Living with Intensity

I’m been reading the most therapeutic professional text I’ve seen in a while. When I first checked out Living with Intensity, everyone laughed at me — my husband, my colleagues, even my students (I post in our classroom what I’m currently reading). They thought I was reading a book that would teach me how to be even MORE intense. Rest assured, that’s not the case.

Instead, Living with Intensity is a guide about how to nurture gifted children, adolescents, and adults to channel their quirks and use them for good. I say it’s therapeutic because as I’m reading, I’m also finding elements that apply to me in my adult life. The authors are always cognizant of toeing the line between helping students cope in a neurotypical society while being careful not to dampen students’ gifts. This part of the book DIRECTLY related to a conversation we had in class earlier this week:

One way that parents and teachers can best support gifted children in their development is by recognizing that emotional growth and personal growth are a necessary part of the educational process (Roeper, 2004b, 2007; Piechowski, 2006). Most educators and parents these days seem to believe that, for gifted children, emphasis must be placed first and foremost on their intellectual development. But intellectual development rests on the development of the child’s Self, on his or her insights and deeper sensitivities. In fact, we cannot separate one from the other. It is this very separation that makes gifted children experience stress as a negative force. (p. 81, emphasis mine)

I really want to copy some of these ideas and share them at conferences later this month. For example:

There is another dimension of how stress affects gifted children. They not only receive stress, they also create it. Gifted children create a kind of discomfort in their surroundings, for by their mere existence, they uncover shortcomings. They question and challenge traditions and the status quo and are not comfortable doing things just because everyone else is doing them. Their experiences are unconventional; their needs are not typical, and society — many schools and other institutions — is unable to fulfill them… The gifted do not accept neat, simple categories; they expect society to think in complex ways, as they do. They expect society to look honestly at itself and to perceive things about itself that it cannot and does not want to see.(p. 79, emphasis mine)

I’m sure there will be more as I continue reading, but I needed to share these publicly. Additionally, there’s apparently a family guide and a teen guide available from the same editors. It seems like these are the more current, in-depth version of the Gifted Survival Guide.

Yesterday, a primary teacher told me how lucky my students were to have me as their GATE teacher. Normally, when I hear comments like that, I blow them off because praise makes me feel really uneasy, especially when I feel like I’m just doing my job. But she looked at me and said, “You know exactly what they’re going through, you know how to listen to them.” She shrugged and sliced some math work on the paper cutter. “I wouldn’t have the first idea of what to say to them, much less teach them.”

I realized she was right. Ever since I received my position as the gifted/talented teacher, I had been doubting my beliefs. Did gifted students really deserve a more challenging, “better” education than their peers? Was it “fair” to have a gifted teacher working with students who are already meeting standard when there are dozens of other students struggling who could benefit from her support? I would honestly not be alive today if it were not for the gifted and talented support system I developed in high school, but now I fretted that maybe the gifted program wasn’t what was best for kids.

When I was applying for the 2/3 GATE position and right after I received the job, I’d heard plenty of people say things like, “Hey, better you than me” or “You’re the best choice to work with them,” but this moment in the staff workroom was the first time where our educational experiences, both my students and my own, felt validated. We really do have special needs, and we really do benefit from this least-restrictive learning environment. I can’t wait to see what we achieve this year.

Family Letter

Here’s a sneak preview at the family letter I’ll be bringing with me when I begin home visits TOMORROW (Friday)!!!

Dear students and families,

Can you believe it’s already time to head back to school?! I’m so excited! I have been thinking of you all summer long and can’t wait to see your eager, intelligent faces back in our classroom on September 3!

You might remember that our classroom was chosen to start the Daily 5 and CAFÉ model of reading instruction! That means you won’t switch classes for SFA. You might still receive extra tutoring or special classes outside of the classroom. We’re very lucky because our school is working with the women who created the Daily 5. They just might stop by to visit us if we’re lucky!

While I’m talking about scheduling, our school might be on a 6-day schedule. That means our specialist schedule rotates every 6 days instead of every 5 days. What this would mean is that some Tuesdays you’d have music, but other Tuesdays you’ll have P.E. I wanted to tell you so you wouldn’t be surprised when school started. It’s good because then Mr. Grout would have more time to take on intramural sports. Also, did you know you can join honor choir this year?

This school year is going to be very challenging and I have set high standards both for you as students and for me as your teacher. Here are my goals for myself this year:

1) Call at least 2-4 families each week (with good news!)

2) Read 4 full books a month.

3) Keep my desk area clean.

4) Have papers graded and returned within one week.

We will talk more about your goals once you arrive at school! It’s so important to always be working to improve ourselves.

We will continue to have homework every night except Fridays. Your homework will usually be your Letter to Ms. Houghton or a spiral review math sheet. I will also occasionally have Mathlete problems on the back of your homework. These are problems that are optional, but I’m including them because some students and families have asked me for more practice work.

I’ve been thinking a lot about family volunteers. I didn’t ask for much help last year because I didn’t know how to best use you! I think I have a better plan… make sure you come to Back-To-School night (tentatively set for Sept. 10) so I can tell you more!

I am so deeply grateful for all the love and support you give your families. I consider myself extremely lucky to serve my students and those who care for them. Thank you for trusting your student to learn with me during 4th grade. We are going to have a blast.


Ms. Houghton


2004 Mixes: Blast from the Past

As we were moving into our new apartment, I discovered a few mix CDs from the end of my junior year of college at Michigan State. It was fun to listen to them and compare them to what’s on my mind now. These were made for my trip out to Colorado Springs to work at The Gazette as a cops and courts reporting intern.

This is what I looked like then:

Me at the Dinosaur Resource Center, July 2004
Me at the Dinosaur Resource Center, July 2004

More recent mixes to come later!

Shannon’s “Well, I’m On My Way” Mix, May 2004
1. “On Love, In Sadness,” Jason Mraz
2. “Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” Paul Simon
3. “Two Points for Honesty,” Guster
4. “Follow the Light,” Travis
5. “If I Ever Feel Better,” Phoenix
6. “Fast as You Can,” Fiona Apple
7. “The Sound of Violence,” Cassius
8. “Don’t Give Up,” Chicane
9. “Good Life,” Inner City
10. “Vehicle,” Ides of March
11. “Good Luck,” Basement Jaxx
12. “Just a Little More Love,” David Guetta
13. “One Sign,” Galleo
14. “Are You Ready for Love,” Elton John
15. “Face to Face,” Daft Punk
16. “Breathe In,” Frou Frou
17. “Remind Me,” Royksopp
18. “Wine,” Blue Six

Shannon’s “The Line is Thinly Drawn ‘tween Joy and Sorrow” Mix, May 2004
1. “I Don’t Know What I Can Save You From,” Kings of Convenience
2. “Breathe,” Telepopmusik
3. “Cigarettes Will Kill You,” Ben Lee
4. “Thinking of you,” Magnolia (now known as Reidar… the song that’s playing when you first arrive at the site was remixed by Toby!)
5. “But Not For Me,” Chet Baker
6. “Country Road,” Maynard Ferguson
7. “Brother, Where are You?” Oscar Brown Jr.
8. “Waltz for Koop,” Koop
9. “We Will Become Silhouettes,” The Postal Service
10. “Window,” Guster
11. “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall,” Simon & Garfunkel
12. “Possession,” Sarah McLachlan
13. “Jane,” Ben Folds Five
14. “Very Good Friends,” Blue Six
15. “Before Today,” Everything But the Girl
16. “Sweetest Day,” Control Freq
17. “Protection,” Massive Attack
18. “Novio,” Moby