Knowing a large segment of our school population is identified as gifted, parents often come in with questions about young children:
I am always happy to discuss your child's individual learning profile and to help guide you on whether any kind of outside assessment or program modifications are warranted. And, some of your questions may be answered in our January Giftedness 101 workshop. However, here are some possible signs of giftedness in young children.
When very young children demonstrate precocious behaviors, such as seeming to understand words and adult conversations that are beyond their years, or strong interest in things and topics that generally interest older children, this can be a sign a child might be gifted. Below are some characteristics that can be signs of giftedness in very young children. The earlier any of the behaviors are exhibited, the more likely the child may be highly to exceptionally gifted. These lists are merely guidelines; not all behaviors need to be present to indicate probable gifted-level intellect.
Birth to 4 months
4 months to one year
One year to 18 months
18 months to 2 years
Two to three years
Three to four years
Four to five years
Summary: Gifted preschool children tend to initiate their own learning. In fact, their curiosity is one hallmark of their high intelligence. Although strong parental or preschool involvement and instruction can support any child’s acquisition of academic skills, gifted children will gain those skills at a noticeably faster rate than typically developing children.
What do they think, and what do we do with that information?
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to serve on a WASC Accreditation Committee, conducting an in-depth evaluation of another school. I spent three days on campus meeting with the school’s leadership team and parents, observing teachers/students, and learning what their program is all about. I enjoyed serving on the committee and gaining some wonderful insights into their program. But, it also reinforced how special and outstanding our program and community are. This year, our school is also renewing our WASC accreditation, and I can’t wait for the committee to come see what we are all about.
What is WASC Really Looking at?
We develop a self-study and action plan, outlining our goals for the next six years, addressing the areas below. These goals are based on feedback from: students, parents, teachers and the leadership team.
Part of our self-study includes a student survey, which we recently conducted with the entire elementary school. We asked students about their school experience. You can find a list of the questions here. I am sharing some data from the survey (a full analysis will be included in the WASC report available to parents this spring).
Further expansion of the leveled library has already been added to our next action plan for Resource Management. The above questions reflect just one small example of how feedback (in this case from students) is used in shaping our goals.
I DARE you to read this last part and not smile!
In the survey we asked students the following open ended questions. Students were not required to answer. Here are all the answers we received (click the links to find out what they said).
You can learn more about our action plan and goals throughout the year. And, I strongly encourage you to come meet with our Accreditation Committee when they are on campus this Match. Stay tuned for more information.
Student Survey Responses
about WHPS is...
we could learn about is...
My parents love the school and when they meet the kids they felt that all the kids feel happy.
Because they want me to learn a lot.
It's a good school and the last school was the worst.
Because I am on level.
Because it is close to my house.
I chose this school because my best friend from preschool was going to it.
Because my family wants me to learn a lot and for me to go to a good school.
It is a safe environment.
Because it is a really good school and it’s a private school.
Because it was a smaller, calmer, easier, school.
This school is fun.
My brother went to this school.
I think they think that it is safe.
Everyone is nice and no bullying.
Because it has better education than public schools and we have friends that go to this school and everybody is very respectful.
It is a good school.
It is a good private school and is close to my house.
Because it is a great school and I can learn a lot.
Because I think that it is a very good campus to learn.
My family chose this school because my TK and kindergarten best friend came to this school.
Homework, better education, closer to home.
Because it has a lot of different subjects.
We have been her for 6 years.
It does grade ahead work. Everyone is united and is a friend.
Because it's nice.
Because it's a private school.
Because it was big.
Because I will learn more.
Because they liked it.
Because they thought this was a good school for me to learn.
Because another school wouldn't let me go in 1st grade.
Because I was in a bad school and then they saw WHPS.
They thought it would be awesome.
Because it's good for me.
Because they want me to learn more.
Because they saw it and they thought it was going to be a great school.
Because they are so kind to me.
Because they liked it.
Most of the things I need to learn - books, math makes me smart. Not too much fun.
Because they like it for me.
