Have a safe and fun summer!  I hope to see you in August! 

Dear SIGNET students:  I have listed a few enrichment activities on the main page and center websites below if you select to do them.  These are optional and never required.  Email me with any questions at lilleysf@pwcs.edu.  I would love to hear from you and your progress in your chosen center.  

8th Grade SIGNET students:  The majority of you have finished your Pop Culture Unit with outstanding three-dimensional project boards.  I will display them in the display cases when we return to school.  If you would like these projects, please email me.    We can arrange a time for you to pick them up in the main office when school reopens.  

7th Grade SIGNET students:  You have successfully completed your 3rd quarter Centers.  I am very proud of you.  I will return all your work and Progress Reports when school resumes.  Good job this 3rd-9 weeks!

I am looking forward to seeing you again when school resumes! 
 
For additional enrichment activities: 
Type this link in your browser to locate centers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MSaw31GxkM


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Parents, 

An interesting article to read entitled, "Motivation, Gifted Children and Underachievement" by Dr. Christy McGee


parent to parent

Motivation, Gifted Children, andUnderachievement

By Dr. Christy D. McGee, Chair, Parent and Community Network

In previous columns, I have written about self-determination and self-advocacy. Briefly, self-determined children realize that they have a right to control areas of their lives and that they can make decisions that affect their lives. Children who are able to self-advocate can verbalize their needs to others in a positive and effective manner. Self- determination and self-advocacy are two legs of a triangle that support a positive self-concept; the third leg is motivation. One of the myths concerning gifted children is that they are all motivated to learn. Let’s think about that stereotype for a moment. Isn’t assuming that all chil- dren are motivated to learn the same as automatically thinking that because a female is tall she is a talented basketball player? Ridiculous isn’t it? Gifted students, just like other students, don’t fall under a neat little umbrella of the perfect students who are self-determined, able to advocate for themselves, and highly motivated to learn. Research- ers have shown that high academic capability and motivation do not necessarily go hand in hand (McCoach & Siegle, 2003; Reis & Mc- Coach, 2000; Schick & Phillipson, 2009; Siegle & McCoach, 2009;).

Highly capable children are not always motivated by the task at hand during the school day. Underachieving gifted children often utter the dreaded three-word phrase, “I am bored.” When parents hear “I am bored,” they may be quick to set up a conference with the teacher to explain their child’s plight. Perhaps parents hurry in because they need some explanation for some of the behaviors they see at home. At the conference they hear that their child isn’t living up to his or her full potential. It can become a vicious cycle of accusations and acrimony for everyone involved. I know—I have lived this scenario with my own son and it was not fun.

When my son was in school, I knew nothing about gifted educa- tion. I knew he was really smart and really, really frustrated. We took him to physicians and psychologists. We found out that he was highly verbal, cerebral in his thinking, charming, slightly dysthymic, and seemingly not motivated. It didn’t matter that he was an excellent au- ditory learner. It didn’t matter that he was artistically gifted and could draw and paint far beyond others of his age. He loved to draw and read, but he just was not motivated or self-determined. We tried medi-

cation, but he hated the way it made him feel. We tried to reach him, but he just could not seem to push himself to complete projects. We organized him and, looking back, harangued him to no avail. School wasn’t exciting, except for that time in seventh grade when his special activities class was charged with redesigning the school cafeteria. For those 6 weeks, he was on fire. He took photos, sketched possible ar- rangements, measured, and drew plans. When the class was over, he went back to his lack of interest and lack of motivation for school.

Underachievement in gifted children is so difficult for educa- tors and parents to understand and address. Reis and McCoach (2000) defined underachieving students as follows:

Underachievers are students who exhibit a severe discrep- ancy between expected achievement (as measured by stan- dardized achievement test scores or cognitive or intellectual ability assessments) and actual achievement (as measured by class grades and teacher evaluations). To be classified as an underachiever, the discrepancy between expected and actual achievement must not be the direct result of a diag- nosed learning disability and must persist over an extend period of time. Gifted underachievers are underachievers who exhibit superior test scores on measures of expected achievement (i.e., standardized achievement test scores or cognitive or intellectual ability assessments). (p. 157)

It also is important to note that before analyzing a student’s motivation and passing judgment on underachievement that the student should be screened for other causes for the apparent lack of motivation including emotional, mental, or physical impair- ments (Reis & McCoach, 2002). Students with depression, dys- thymia, ADHD, or behavior issues sometimes find it difficult to focus their interest on even the most interesting and exciting tasks. Consultations with physicians, psychologists, or psychia- trists can certainly assist parents in deciding the best avenue for their child’s well-being.

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Siegle and McCoach (2009) indicated several causes of under- achievement, inlcuding initiating situation, excessive power, in- consistence and opposition, and value conflicts. Self-examination is never fun, but as I look back on my own son’s life I realize that there was evidence of three of these causes in our family dynamics. With that said, our home was also full of love and acceptance, but those causes were apparent even though there was never any in- tention of not fully supporting him. I am sure that is the case for most parents who deal with underachieving children. Although my family was unable to ever assist my son in reaching his full potential because, at the time we were unaware of this informa- tion, it is hoped that the following review will assist other parents facing similar situations.

