Year: 1996-1997
Month: November
Leader: Group C

Situation/Case Study:

The teacher is the gifted/talented coordinator for her district. She is concerned about a seventh-grade student that she has been working with. The student was identified by both his parents and his teachers as being at risk due to his uniqueness. In addition to scoring a 99% on an ability achievement test, the boy is very unusual in other ways, too. He is very small in stature and carries all of his school belongings with him all day in his backpack, making him an odd looking sight. He does not want to go to school. He is incredibly disorganized, has poor social skills and makes inappropriate comments (i.e., "I am a serial killer.") As a result, he has few, if any, friends. The other students in his classes frequently tease him. One of his teachers said that she is afraid to call on him because of his inappropriate and unpredictable comments. The teacher is concerned about what her role as a specialist should be.

A teacher in this situation might... 1. create as much constructive peer interaction as is appropriate. 2. draw on the more accepting students in the classroom to strengthen the child's feelings of approval among his peers. 3. talk with the student's former teachers. 4.create a mentor relationship with another adult or another student in the building. 5. feel intimidated, frustrated, and concerned. 6. anxious and afraid that she might step on someone else's toes. 7. feel frustrated. Is there any medical background for his inability to attend? 8. feel frustrated at the way in which this student interacts with the other seventh-grade students. 9. try to connect with the student on a personal level. He seems to be looking for a sense of belonging. 10. feel intimidated by the student's ability. 11. feel anxious about getting things turned around before the student goes too far downhill.

Theories behind practice:
Belonging. Self fulfilling prophecy. Peer tutoring. Learning styles theories peer mentoring.

Impact on others:
1. Highly gifted student. 2. Unusual/asocial behaviors of the student. 3. Feelings of confusion on the part of the teacher.

1.A more individualized curriculum is needed for this student. 2. The boy needs to feel that he "belongs" in this setting. 3. He may need to feel more control over his learning-- how would he design his day? 4. He may not need other people in the traditional way; maybe he doesn't need to fit in. 5. Positive outlets for his extraordinary talents should be recommended--scouting, Odyssey of the Mind, peer mentoring, etc. 6. The fact that his parents recently divorced may have had a big impact on him-- this should be explored.

The routine seems to have been established for the group. They know what it is and accept it. Today for the first time, one of the mentors acted as the group facilitator. I think it added to the entire process. It certainly made it easier for me to take better notes. At the end of the session I asked for a volunteer for a facilitator for next month, reluctantly another mentor agreed to give it a try. Then after the session, one of the mentees came up to me and volunteered to facilitate the January meeting. I was thrilled! I was pleased because the incident that was discussed today was not one of the mentees'. An experienced teacher's incident was analyzed. I think this was an important learning event for everyone-- this showed that support and guidance are needed throughout one's career. I am in awe of the group's thoughtful and respectful responses to all of the incidents. They have certainly added to repertoire of information. The side comments and tangents are helpful, too. Today, one of the more experienced teachers reminded the group that we are approaching a very stressful time of year for both students and faculty. Depression, tension, anxiety-- all of these are more apparent during the holidays. I had not wanted to go to the meeting today because there was quite a heavy snowstorm. It took me about an hour and a quarter to get there and then two-and-a-half hours to get home. I spent a half an hour just on a freeway ramp. Despite of all that, I was very glad that I had gone. The session went really well. The group is coming together more now. There is only one mentee that is still quite reticent. (I strongly identify with her. I know that I would have responded much as she does. She is pleasant and participative but very quiet.) I am going to try to coax the process in a way that will encourage her to be more outwardly engaged. I am starting to feel more a part of the group, too.