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Katie4242 Katie4242 is offline
 
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Katie4242
 
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Substituting for gifted
Old 01-22-2015, 03:55 PM
 
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Hello! I am a first year substitute teacher. My daughter is enrolled in a gifted magnet school, and I only sub at her school, mostly for the gifted classes. So far I've thoroughly enjoyed guest teaching the students and have developed a great relationship with the teachers. My Aesop calendar is filled regularly, but sometimes I can't believe I get paid to do this!

Anyway, enough gushing. Like I said, I've had the best time substituting for the gifted classes. However, this week I've had a four-day assignment in a fifth grade class that's left me feeling a bit out of sorts. I've subbed once before for this class and had nothing but good things to say about them. They were a perfect class. And they seemed to like me, too. In fact, their teacher flagged me down back in December to take this assignment.

After being with them for four days, I have to say I have a slightly different opinion of them. I still like them very much and would definitely sub for them again, but I don't think my approach is working as well as it did the first day I was with them. I'm thinking it's because they know me now and have come out of their shell a bit. And I'm left not knowing quite how to relate to them. They're the oldest gifted kids in the school and of course are very intelligent, sophisticated thinkers. They're also independent self-starters and extremely hardworking.

All that being said, I've had a lot of trouble this week keeping them focused and on task. And transitioning has been pretty much a nightmare. I've had to continually quiet them down. During class grading of assignments, when one student asks a question, the whole class erupts. I've moved a couple of students out of the room, and I know I should have given them more consequences for their behavior. But, again, I've had trouble figuring out how to relate to them. One minute they're working quietly and the next they're bouncing off the walls. Are they fifth graders or first graders?

I have left all of this in my daily notes to their teacher. I hope she doesn't think I'm incompetent! Tomorrow I plan to do a table competition with them. Maybe that will help. My question is whether any of you gifted teachers have ever had trouble managing your older students? Is it better to relate to them as mature almost middle schoolers or meet them where they are any given day?

Also, I've found that some of the students tend to take sort of a snotty "tone" with me. It's pretty annoying and disrespectful, and I've rebuked them a couple of times, but it continues. I haven't experienced this snotting off in any of the other classes I've subbed for, and I don't like it. Have you experienced this and how do you deal with it?

Also, as a side question, have you ever botched a lesson and had them call you on it? I was teaching a mini math lesson that I hadn't prepped for as well as I should have. I put more of my focus on a more complicated lesson. As a result, I faltered in the middle of the lesson, they called me on it, and I got flustered and embarrassed. The rest of my lessons have been pretty much solid and gone well. But that one lesson has thrown me, and I can't help thinking they think I'm stupid! I even tried to teach it again the next day as a do over, got nervous and botched it again! It was like a scene from one of my nightmares! Please tell me this has happened to someone else!

Tomorrow is my last day with them, but I still would love to sub for them again. Any advice would help me get off on a better foot. Thank you in advance for all your thoughts and opinions. I know you're all so busy, and I appreciate your taking the time for a lowly sub.


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Old 01-24-2015, 09:00 AM
 
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I do gifted pull-out with first through fifth grade. Fifth graders are definitely my most challenging class. I deal with everything you described every week. You have to keep in mind where they are developmentally, despite their giftedness. Gifted does not necessarily mean mature. They are very social and they care less about what adults think than what their peers think. They love to talk, and more importantly, they love to hear themselves talk. There's nothing a gifted tween loves more than to "prove" they are smarter than everyone else in the room--especially the adults.

That having been said, I find that I have to be very clear about my expectations about every activity. If the work is to be done independently, that means no talking. Period. If work is to be done with partners or a group, they must use six inch voices and they are only allowed to talk to anyone outside of their group. If it is a whole group discussion, set parameters about not talking over one another and using respectful language (I see your point, however... Or I disagree because...). Be sure to mix things up. After working independently for 30-45 minutes, give them an activity during which they can socialize before moving on to the next independent activity.

During transitions, be very clear and precise about giving instructions. Never give instructions without having everyone's full attention. Have a signal--such as class, yes--to get their attention. Then tell them exactly what you expect. "Put your binders away, take out your math books and your math folder, and turn to page 121. Let's see which group can do this in less than twenty seconds. Go!" Count slowly to twenty, then immediately begin the lesson.

