By Dr. Kristina Henry Collins, Ph.D.
Last year at SENG’s 2016 annual conference, I had the pleasure of presenting as one of the keynote speakers. The title of my presentation was “Wait a SEC! Reimagining Our Present Approach to Gifted Education and Talent Development”. My keynote was aligned with the theme of the conference: “Gifted: Our Past and Our Future”. As part of that presentation, I briefly chronicled the history and challenges of gifted education over the past 60 years. I then asked the audience to think about what we want gifted education to look like in the next 60 years. I went further to posit that they had everything they needed to move forward with that vision to secure a better future for our gifted children and adults. I challenged them to take the research and experiences of our past and their current vision and become a voice (an not an echo) for our gifted individuals. I reminded them that they already have all the tools, brainpower, and the “know-how” to forge forward with deliberate action and engagement. I referred to SENG’s mission, vision, and value statement as an appropriate and ideal framework by which they could guide their efforts. I asserted that SENG’s mission and vision encompass the value of the development of the whole child from head to toe, inside and out; its mission boldly advocates for the inclusion of the social, emotional, physical, and spiritual contexts of intellectual and talent development. It recognizes the necessity to approach academic training in a way that infuses each of these as goal-setting components just as important as career preparation – considerations that have been significantly overlooked from scholarly discussions as a point of simultaneous growth, positive influence, and effective intervention. Through its mission, vision, and values, SENG signifies a belief that any attempt to address the intellectual development of the gifted separate from these contexts is not only fallible but is also a disservice to the gifted individual.
As we move into and prepare for SENG’s 2017 annual conference I would like to extend that conversation in support of this year’s theme: “In Our Hands: Creating New Possibilities”. Again, I reference SENG’s mission, vision, and values as a framework to guide our efforts to create new possibilities in gifted education. For the purpose of this discussion, I accept the research, theory and practices already established in the development of SENG’s mission, vision, and values. I offer this as a reflection of a sound foundation that can appropriately serve as a framework for preparation, programming, and development of the gifted individual across the lifespan. It serves as standard of excellence in the discourse of comprehensively serving and supporting gifted individuals. SENG has given us the formula for success. We just need to unpack it to responsively determine what that “looks” like for all gifted individuals at different stages, in different spaces, and in different cultures.
To empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually
At the core and in the earliest stages of development for any individual are the family and the community. It is our responsibility to first recognize and support the values and interests that families and communities instill in their members. As we work to empower them through the perspective of their own social, emotional, and cultural capital, we validate that which they offer in terms of development and guidance of the gifted individual. This compels us to approach learning in all other settings as extended development with continuity and a positive perspective of family and community, regardless of its differences. We understand that parents and communities do not “hand off” their young as empty vessels to the educators and the schools to fill and teach. Students come with diverse manifestations of gifts connected to the experiences and value of their families and communities. We are in a position to expand those gifts with further guidance and development through and in support of families and communities.
SENG envisions a world where gifted, talented and creative individuals are supported to build gratifying, meaningful lives and contribute to the well being of others. To this end, SENG reaches out to diverse communities that share our mission across the nation and the globe.
Talent development is first and foremost for the benefit of the gifted individuals in their own quest to make meaning of those gifts in an effort to contribute to lives of those around them. As such, we must understand the importance of contextualizing gifted education and programming within a social and emotional perspective. This will compel not only a communication of high expectation, but also student-centered and culturally mediated instruction that is authentic. We will forego a one-size-fit-all, colorblind approach to teaching and reshape our curriculum to transparently foster social and emotional wellness, global connectedness, and humility to strengthen one another. We will promote and foster talent development as a shared responsibility of all stakeholders – after all we are a sum of all of our experiences. To this end, SENG operationalizes its mission and vision through its values. It is these values that serve as a guide for parents, educators, counselors, etc. to responsively support the needs of the whole gifted individual. They are offered as the seven (7) critical pillars for preparation, programming, and development of the gifted:
Community: SENG works to provide services that help gifted individuals and their families connect with like-minded peers to share experiences and lend support. This is reflected in our programming as well as our outreach. SENG works to collaborate with other agencies and partners within the gifted community to promote our mission and vision of social and emotional support to gifted individuals.
Compassion: Compassion is an integral aspect of SENG’s mission — it determines how we treat our staff, volunteers, our constituents and all other stakeholders.
Inclusiveness and Diversity: SENG is an inclusive, welcoming, respectful community of people with varying human characteristics, ideas, cultural practices, worldviews, identities, and experiences working together to support the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals. SENG honors the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals. We celebrate, respect, and include all people, cultures, regions, religions, and political views. We pledge ourselves to creating and maintaining an environment that respects diverse communities, traditions, heritages, and experiences.
Growth: SENG seeks sustainable, profitable growth by encouraging pursuit of our vision, quality standards in our programming, excellence in implementation, innovation in product development, collaboration with affiliates, commitment to customer service and dedication to leadership in all of our programming.
Gratitude: SENG is grateful for the inherent goodness of the gifted community. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits that we have received through the generosity of our donors and we are thankful for them. We acknowledge that people gave us many gifts and we are thankful for their continuing generosity.
Integrity, Transparency and Honesty: SENG employs the highest ethical standards, demonstrating honesty and fairness in every action that we take. All staff, board members and volunteers of the organization act with honesty, integrity and openness in all their dealings as representatives of the organization.
Responsible Stewardship: We are committed to careful stewardship of all human, natural, and financial resources. This means we use carefully the time and talents of those working with our organization. We are environmentally responsible, and we spend wisely the funds invested in us.
About the author: Kristina Henry Collins, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Talent Development at Texas State University, and is highly sought after as a presenter, trainer, and speaker in the field of gifted education. She began a three-year term on the SENG board of directors this past January.