I chose this topic because of the growing attention to the “Quest” program at Buffalo High School. These kids are seen as out of place and nerdy, simply because they are intellectually gifted, but struggle with peer relationships. My primary research plan is to do an in-person interview with Quest teacher, Ryan McCallum. Mr. McCallum has been involved in the Quest program for a while, and his own children recently tested to join Quest. Some questions I have for Mr.McCallum would be regarding his own experience dealing with students that may not fit in. I also would ask how these students tend to handle stressful situations, and what things Mr. McCallum can do to help them adjust.
The Questions I asked Mr. McCallum were:
- These kids need social and emotional support - what types of support do you give them?
- You have witnessed students go through the quest program that have been very successful, socially. How and Why do you think they differ from others.
- How do these students cope with stress and what tools do you provide to help them cope?
- I read that High Ability students overall have more behavioral problems than “Gen Ed” students. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- How can Peers and teachers help these students to be more exposed to general ed, so they are more adapted to each other?
- The quest students have classes together starting in elementary school all the way through high school…. Do you think the quest students are under exposed to other students? Could this hinder their social skills with general ed students?
The Interview with McCallum was as follows:
Interview Conducted with Ryan McCallum on June 7th, 2016 at 1:00 PM
Q: How long have you been in the quest program?
“I have done quest for four years, and before that many years ago I was the gifted advisor at the high school for two years.”
Q: I have read articles claiming that gifted students are better socially than general ed students, but i’ve also read articles that stated the exact opposite. Why is this and what have you seen in your experience?
“Both. there is no universal definition of gifted. There are people who are gifted athletes, but the school has nothing for them. We focus more on the logical and mathematical giftedness. If you are good at science, math, and english you get into Quest. We are only showcasing maybe three gifts (English math and Science) out of a possible nine. When you look at the preparedness of it, the people who are gifted logically and mathematical sometimes do have more social needs, because they are not used to being understood. But also part of being gifted is you could be gifted intrapersonally and interpersonally.”
Q: What is intra and inter?
“Intra is within yourself. You understand yourself very well, and you are gifted in not only applying it to yourself but also helping other people become the best selves they can be. Those people are incredibly gifted socially. Interpersonal are the most gifted socially. there is a recognizable gift that says “I can make relationships at a level my peers can’t” that is a gift.”
Q: Do you feel like the quest kids may be underexposed to General ed students which causes their social problems?
“That’s the hardest thing about the program. For 6 years, they are with teachers that are specifically there for them. And they understand them. But they are only exposed to that, and then suddenly they’re not. And they have teachers that don’t understand what giftedness is, and what they should be aware of, and they haven’t had a chance to develop a relationship with kids outside of the program.There are evident disadvantages to theses students being lumped together, but there are also disadvantages to them not being lumped together. They would be made fun of, teased, ostracized, excluded, they get excluded anyway. Quest needs to do way more to get these kids intermingling with other kids.”
Q: What are you doing right now t help them “Mingle”?
“We are doing way more than the past. Now we are paying attention to what gifts people actually have, if they are gifted in math, should they be in Quest english? Maybe they should be with general ed students. We are also bringing in counselors to work with them and we are training counselors at the middle school level on issues related to giftedness and trying to create more opportunities for them to branch out. We are still not doing enough, but we are addressing it.”
Q: Do you think the students in quest don’t want to branch out?
“Quest students have a problem with thinking that quest is a badge of honor. We tell the kids “You’re no better than anyone else.” I think every quest kid should be required to be in a sport so that they can see that they are not better than other people. We can’t create this impression that they are better, their parents want to believe that they are better than people, and so it starts at home. Even if we address it so that all quest kids know that they are no better than their peers, their peers still feel like the quest kids are better than them - so we have to deal with that stigma too.”
Q: How can general ed students deal with the quest kids?
“Quest kids need to choose to do more activities. Thats where all the natural interest based relationships happen. Activities are where you learn to appreciate the other gifts that students have. It would be fun for quest to have the least amount of homework - but they should be required to do something else - even youth group. We need to encourage them to go out and meet people that are better than them. School can be super rigorous but we could really cut back on the homework and have them get well rounded.”
Q: So you guys understand that the social aspect of quest may be a problem?
That is the number one complaint. We do surveys each year sent to parents and students, the number one across the board is that their kids are too segregated and they are getting tired of eachother and they need to meet other people.
Along with an interview, I read three different article about gifted and talented children and social develpment. The findings in my articles and interview were very consistent. Mr. McCallum stated some of the same things that the articles claimed, and cleared the air on some questionable statements. One article stated that “Clinically referred intellectually gifted children tended to have increased behavioral problems.” (Francis, Hawes, and Abbott NP) This resonated with me, So I asked Mr. McCallum his thoughts. He shared with me that the students that have increased behavioral problems are the ones that are gifted, but weren’t given the outlet, like Quest, to let their creativity out. They hold in their giftedness, and do drugs or slack to make themselves seem dumb, or fit in... to feel normal. These students need to be challenged, and that is where Quest comes in as a very effective option.
My view of Quest student’s has changed entirely. They are not “Nerds”. They are intellectually gifted students that need a place to fit in. Not to say that these students aren’t underexposed, but this program challenges these student’s abilities more than any other General Ed class would.