Because most gifted programs require a teacher with a master's degree, student teachers are not often seen in a gifted classroom or aware of how to get a G/T degree.
As schools evaluate their declining budgets, some gifted programs are getting decreased during the course day and regular classroom teachers are becoming responsible for gifted programming through inclusion. It is increasingly important that student teachers are involved in gifted classrooms with experienced gifted education teachers.
Observing and Student Teaching in Gifted Classrooms
Unless a teacher was in a gifted education program in school, many teachers do not have an awareness of gifted programs. It is important that pre-service teachers are exposed to gifted students in the regular classroom and the gifted classroom so that they can see what gifted education is all about, and how distinctively different gifted students become when they are separated into a group of similar-ability peers.
Even if a person is going to teach right out of college (and gifted jobs are rare), student teaching in a gifted classroom prepares pre-service teachers for working with gifted students in the regular classroom, as well offering preparation for teaching advanced level and advanced placement classes.
When pre-service teachers are getting their assignments for student teaching, they should request some observation hours with the gifted education program. Observation students and student teachers should go to pull-out programs and see how those programs function, with the delicate and intricate balancing act of scheduling. They should see full day programs, where available, and see how one-hour elective programs work.
Requirements for Teaching Gifted Education
States vary on their requirements for teaching gifted ed, but it is a safe bet to say that a teacher needs more than the 3 hour undergraduate class on exceptional students. Most states require work beyond a bachelor's degree, and there are many master's and doctoral programs for people who want to become trained teachers working with gifted students.
Online Courses for Gifted Education
It is possible to get a Master's degree in teaching gifted students by working through online degree programs. It is important to look at the quality and reputation of the school; all-online schools do not seem to carry the weight of a brick-and-mortar university that also happens to offer online courses.
The University of Connecticut offers an online Master's class in gifted ed; the classes could be used as part of an independent study course at another university, or students can travel to Connecticut for the two week Confratute workshop and complete other classes online. The University of Connecticut's program is well-known and well-respected among gifted educators, because UConn is the home of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
The quality of gifted programs depend significantly on the quality of the teachers. If pre-service teachers are exposed to gifted classrooms, they can begin teaching in regular classrooms and learn more about gifted students as they work with them. Then, they can teach in their assigned classes and complete master's work, possibly through online classes, and continue to help build a field that is so important to the children and parents that are served by gifted education programs.
Originally posted on Suite101 on March 2nd, 2009
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Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.