An initiating situation is often very difficult to avoid. For ex- ample, we cannot control family deaths, the economy and sub- sequent changes in income, and family living situations. Paren- tal relationships also change as do myriad other possibilities in children’s lives. What parents can do is to anticipate the child’s reactions and feelings to big changes and make the necessary ac- commodations. For example, changes in family dynamics (e.g., new babies, deaths, moves, divorces) should be discussed with the

children involved and their educators. Teachers and administra- tors cannot assist the family in coping with such changes if they are unaware of them. As a teacher, I can remember students whose behaviors both socially and academically changed, sometimes dramatically, and yet I did not hear from the parents. It would often be up to me to call home and inquire as to any changes in the home life that might have triggered the new behaviors. So, I learned early on that when I observed such changes in one of my students for more than a couple of days to immediately call home. Not all teachers make such calls, and students can suffer enormously because not only do they not understand why they are behaving as they are, neither do their teachers. Parents, teach- ers are your partners; let them know when your child faces such changes. By working together, it is possible to lessen the impact for the child involved.

Excessive power within the home life is very uncomfortable to discuss. The term sounds ominous, with pictures of parents wielding power as autocrats that could include physical domi- nance. However, recent generations of parents tend to be con- trolling in order to protect their children. And more often than not, it is more appropriate for adults to make decisions for their

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parent to parent

children. When dealing with children with sophisticated minds, involving them in the decision-making process at home can be beneficial to the balance of power. Children need to learn to be responsible for their choices and it is the parent’s job to assist them in seeing the consequences of making poor choices. For example, if children choose a later time to finish their homework, they may be too tired to com- plete it properly without conflict and tears. Parents are instinctively aware of these pit- falls. Even so, it would probably be best to allow the child to try the later time and experience those consequences and thus make a wise decision the next time to start the homework process earlier. Another area of concern is intervening in school situations before your child has a chance to rectify the problems. Opportunities in the K–12 years enable children to make good choices, which carry over to post- secondary environments and eventually to job situations. Of course, there are always exceptions, but rushing to the aid of your child before giving him or her a chance to address the issue is disempowering.

Inconsistency and opposition between parents and educators can send unac- ceptable messages to students. In each of these cases, a “good cop versus bad cop” mentality can emerge that is confusing for the students involved. Shielding students from these conflicting messages is impor- tant. For example, one parent becomes the authoritarian figure and the other becomes the protector (Siegle & McCoach, 2009). Children who see conflicts and incon- sistencies between authority figures can become oppositional or manipulative as these inconsistent patterns emerge. These conflicts put children in untenable situ- ations that may very well lead to further underachievement.

Values conflict is the last cause of under- achievement to be discussed. Peer pressure among students begins early and the need to fit in can lead children to underachieve- ment. When my daughter, Amanda, was

in fifth grade she began to feel the influ- ence of her peers concerning her grades. Even though she was in the advanced pro- gram, being too smart seemed to be a bur- den. That year during one parent-teacher conference her teacher told me again what a perfect student she was except this time the teacher reported that, although Aman- da remained the top student in the class, she had purposefully gotten a B in social studies. The teacher explained that all of the projects and homework Amanda had completed were perfect but she had con- sistently left blank answers on unit tests and that brought her grade down. I asked how she knew that Amanda had left the answers blank on purpose; the teacher smiled and said, “Because she told me she did.”

Although I was shocked to hear how pressured my 10-year-old felt by peers al- ready, I realized that even with very smart and talented peers being “too smart” was just too much for her to bear. We certainly didn’t demand that Amanda earn all A’s; up until that time she set that goal for her- self. Perhaps she decided that getting all A’s would become increasingly more dif- ficult so it was better to ruin her record then, or perhaps it was indeed pressure from her friends; whatever the reason, it seemed to be too much stress for such a young child, and we discussed these pres- sures as a family by letting her know she was never expected to be perfect. As she grew older, she relaxed her high stan- dards and became much more balanced.

Conclusion

Motivation can be a slippery slope. Our job as parents is to realize that our chil- dren are just that—children. Even though they are gifted, the learning process isn’t always easy. For our underachieving gifted students, it is time for parents to realize that their actions and home life can con- tribute to success, but can also hinder it. My advice is to enjoy your children, set consistent rules and expectations, and take an interest in their work and achievement,

but don’t overparent. Children need room to grow, make mistakes, and take respon- sibility for their actions. As parents, we control just how much we allow that to happen. 0

References

• McCoach, D. B., & Siegle, D. (2003). Factors that differentiate underachieving students from achieving students. Gifted Child Quarterly47, 144–154.

• Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2000). The underachievement of gifted students: What do we know and where do we go? Gifted Child Quarterly44, 152–170.

• Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2002). Underachievement in gifted and talented students with special needs. Exceptionality, 10, 113–125.

• Schick, H., & Phillipson, S. N. (2009). Learning motivation and performance excellence in adolescents with high intellectual potential: What really matters? High Ability Studies20, 15–37.

• Siegle, D., & McCoach, D. B. (2009). Issues related to the underachievement of gifted students. In B. MacFarlane & T. Stambaugh (Eds.), Leading change: The festschrift of Joyce VanTassel-Baska (pp. 195–206). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Author’s Note

Christy D. McGee, Ed.D., is a faculty member at Bellarmine University in Lou- isville, KY. An active member of the Na- tional Association for Gifted Children, she currently serves as Chair of the Parent and Community Network.

For more information about NAGC’s Parent and Community Network, visit http://www.nagc.org/ParentCommuni- tyNetwork.aspx.

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