Because it’s new and they want me to learn new things.
To have fun be good and learn. This school is really helpful.
It's a good school and a nice place to learn.
Because my cousin goes to the other campus.
Because it's a good school.
Big school and I like it.
Because it's a big school and it's good for me.
The wanted me to be at a good school.
It's the right school for me.
Because it has a lot of nice teachers and is really expensive and I love it.
Because they think I will like it a lot.
Because I'm a good listener at school.
Because I was here in preschool.
Because I’m happy.
They were good friends.
I wanted to come to this school.
It was good for me.
They like it.
It's super good and I'm not grumpy when I leave school.
They didn't like schools that were different.
It's a nice school.
Because it has nice play yards.
Because it's nice people here.
I'm not sure.
Because they went to school when they were kids.
Because my brother went here.
Because I love it here.
Its name is Woodland Hills Private School.
That they didn’t want me to wear a school uniform.
It’s a good school and I will have fun and learn.
It is close to our house.
Because WHPS is the best school ever.
It was a good school.
It is good for me.
Because I have been at this school for my whole life.
I don’t know.
They saw a commercial and decided to put me into it.
I think that they love this school so much.
So I could be with my brother.
It is a great school.
It is very close to my house and it is private.
Because I like animals.
Because WHPS is close to my house.
Great teachers and everybody is friendly.
The basketball hoops.
It is a fun place.
Either the barnyard or the cool specialist classes.
It teaches me a lot about subjects.
Is the friends that I made.
My friends and the games and teachers.
It feels like home.
The education system.
P.E. (thx coach) everybody is nice and very respectful smart and helpful.
The supportive teachers.
The friends and teachers I have.
It is fun.
All the people and students are very nice and caring and are super kind.
P.E & Computers & Math.
It has a good time for the school day.
That we have a pool.
That I have friends.
I get to play with my friends.
I went to Collins campus.
Going to barnyard.
When I get to see my sister.
That we get to learn a lot.
We get to play at PE, recess, snack and lunch.
We do art.
I get to play with friends.
A lot of math.
Get to have fun.
Computer and art more often.
Fun and helpful for me to learn.
Making new friends.
Ms. Tripp is my teacher and I love her.
Lots of books.
Playing on the playground.
That there's so much to do.
Hugging Miss Kasey.
Playing with Samaara.
Sometimes we have PE.
Being nice to others.
Writers workshop and computers.
Math, recess and lunch.
That I can make new friends and play with them.
The subjects, the people , the teachers, but mostly everything!
The barnyard and to meet and socialize with other kids to make new friends. The extremely nice teachers and the curriculum to find the perfect level of reading, math and special abilities to help kids learn.
I love having friends at this school.
They have nice teachers
To see my friends.
That they help us in math.
I love writers workshop.
The teachers and the animals.
PE because we run a lot and it's super fun.
I have a lot of friends.
I can learn.
Is that the school is safe for me.
What happens after life.
9th grade math.
The history of sports in P.E.
How to type faster.
I don't know. They already teach so many cool things.
Beginning of Earth.
I like everything.
A lot of experiments.
Royals and leaders of other countries.
What is going on all around us.
More weird things in science.
Harder math topics.
Probably more social studies.
Other countries via multicultural night.
How to make crystal candy.
6th grade math in 4th grade.
Geology and physics.
Learn about how air is not in space and how air got to Earth.
Counting to 100 in Spanish.
How rockets go into space.
What stuff is made of.
Learn more about school.
Learning how to count to 100.
Being more helpful.
Having a gym.
To make pumpkins into jackolanterns.
How to tie my shoe.
Do more writing on the computer.
Doing math faster.
Kitties and rainbows and puppies and hamsters.
Nature and my body.
To learn about the Earth.
Getting better at tipping.
I wish WHPS had a bigger computer lab.
Learning about how to feed baby animals.
Space, planets, and black holes.
Famous people’s art.
