You know how sometimes you just really, really, want a time machine? Go back to fix that oopsie, to pass on that delightful foot-in-mouth entree, that “wish I’d said THAT” incident? Yeah, I keep looking for A From The Future to come visit…just so I could borrow his time machine and go back about a week. That way I could have had a plan and 101 School Success Tools for Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities in hand as I walked into The Conference last week. As it is I’m handing it over to A’s main teacher and hope she doesn’t read too much into the underlined passages and heavily exclamation-pointed scribbles in the margins. 101SSTFSKWLD (hey, it’s a mouthful!) is simply what I wish I had had in my backpack of tricks walking into the room last week. The irony? Prufrock Press sent me the book to review in May. Let us file this under Moving Is A Big Bad Ugly Thing and never speak of it again.
Written by a quartet of gifted education specialists (Betty Roffman Shevits, Marisa Stemple, Linda Barnes-Robinson, Sue Jeweler), 101SSTFSKWLD is essentially a workbook for teachers who have 2e (or as described here, gifted/learning disabled) students. This does not mean that parents won’t gain valuable information from it. At the very least parents will be thrilled there is a handbook that can help teachers teach their GT/LD kids. The description of GT/LD kids was so spot-on that I thought they were describing A; this is kinda where I was scribbling!a!lot!in!the!margins! Ahem.
101SSTFSKWLD is broken into five sections, each with its own distinct focus. The first chapter, from a parent’s point of view, is essentially preaching to the choir. “Who are these kids” describes GT/LD in “educatorese.” We know who these kids are, they’re the ones living under our roofs that make our jaws drop on a regular basis; how we don’t all have TMJ is a miracle. But teachers often don’t know what a GT/LD kid looks like. From my own experience getting a teaching degree, I truly don’t remember covering anything about gifted kids, and certainly not 2e. So this gets teachers up to speed. And then another parent doesn’t have to sit in a conference and have a teacher ask, “Now what exactly is twice-exceptional?” Because it’s really hard for aforementioned parent to not ::facepalm:: in a situation like that.
The book moves on to “How do I find these kids?,” “How do I reach them?,” “How do I teach them?,” and “How do I keep the bright turned on?” The first three are pretty self-explanatory. With the use of guided worksheets (the tools of the title), teachers can hone their mental preparation and instructional planning for these students. I loved these tools. Most are for teachers, but some are for parents and even the students themselves. These 101 tools are the meat of the book. What I have found with so many other books is that you read and read and read, but then you’re left with what do I dooooo???? This book has almost none of that frustrated whine, and a whole lot of focused assistance as teachers navigate what is likely a new path. (I did a review of Christine Fonseca’s Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students last year that also got into the nitty gritty actions of what do I dooooo???? Very helpful book for parents. You really want that book, trust me.) The tools are designed to capture data for review; schools these days are all about measuring and recording data. They are obviously designed by teachers for teachers…parents don’t have the time and energy to record every last thing for later review when they just want the kid to sit down and do the homework for the love of all things holy before I lose my mind and go running down the street singing show tunes! Um…heh…sorry ’bout that. Moving on… As I was saying, great tools for teachers. Gathering and reviewing data simply makes it possible to tweak instruction for these kids without completely altering the classroom setup.
The last section, “How do I keep the bright turned on?,” was the most encouraging to me. You can do all this work to find them, reach them, and teach them…but if you don’t help GT/LD students continue to get the support they need as they continue through school, you just did a whole lotta work for nothing. It’s a lot easier to keep a ball rolling than to start it up again after it crashes into a wall and bounces around wildly. This section dives into advocating for your students, teaching students to advocate for themselves, and helping them learn the life skills they may be lacking. It also touches on paying it forward, by being a resource to other teachers who may have GT/LD kids in their classrooms.
I would love nothing more than for 101SSTFSKWLD be a yearlong professional development project in schools. I can’t see how the tools in this book could not improve all students. A rising tide raises all ships, as they say.
But, I’m not Queen of the World, so that’s not likely to happen. What is going to happen is that I’m giving away two copies of 101SSTFSKWLD, courtesy of Prufrock Press. No, you can’t have mine, it’s all scribbly and about to be loaned out to a certain 5th grade team. Just leave a comment here describing what you wish your school would do for your 2e kid. Dream big, go nuts. Thursday September 15th at noon central daylight time I will either finally figure out how to use a random number generator or Rosie the basset/beagle/corgi will be prodded awake and begged to pick two winners. Then you too can scribble away and nonchalantly hand it to a teacher saying, “I won this in a giveaway and after reading it thought it might help <child’s name>.” Or hand it to an administrator with a cup of coffee and a pleading look and a promise for home baked goodies if it’s used for professional development. Can’t hurt, might help.
Many thanks to Prufrock Press for the three copies of 101SSTFSKWLD they provided, and for the incredible patience they displayed with my moving/general chaos that interfered with me reviewing this book in a more timely manner.