I have a number of online friends who are involved in gifted education in Turkey. My heart goes out to them. New Zealand and Turkey have strong bonds, which somehow grew out of the Battle of Gallipoli, even though we were on opposing sides. Our soldiers regarded each other as worthy adversaries, and acts of kindness were shown across the battle lines which are still remembered today. It is with great sadness, then, that I read of the troubles in Turkey over the past few days.
When I think about the situation in Turkey through the lens of a gifted educator, it seems even worse. I realise that there can be no “business as usual” for my colleagues, even if they live in regions less affected by the protests and the heavy-handed responses shown in our daily news reports.
The characteristics of gifted children will make the work of our Turkish colleagues harder at this time:
- Gifted children often have a profound sense of justice, perhaps experiencing even more stress than most children as they become aware of events which seem divisive and unfair. Their teachers will bear some of the load of addressing this.
- Gifted children often have an ability to understand (and worry about) adult problems, without adult life experience to help them respond to these problems. Their teachers will need to spend time thinking up activities which will give these children some sense of agency despite the enormity of the problems which surround them.
- Gifted children are often very sensitive compared to other children of the same age. Their teachers will need to think of creative outlets for the children’s emotional responses, and find ways to teach additional coping mechanisms, alongside the planned material in their curriculum.
When we consider what gifted children need from their education, we know that many of these children will take a leadership role at some point in their working lives. It is therefore important to ask them to think in ways which equip them to lead with foresight, fairness and integrity. It is not just knowledge which matters for these learners, but also wisdom. Here are some expectations of quality gifted education curricula which will be difficult to fulfill in Turkey’s current political climate:
- Good gifted curricula consider the ethical dimensions of the material taught. How can a teacher invite children to explore ethics in the midst of an ethical crisis with a high human cost?
- Good gifted curricula invite children to explore both (or all) sides of issues. How can this idea be approached safely in a classroom in Turkey today?
- Good gifted curricula provide openings for learners to question the status quo and explore alternative possibilities. Must this now go hand in hand with considering where it is safe to ask the questions?
Please be mindful of our colleagues in Turkey, as they face these and other problems. They anticipate greater difficulties in keeping in touch over the coming days, in a climate of social media censorship. Organisations like Amnesty International are offering suggestions as to how we can help, but these are changing to keep pace with events and to take new communication difficulties into account.
Turkish schools will close for the summer on 14 June, and there may be strikes before then. They should reopen on 16 September. The end of the current school year, the summer holidays, and the beginning of the new school year will offer a series of challenges to all Turkish school children and their parents and teachers. Our prayers are with them.