It’s not just about being politically correct
Our language shapes our attitudes; our attitudes shape our language; they're intertwined. If you’ve been reading my newsletter and blog articles over the years, you know how strongly I feel that the specific words we choose can impact a child's mindset, motivation, self-image, and the likelihood they may comply with what’s being asked of them. Language also has significant implications in how we teach children to perceive others. Using person-first language is one way we convey respect and dignity to people and avoid teaching children implicit bias.
What is Person-First Language?
Quite simply, it means putting the person first when talking about someone. Person-first language avoids using labels or adjectives to define someone, utilizing terms such as "a person with diabetes or "a person with dyslexia instead of a diabetic or a dyselxic. The intention is for a person to be seen foremost as a person and only secondly as a person with some trait. Here are some examples:
Person-first language originated in the education and disability communities. It has become more present, though I would argue not as ubiquitous as it should be, in journalism and media and in the legal code.
When journalists and editors remember to use person-first language (or focus more explicitly on the person, not their traits), it can help reduce bias in the media.
Think about these three sentences:
Like it or not, our own implicit bias kicks in when race, gender, weight, age, religion or other factors are involved. The topics of bias and representation are complex and will be discussed in other blog posts and conversations. The point being that careful word choice has power.
The legal system is also gradually evolving. Just this year, AB 46 was signed into California law, replacing derogatory and stigmatizing terms such as crazy, lunatic, insane, feeble-minded, mentally defective, and abnormal (which were part of the legal code until 2019!) with terms less rooted in negative stereotypes, such as: a person experiencing a mental health disorder.
Learning Profile & Personality Profile
In our school, in addition to striving to always use person-first language, we use the terminology: learning profile or personality profile. We work with a lot of gifted (about 1 in 5 WHPS students) and highly intellectual children and also children who experience a variety of learning differences or are on the autism spectrum. We find that viewing these traits as part of the child’s learning and/or personality profile helps to acknowledge that giftedness, high IQ, anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing, speech/language disorders, dyslexia or autism are only one, of many, aspects of the child’s learning or personality profile.
My closing thought...
We can't always get it right, but we should make our best effort to use person-first and respectful language intentionally. If you're not sure, try talking like a [good] journalist: focus explicitly on the person, not their traits. If you are talking to your child about that boy in their class. Consider just calling him the boy rather than adding (autistic, gifted, Black, Spanish-speaking, epileptic, gay, Muslim, etc.). It's a small language shift that could reduce some of the implicit bias we pass along to our kids.
Identity-first language is preferred by some people in the autism community. While many autism advocacy groups support using person-first language (in general), there are different opinions about person-first language as it pertains to the autism community.
In the autism community, some self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “autistic,” “autistic person,” or “autistic individual” because they see autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity. They feel is impossible to affirm the value and worth of an autistic person without recognizing his or her identity as an autistic person. Some of these advocates assert that referring to someone as “a person with autism,” or “an individual with ASD” is demeaning because it implies that it is unfortunate and an accident that a person is autistic. These advocates say that using person-first language implies that the person has value and worth, and that autism is entirely separate from what gives him or her value and worth. Most of these advocates are careful to point out that they don't reject the principles of person-first language, rather, they reject the assumption that autism is an affliction.
Positive v. Negative Stigma
These advocates often point out that (in general) we don't separate traits like "winner," saying, "person who has won," because winning is not regarded as a negative that should be untangled from someone's identity. The argument above treats autism similarly: it is not a negative to be untangled from an autistic person's identity; therefore the use of person-first language may be misguided in this particular context. Person-first language aims to separate disabilities and other negative characteristics from people: this intention to be respectful may backfire if it demonstrates that the person writing or speaking regards the characteristic negatively when the person being described does not.
A little bucketfilling for the week! In our September 2019 newsletter, we will be sharing some of the results of our 2019 parent survey. At the end of that survey, parents had an opportunity to tell us what they think the best part of WHPS is. Here is a full list of parent responses (including a few teacher shout-outs). We appreciate the positive feedback as well as some of your suggestions for making WHPS even better in the future. Stay tuned for more information in this month's newsletter.
The best part about WHPS is...