A Gifted Student’s Reflection on her Academic Journey

Two programs offered by some school districts and one offered by a consortium of the Vancouver School Board (VSB), the Ministry of Education and the University of British Columbia (UBC) are providing opportunities to students with high ability to reach their intellectual and creative goals.

The Challenge Program in Surrey is offered to students in grades three through seven and includes “intense academic, intellectual and creative challenges.”

The Multi-Age Cluster Classes (MACC) in Surrey is offered to students in grades five through seven and provides “academic support and social-emotional support for highly gifted students.

Both Challenge and MACC are offered in other districts in similar format. You find more information about the challenge program MACC on the Surrey School District website.

The University Transition Program is an early college entrance program open to 10 VSB students and 10 from other districts in each of the two years.

Read Fannia Xu’s positive experience in the public school system in Surrey, BC, transitioning from Challenge Programs, into MACC and then the University Transition Program at the UBC.

The letter below is reprinted without edits.


Academic Transitions by Fannia Xu

I wasn’t the most popular kid in the fourth grade; my classmates often teased me for my love of academics. I had been hoping for some challenges academically since sometime around the first grade. For a long time, I’d always felt ashamed to admit that what I was learning in school was too easy for me; fellow students always said that I was just bragging and exaggerating the ease of the course materials. Because of this, I never felt very well-liked or at home in the school environment.

Before I was in MACC, I took part in the Challenge Program, which was where I was first introduced to the idea of being challenged in academics. I’d fell in love with the program, but it left me hoping for more in terms of challenge and acceleration. This, of course, led to my registration for the testing for the MACC program at Berkshire Park Elementary.

When I first joined the MACC program, everything we were learning had felt foreign and unknown. For once, I felt like I was in an environment where I was constantly given challenges. MACC wasn’t an accelerated program, and that much was obvious; however, the deeper looks at some plain and ordinary subjects opened my eyes up to new opportunities and also helped pave the way toward the future I chose. The fields of study we encountered in MACC were truly eye-opening. The students in the program were just the cherries on top; MACC was a place where I felt I could always be myself.

As a student in MACC, I’d always thought that that would be the limit on my academic life, that MACC would be the most accelerated program I would partake in, that I would leave MACC to attend my local secondary school like the majority of the other graduates had done. After my three years in MACC, I discovered this academic drive inside of me, telling myself that I had to push myself further and further with everything I learned. That was when I made the conscious decision to apply to the University Transition Program.

At first, I was reluctant to apply; the picture that my mind painted of Transition had always included intense workloads and a large amount of stress, combined with no free time. Though that much has been made true in Transition, I can also testify that not a single day goes by without having fun, and that fun comes within being a small, cohesive community. The only reason I’ve been able to survive in Transition so far is due to the massive support network that exists between each and every one of my classmates. This was something that was different from MACC; although we often worked together, we never quite functioned as a community. I didn’t receive such a large amount of support while I was in MACC, but I suppose it was not needed.

The big difference between Transition and MACC has always been the issue of accelerated vs. comprehensive learning. Though MACC was not an accelerated program, being a student in the MACC program definitely made the transition between elementary school and the Transition Program a lot easier. Today, I can safely say that I am content with my academic life, and none of that would be possible without the journey I’ve taken, through Challenge, MACC, and now University Transition.

Mini-school – a realistic academic high-school model for your gifted child?

Alternate programs recruiting academically strong students at different high schools may be an interesting option to explore for gifted students who want to be challenged within their area of interest and ability. One type of program that may be of interest to students in grades 8-10 in Vancouver, BC, is a mini school program. These programs usually admit one class of grade 8 students each year.

But how do you know what mini-school would work for your child?

Before you begin the application process, there are some aspects to consider for your tween/teen:

– Does the focus of the mini-school address a passion for your child? Students have an increased commitment to focus and learning if there is significant attention to the area of study they are already interested in.

– Does the mini-school require social-emotional intelligence at a level that your child demonstrates? This is something to consider, especially for students who are twice exceptional with a diagnosis affecting their behavior and perspective taking.

– Does your child have a strong aversion to writing or some type of language learning disability? Become aware of programs that emphasize verbal and written proficiency.

– Consider your child’s gifted profile. Search for programs that have knowledgeable educators who can personalize the program to accommodate the disparity between their areas of strong development and those that require additional support or compensatory strategies.

– Is the program open to and experienced in accommodating support for gifted students who have a learning disability? Gifted learners with writing output disorder, dyslexia and/or dyscalculia are known to compensate with their high-ability but need support for their learning disability.

– Ask about the application process. Does it consider more than grades? Does it recognize creativity? Is there an interview as part of the application process? Programs that emphasize talent more than performance may be a good choice for gifted students known to underperform.

In Vancouver, BC, there are 18 high-schools which offer challenging and comprehensive programs as alternatives to regular programs. To apply for most VSB programs, students must complete the District Cognitive Skills test on Nov. 21, 2017.

Download the VSB information pamphlet if you want to read more about the program in Vancouver. Please note that all students are required to do a district cognitive skills test on Nov. 21, 2017. Students with a designated Special Need and IEP take test at 9 a.m. at VSB Educational Centre. Please consult the VSB website for exact details.

For intellectually gifted students who have a learning disability, there is the GOLD program in Vancouver, BC. This is an academic program designed to meet the needs of Grade 8 and 9 students. Students may receive support into their Grade 12 year if required. The goal of the program is to help students understand their own strengths and difficulties, while they learn effective strategies and skills to be successful at school.

In Surrey, there is the STEAMX (STEAM ACCELERATED) program of the SAIL Academy. This combines 4 days of face-to-face interdisciplinary instruction with one day of supported online learning, and makes students eligible for university by the third year of this program.

It is important to understand the differences between the various available programs. Most of these programs DO NOT advertise themselves as programs for the gifted. They are targeting high achieving students, not necessarily gifted learners, but may also be a good choice for gifted students with even learning profiles. Investigation of the programs you are interested in should include a clear understanding of the goals of the program, the target students, and the capacity and understanding they possess to support atypical or unique learners. Admission processes are usually designed with attention to discovering student passions, strengths, goals and aspirations and the variety of community activities students undertake that build leadership and community awareness. No matter whether your child will be accepted as a student or not, it can be an interesting and instructive process to participate in, which can prepare your child for future applications.

Does your gifted child have experience of student life at a mini-school or a similar choice program? Please share your experience below or email us! We would love to hear your story!

 

Priorities of the GCABC 2017-2018

The new GCABC board, elected in May 2017, has this far already had two board meetings, as well as created a preliminary work schedule for 2017-2018.

Currently, the board is busy deciding on what activities should be prioritized. Among the planned activities are conferences, workshops and advocacy work. We would like to start the work by asking for YOUR feedback on what the priorities should be for the GCABC this coming year.

What matter is the most important and pressing one for gifted children in BC?