Amidst the seemingly endless parade of art projects, desk clean-outs, and partially depleted school supplies that have been coming home over the past few weeks, my son brought home a portfolio of his work from his Gifted Support program. My wife and I sat down to look at the contents this weekend and, of course, were very proud of both the quality and creativity of the work, as well as the progress our son has made over the course of the year (especially with regard to his handwriting; he’s definitely my son in that regard). As a point of reference for the reader, my son was in second grade this year.
Beyond my son’s work, however, what impressed me was the structure and the content of the portfolio assignment; i.e., what the teacher asked the students to do, both in terms of class activities and their own reflection on the learning process. Among other things, I noticed evidence of ongoing reflection, particularly on using different strategies to solve problems. There were multiple references to Paideia seminars, as well as discrete examples of how to generalize skills learned through these units into everyday situations. Clearly, both my son and his teacher did a lot of thinking about thinking and learning this year, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Where I get a bit tripped up is wondering how many students in the general education setting, who don’t have the benefit of this sort of instruction outlined in a GIEP, get that kind of metacognitive approach to learning? I don’t necessarily mean in my son’s district, but across the board – why are we limiting this beneficial instruction to a subset of students? I’m glad my son has that exposure, but really, could that not benefit all students, not just those labeled as gifted?
I also wonder how the overall instructional model will change, if at all, in third grade next year, when my son and his classmates will take the PSSA exams for the first (but sadly, not the last) time. I have no reason to believe it will impact my son’s Gifted Support program, but I’ll be interested to see if/how the shadow of this test impacts his general education classroom experience. Will there be fewer projects and more skill drills? What percentage of the year will be comprised of practice tests?
I don’t really have any solid answers to offer in this post; it’s really me just spilling some of my thoughts and concerns. They’re not even about my son’s district in particular, but more about the state of education in general. It’s one thing to think and write about this stuff from a professional perspective, but there’s another layer added to it when not only your profession and livelihood, but also the educational well-being of your own kids, are impacted.