Gifted & Talented Students at Cortona Academy

 

Cortona Academy focuses on building strong humans, capable learners, and good people, not just looking at a child by his/her “label.” Our philosophy is to inspire all students to reach potential, whatever that level may be. Many Cortona students are labeled, either by their school or by private testing, as gifted, yet many possess hidden gifts and talents which have never been recognized…until entering Cortona Academy. In fact, some of our prodigies (in science, computers, technology, math, dance, music, athletics, etc.) do not have this label, but our highly experienced staff, each actually professionals in their own fields, are able to immediately identify these students with absolutely rare gifts and talents. Our job then becomes how to encourage their specific gifts and talents while also educating them for college. Often, gifted children are so advanced in one specific way, but then are behind in an academic area. Cortona professors are experts in grooming all students with special gifts for college in our stress-free, friendly, non-threatening environment while allowing them the time, freedom, and flexible schedule to continue pursuing their talents. (We actually cancel classes and adjust schedules around competitions, games, out-of-town trips, and conventions). The “sky is the limit” when it comes to mentoring these students.

However, since Cortona’s inception, since 1992 we have been focusing not on the label, but on the results. The results are what counts. Here is how to begin to assess whether or not your gifted, talented student is in the proper safe and motivational setting in order to be able to continue to perfect his/her specific gift or talent:

 

Questions to answer when searching for schools that encourage giftedness:

1) Assess the child’s emotional well-being. How happy is the child in classes, in school, and with friends?

2) Is the child’s present school (public or private) a “pressure cooker”?  How much homework is assigned?  Is it to be completed 100% at home, evenings and weekends, or are there study halls during the school day with teachers available to help the student

3) Are the child’s teachers readily available to answer questions? Do the teachers encourage thinking skills and creative, “outside the box” answers or just rote memorization?

4) Does the child have a book for every class?

5) Are classes on-line? If so, who sets the pace of the course, and what happens if the child is late with assignments?   How are you assessing the level of these classes?

6) How many students are in the classes? How many teachers?

7) How many field trips, project periods and internships are available?

 

When their child is labeled as “Gifted,” parents often struggle to determine what exactly that means. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, academically gifted students make up about 6-10% of the total school age population. This means that roughly 3-5 million students are trying to navigate life, and education, with a label that is set to make them feel different. While any label can be beneficial in helping reach a specific school population to provide resources and special teachers, parents need help in making proper educational choices for their child.

When we think of gifted students,  we often think “genius.” But this does not equate. Gifted children often develop at different speeds from their fellow students. Plus, oftentimes their physical growth, social, emotional and some specific cognitive functions can develop at different rates and times, while their aptitude in a specific area may grow unabated. This can cause many issues, most notably in social/emotional areas, which can lead to frustration or even to being ostracized from fellow students.

A study done by the Fordham Institute found that 58% of educators have no training in dealing with academically advanced students, and that 73% of teachers “…often…are not giving them a sufficient chance to thrive.” Not all teachers are able to recognize or foster a gifted child. At Cortona Academy, our professors make it possible for gifted/talented students to be noticed and supported. This is possible because our professors are, themselves, highly gifted individuals and are able to nurture this in our students in a clam, kind, inspirational manner, not by just assigning more homework and projects.

In focusing on the “whole student” at Cortona Academy, the academics, social, and emotional needs are understood, so that all students, gifted or otherwise, can thrive with a balance between the three. To accomplish this, every Cortona student is given their own education plan, and we strive to meld these into a well-rounded education where a gifted child can sit next to one with learning disabilities while both are getting what they need. To do this we have come to understand some very basic truths about what it means to be “gifted.”

 

1) There is an old adage that smart kids don’t need as much help as their counterparts. Cortona professors know this to be completely untrue. The brain is a muscle, and just like a well-toned athlete uses his strength, the brain has to be used. For instance, a gifted student may know most of the factual information in a course before it even starts, making for a boring year if the student is not challenged properly. At Cortona, it is not important to spew back rote answers on tests. Where is the concept of learning, of thinking? For this reason, we often allow the advanced to move faster in the course, at their own pace, but to slow down when appropriate, such as during class discussions, class trips, or when working on specialized projects directly geared to the gifted child’s level and interests. A bored child means a frustrated child, and this frustration can lead to lack of motivation, poor study habits, and social issues. Cortona’s job is to nurture ability, solve deficiencies, and send to college, competent, excited-about-learning students. The ONLY way to accomplish this is to give the gifted child “space” to explore and create their own projects and assignments, but at the same time to master the course material while still hitting course and assignment deadlines.

 

2) It is also easy to assume that gifted students should be helping (even teaching) their fellow classmates. We know this not to be the case. Gifted students deserve just as much attention and focus as average students…sometimes more! At Cortona, each and every student is nurtured as an individual, by the professor. It is the professor’s job to educate, not that of the gifted student’s.  This can cause resentment and poor self-esteem if the gifted student has not only the pressure of learning course material, but also of mentoring others. We have found that this practice leads to a negative emotional response in the gifted student. Cortona has found that many gifted students cannot “read” social cues in others very well. Plus, they often have a lower threshold for frustration when they fall short of perfection. These two, together, can lead to massive self-worth issues. Therefore, at Cortona Academy, students are never asked to teach other students.  This doesn’t mean they cannot help each other with homework or projects, but the actual “teaching” is the role of our professor’s.

 

Giftedness at Cortona Academy equals reaching ultimate potential.

 

 

 

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