Posted by: waikatogifted | June 13, 2011

Of Little Birds and No-Fly Zones

Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour icon.

When I did my pre-service teacher training at the University of Waikato, David Whitehead impressed me as a lecturer who coped quite well with all my questions about alternatives to the status quo, and about teaching practice beyond New Zealand. In fact, he seemed to enjoy them. It was even safe to question the way things are in written assignments for his classes! I was unsurprised, given his own interest in the bigger picture, to discover that he had a gifted child. Here he shares a memory from her childhood, and comments on the situation in schools today.

I recall having lunch on the deck of a typical Kiwi beach bach/crib one still hot summer day, when a bird kamikazed itself into the kitchen window. No-one was prepared to rise from the table, but six-year old daughter slipped away without anyone really noticing. We found her about an hour later in the final stages of dissecting the bird, using my Stanley knife she had obtained from the work-shed. She spoke matter-of-factly about the intestines, the contents of the stomach and the cause of death. She had lots of other questions – thank goodness for the internet and for her patience as the information she needed downloaded. The dispositions of curiosity and determination, together with an extended attention span seemed to characterize her approach to life and learning.

The frustration was, and still is, that the school day, particulated by no-fly zone subject silos and punctuated by bells, and structured by national standards and fragmented by NCEA would never have suited her approach to learning – and never did. This contrasted with the opportunity provided by the Parkyn Centre. Here she could pursue an interest (sheep brains were a highlight) in a cross-discipline way all morning. The industrial model of secondary school in particular, may not serve the needs of gifted children.

P.S. This daughter is now pursuing a degree in biomedical science with a minor in (safe) ‘planking’.

Sharp tools can equip a sharp mind, but only if we also cut down curricular barriers to learning.

Public Domain image via Flickr member Public Domain Photos.
The Parkyn Centre referred to in the post is now known as The Gifted Education Centre.
Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour Link


  1. How many more kids are languishing in classrooms where they don’t belong? It is imperative that we raise the bar on gifted education advocacy. The day will come when countries who do recognize the importance of meeting the needs of gifted children will rise to the top!

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