Eva (not her real name) walked into my room quietly. Her usual smile and enthusiasm wasn’t there, so I called her over to me. “What’s going on? You look sad.”
“No one in our class is brave enough to ask if we to get the poster for our teacher.”
Eva’s math teacher had been sick all week, and she had worked with some other girls to make a poster for her. They were hiding it in another classroom.
“Why don’t you try asking her ‘When would be a good time?'” She liked this suggestion, but then tears welled up in her eyes.
“And my dog was stolen. I know they took her to fight.”
“What? How do you know this?”
After our discussion, I found out Eva’s dog is a pit bull. She went on about how pit bulls are not bred to fight. They are trained. And it’s cruel.
It was Wonder Day, so I suggested she use dog fighting as her topic. She spent a little time reading about pit bulls and dog fighting.
Then she checked Wonderopolis. There she found another topic of interest, “Why do parents get divorced?” Eva’s parents have been struggling for a while. I’ve taught her since she was in first grade. She’s now in fifth. As she wrote on a recent card to me, “We’ve been through thick and thin.”
I teach my students year after year, from the time they are identified as gifted to their end of elementary school. This can be up to 6 years. You really get to know a child after this amount of time. With this knowledge, I am able to give my students agency. I know them well. I can direct them to channel their concerns about themselves and the world into their research and writing.
Dabrowsky identified overexcitabilities in gifted students. I see these qualities every day. Eva is a prime example of a student with emotional overexcitabilities. She has a heightened sensitivity to right and wrong. She is timid, but has a deep understanding of her emotions and why she feels what she feels.
In the end, after much bouncing around from topic to topic, Eva asked, “Can I design a web site of my own?”
She had discovered the Wonderopolis topic, “How do You Create a Website?”
I thought she would want to create a website about dog fighting or helping kids get through divorce, but she had moved on. Eva wanted to build a website called “Share your Story” where kids can submit their own stories and teachers can use it to showcase student writing. Where did this come from? I embraced Eva’s idea and got her started on Edublogs. We’ll see. I hope she will stick with this idea, but I really never know with my students. Especially, the emotional ones like Eva.
I follow my students’ lead because I know that it will take me down a new and exciting path. I honor their choices and work to give them a space where their voices are heard.
Link up your posts about Agency (or anything DigiLit) below. Next weekend, my daughter is getting married. Julieanne Harmatz will host the link up at her blog, To Read To Write To Be.