The Spirit of Excellence
Introducing: Melinda Gindy, RPCS Diverse Learning Co-ordinator
𝘉𝘈𝘳𝘵𝘴(𝘔𝘶𝘴), 𝘎𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘋𝘪𝘱𝘌𝘥, 𝘎𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘊𝘦𝘳𝘵𝘎𝘪𝘧𝘵𝘌𝘥, 𝘔𝘌𝘥 (𝘚𝘱𝘌𝘥), 𝘔𝘔𝘛𝘈, HFTGN, MACEL
Educational Leadership Doctoral Candidate – Western Kentucky University
As a Year 10 student at Regent’s Park Christian School, formerly Christian Community High School, Melinda Gindy made a life-defining decision to become a music teacher. It was a decision inspired by her own teachers, and driven by an innate passion for music, and connecting with others to learn and share knowledge.
After starting her family, Melinda took a break from teaching music. It was during this time, and through the journey of getting to know her own children, that Melinda’s quest to explore and understand the largely misunderstood area of gifted and talented began.
Whilst her love of music remained, her focus shifted to how she could best nurture the spirit of excellence in her own children, and her students.
Today, Melinda is the President of the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented (AAEGT), and the Diverse Learning Coordinator here at RPCS. Her work is dedicated to empowering teachers, students and their families to be the best they can be, with the gifts and abilities that God has given them.
GIFTED AND TALENTED EXPLAINED
Often grouped together, gifted and talented are terms used to describe two quite different concepts. Understanding this difference is vital to being able to meet the needs of gifted and talented students.
Melinda explains, “Giftedness is untrained ability or potential occurring across one or more domains; intellectual, creative, social/emotional and/or physical. Talent is the manifestation of giftedness. It’s the achievement, it’s what we see.”
Differentiating between the two terms is important to understanding how to journey from one to the other. That is where schools, and the environment around a student comes in – they should provide a catalyst for the manifestation of giftedness into talent.
Melinda comments, “There are a number of catalysts that can negatively or positively impact ability growing into a talent. Some of those catalysts are Intrapersonal- like motivation. You can have a bright student who is really motivated and they will do well. On the other hand, you might have a highly gifted student, but you might not see the manifestation of talent or achievement if the environment is not a supportive catalyst. There is no guarantee that giftedness alone brings about success and excellence”.
ENGAGED, CONNECTED AND STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE
At RPCS everything we do is embedded in Christ, including the pursuit of excellence.
Together with staff, families and students, Melinda is committed to fostering an environment that grows engaged learners who are connected through a sense of belonging and are striving for excellence.
Through our Gifted and Talented Education programme GATEway, RPCS has a history of supporting the needs of gifted students. It is an exciting time for GATEway as Melinda applies her extensive experience and expertise to explore the future of the programme.
GATEway 2.0, as Melinda describes it, is an action model that incorporates the latest research, and is more intentional in its approach.
The blueprint for GATEway 2.0 recognizes that one size does not fit all, that there are many pieces to the puzzle of building an effective education and fostering a positive catalyst environment where giftedness can flourish into talents and achievements.
Investing in our teachers is a crucial element of this blueprint. RPCS teachers are being offered a growing number of opportunities for both internal and external professional learning.
However, Melinda urges that effective learning and development is not merely sending staff on courses, she explains, “At RPCS, we’re engaging in organic learning with students at the heart. Teachers are accessing some of what they have learnt through professional development and adding what they’re observing in the classroom and then we’re able to discuss what they’re seeing and how we can use our learnings to be more responsive to all students’ needs, including gifted students.”
EVERY STUDENT HAS A RIGHT TO GROWTH IN THEIR LEARNING
Whilst gifted children are no more special than any other child, just like their peers they have a right to growth in their learning. Melinda says, “Pursuing excellence is not just about bringing the lower levels up, it’s about growth for all students.”
Melinda encourages her students to raise the bar and strive for excellence. She explains, “Sometimes students need someone else to say to them: I’m putting the bar up here because I don’t want you to settle for down here, when I know you can achieve higher. I’ll be here to journey with you, but we need to strive higher. The hypothetical bar is responsive to individual student’s needs, and it doesn’t mean that highest is best. It needs to be where their readiness is to learn”.
Enrichment is the latest of the GATEway 2.0 intentional initiatives. Previously the domain of lunchtime or after school activities, enrichment opportunities have also been scheduled into the weekly Stage 4 timetable, with future growth on the agenda.
Students are able to explore a particular area of interest with curiosity, depth and complexity; from robotics to debating, RPCS students are offered engaging learning opportunities outside of the standard curriculum.
Melinda says, “Enrichment helps us to build a culture of excellence. I’m excited because when the kids are excited, they’re happy, engaged learners. The research into positive psychology demonstrates that positive wellbeing translates over to other subjects”, she adds, “We know that each child is made uniquely in the image of God, and it’s important to recognise that gifted children are not necessarily good at every subject, so we want to provide multiple opportunities for children to connect and engage with their learning so they thrive and flourish”.
COLLABORATION CENTRED AROUND STUDENT AND FAMILY VOICE
The journey of parenting a gifted and talented child comes with its own challenges. Melinda comments, “Any family that parent a child who is not ‘the same’ as their peers, can face a sense of disconnect – and we know how important a sense of belonging and connection is to our wellbeing”.
She urges families to find their ‘tribe’ – other families that are going through a similar journey, and to ensure they’re supporting themselves, so they can nurture the needs of their child.
Giftedness manifests differently for everyone, which means that there’s no simple tick box checklist that will determine if your child is gifted. One thing that gifted children often do share though, is a deep sense of curiosity – a need of learning.
Melinda comments, “Often parents will notice that their child is thinking differently to their peers, providing ‘outside of the box’ answers and displaying a great curiosity in the world around them. In that case, it’s about being responsive to what you see and responding to your child’s needs. For example, if they’re fascinated with 200-piece puzzles, nurture that curiosity – even if they’re only 2 years old”.
The next step is to begin a conversation with the school. Melinda believes that this should look like a partnership, a collaboration. She encourages families to get involved in their school and their gifted child’s learning. A large part of Melinda’s role at RPCS is collaborating with families and students – working with all the stakeholders involved in the child’s education journey.
Melinda comments, “That’s the way we do things here at RPCS – we strive to be responsive to each individual’s needs as they travel through their educational journey with us”.
RPCS is a pioneer in the development of Christian Schooling in Australia. The education we provide is centred in Christ, and entirely distinctive. We are thankful for the amazing work that Melinda is undertaking to ensure our GATEway programme evolves to become an inspired catalyst – ensuring all gifted RPCS students are engaged and connected in an environment that allows them to turn their God-given gifts into life-long talents.