We all make mistakes, especially when teaching subjects out of our expertise. As soon as you've realized (or when one of the students points out) that you've messed up, go with it and use it as a teachable moment. The kids will think you messed up on purpose to try and trick them. "Does any notice anything wrong with this equation?" Or "What did you notice Kayley? I did that wrong? Can you explain to the class what's wrong? How would you fix it?"

Good luck, and thank for being willing to serve gifted children. I know a lot of subs are too intimidated to take those assignments.
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The problem is...
Old 01-24-2015, 05:35 PM
 
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they fifth graders! .

I taught a self-contained gifted fifth grade class for three years and it was the worst three years of my 25 years of teaching! They're very hormonal, and they will be fine one minute and bouncy/off task the next. The calling out bit is typical of gifted kids, especially the older they get, you learn to blow it off...

I had a friend who used to say fifth and sixth graders have Alice (eat me and grow big, eat me and grow small) syndrome - they're too old to be treated like kids.. and they're too young to be treated like young adults. They're constantly told you're too old to act that way, and then the next moment told you aren't old enough to do that...

It starts at the end of fourth grade - and they get a little better as they level out about middle of sixth (I've taught it all.. lol). But the entire fifth grade year, for me, was just miserable...
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Old 01-24-2015, 06:52 PM
 
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Thank you so much for both of your replies. Your insight into the mind of a gifted fifth grader is so very enlightening and made me feel much better about my experience with these guys.

I guess I went into the assignment thinking it would have very little to do with managing them, and I could just relax and enjoy them. They're super mature gifted kids, right? Boy, did they teach me a lesson! Next time I will be VERY clear about my expectations of them. There won't be any wiggle room.

The "teachable moment" suggestion is brilliant. I'm still feeling the burn from that crash, trust me. I guess I just have to learn to turn it around very quickly to minimize the damage. I kind of feel like I let them get the upper hand after that.

I can totally see their having the "Alice complex" and no doubt they're extremely social. And some of them could have cared less what I thought of them and made that fairly clear in their way. I've realized that teaching 1st-3rd graders and teaching 4th-5th graders are two totally different animals. The older kids are not going to run up and give you hugs, draw pictures for you, write you notes, ask when you're coming back, think you're just AMAZING. It's kind of ego blow! They do, however, appreciate a sharp wit, a good story and an occasional funny face. And, of course, to be asked about themselves.

I LOVE subbing for these exceptional children. Not to overstate it, but it's an honor to be with them. And I want to learn everything I can in order to do the best job for them, even if it's only for a short time.
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Old 01-28-2015, 12:44 PM
 
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, I came into gifted thinking the same thing...discipline wouldn't be an issue. I only see my groups for an hour a day mostly, but I have 7th and 8th graders for a whole day one day a week (today was that day). I've learned, at least with my students, that I have to be a combination of flexible and yet firm. I know that seems contradictory but I give them choices as much as possible, while I also have high expectations and firm rules. I've been teaching gifted (2nd-8th) for 7 years now and it's been my experience that these are the kids MOST likely to question a rule or find a loophole. They certainly can keep you on your toes!

They are also almost all highly verbal and energetic. That definitely took some getting used to at the beginning--lots more noise than I was used to--but now I've adapted. Sometimes we are too loud and I don't even notice. We are just doing our thing .

I don't have anything more to add to the age except this is when a few a my more mature students (puberty wise) will start losing some of their minds. Hormones start kicking in for a few at this age. I actually have more trouble with the 7th/8th graders. There's something about that age that makes them act in ways that they haven't done since they were in kindergarten.

I did want to say this about the lesson. During my studies for my master's, I remember reading that gifted kids don't need a teacher that is as smart as they are. They would rather have a teacher that cares for them and challenges them. I often make mistakes and some do get snotty about it, but I just shrug and let them know we all make mistakes at times. If I don't know something, I let them know that I don't know. My favorite line when a student asks me a question is "You know...I don't think I know that. Would you go look it up and tell me? I want to know too." Kids are going to know if you feel uncomfortable about not being as "smart" as they are, so my best advice is to learn to just be you and use it as a teachable moment.

Good luck! I love teaching gifted


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Old 01-29-2015, 04:37 PM
 
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Thank you so much, magoosmom! It does give me some more confidence knowing I don't have to be as smart as they are, and gifted teachers are allowed to make mistakes in their teaching. I think I knew that intellectually, but in practice, flubbing a lesson threw me for a loop.
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