Long-time readers of this blog know that I rarely post on Sundays. But in honor of the International Week of the Gifted, I wanted to say something about the importance of joyful learning communities that build something meaningful together for gifted learners of all ages.
I’m thinking of the gifted child I used to be, and of the two who share my DNA, as I write this. But I’m also thinking about so many students over the years, with different clusters and constellations of gifts. Some would be formally identified as academically and intellectually gifted, to use the terminology of my face-to-face teaching world; some wouldn’t. But it seems to me that almost everyone can benefit from a joyful learning community that builds something meaningful together. Sometimes highly-gifted learners need that kind of community most of all.
I was very fortunate to discover such a community, almost by accident, when I was a young teenager. For three weeks or so each summer, participants in Duke University’s Talent Identification Program came together from “all over the place” and rapidly, awkwardly, joyfully, fearfully, angrily, excitedly formed all kinds of learning communities. It was a mountaintop experience, and I’ve gathered from more recent participants that it still is one. (My own children have participated in the Talent Search, but not in the summer programs; Girl #1 has a complicated summer schedule, and she needs time and space for her non-academic passions, too. Boy #1 isn’t old enough to go yet.)
What made those long-ago summer weeks so special? And what was so special about the joyful learning communities I’ve belonged to since then? I’ve been very fortunate to find a lot of them, as an undergraduate, as a member of online groups of passionate, committed educators, and just last weekend in an experience I’ll be blogging about next week. I think there are some common features:
- These were very diverse groups. By no means were we “all the same” even to a casual glance. So we “mixed stuff together” on a regular basis, and we broke down the compartments and echo chambers.
- We had a shared purpose, or developed one quickly.
- We had a feeling that our time was constrained … or, if not our time, at least our resources.
- It was a “mountaintop experience,” but we didn’t stay on the mountaintop.
- We truly thought we were doing something remarkable together … and we were right.
- We made progress on our own journeys from novice to expert.
Both the Tres Columnae Project and the Three Column Schools are designed to be joyful learning communities that build something meaningful together. We think that’s important for everyone, but it’s so vital for gifted learners … especially the ones who haven’t ever experienced a real community or the opportunity to build together. The work is so important, and it needs to succeed. So as we build, and as we build community, it’s really important for us to build well and build to last.
What do we need to do to make that happen? And what would you like to do to become part of these communities?