    I applaud your efforts to establish gifted education in Ireland. Developing a knowledge-based economy would go a long way in helping Ireland to rebound from the recent economic decline (as would most countries).
    I also agree with your comments on finding inspiration on Twitter. :)
    Great post!

  2. Great post! I am so impressed with how online and active St Columba's are.

  3. Thanks Catherine & Claire for your kind words!