April 27, 2011

Happiness and Education

Peter Gumbel and Wenda Sheard
Saturday May 21, 2011 at 10h30-13h30
American University of Paris

  • RSVP:  Due to space and security reasons, RSVP is mandatory by Saturday May 14th. Please email: giftedinfrance@gmail.com, Subject: Gumbel/Sheard 
  • Cost: 10 euros per person. Checks, payable to Gifted in France, must be received in advance.  
  • Location:  American University of Paris, 75007
Organized by Gifted in France and Hosted by the American University of Paris

French Schools, and the Elusive Search for Happiness, Peter Gumbel
Journalist, teacher, author of,  "On achève bien les écoliers,"
Out-Of-The-Box Education Ideas,
Wenda Sheard, J.D., Ph.D.
Educator, attorney
 Over the past three decades, a growing body of academic research has highlighted the importance of enjoyment and fulfillment as important learning tools. If you are passionate about a subject, you're more likely to excel at it - and in excelling, derive more intellectual satisfaction out of it. Instinctively, that seems obvious, and there are now more and more studies to prove it. The latest is the new international PISA report, published in December, which clearly demonstrates that teenagers around the world who read for enjoyment score much higher in tests than those who don't. Yet in France, the notion of enjoyment or happiness at school remains taboo. The heavy national curriculum leaves little room for pleasure, and instead relies on the opposite, punishment, as a principal pedagogical tool. Learning in a French classroom all too often is a passive activity, and
highly stressful. It can sap the self-confidence of even the brightest children. On TV talk shows and in the media, there's no shortage of so-called experts who continue to insist that learning is only effective if combined with suffering. In his talk, Peter Gumbel will discuss the importance of happiness at school, why France is such an exception, the prospects for change - and what concerned parents with children in the French system can do to compensate for and counteract the difficult classroom culture.

Peter Gumbel is a British-born former journalist for the Wall Street Journal and TIME Magazine who now works at Sciences Po, where he directs the Center for the Americas and teaches at the Journalism School.  His critical book about French classroom culture, "On achève bien les écoliers" (Grasset), created a national stir and hit the non-fiction best-seller list when it was published in September. He has lived in Paris since 2002, and has two daughters at school here. You can follow discussions on the impact of the book on Facebook. 
 Dr. Sheard will begin by sharing philosophical quotes by John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, J.S. Mill, John Dewey, Margaret Mead, Albert Einstein, and Leta Hollingworth about gifted children and their education. Dr. Sheard will then describe how educational gold standards—the curriculum, the teacher, the diploma, the grade level, the report card—are all constructs of convenience that creative parents and teachers can by-pass by focusing on the true purposes of education. Unique education ideas—theo-therapy, anthropology-lensing, meta-cognition learning, hobby immersion, credentialing by alternative means—can provide positive experiences that protect children’s minds and souls from negative education environments around their bodies. The social and emotional considerations for choosing education ideas for certain children will be considered. Many ideas cost little or nothing to implement, and most take advantage of a child’s natural curiosity.

Wenda Sheard is an attorney, teacher, and mother of three twenty-something gifted children. After practicing law for nearly twenty years, she earned a Ph.D. in political science with an emphasis on education policy. She currently serves as a trustee on the Council of Management of the UK’s National Association for Gifted Children, and she is director emeritus of SENG, Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted based in the US. Dr. Sheard is a recipient of an Ohio Association for Gifted Children award, a presenter at state and national gifted conferences, and a writer of articles about gifted children. She has helped teach the highly gifted portions of on-line gifted education courses and has presented at teacher in-service days. From 2004-2006, Dr. Sheard lived in Hangzhou, China and taught at Hangzhou International School. She currently lives outside London and teaches at TASIS, The American School in England.

This is a community event organized and sponsored by Gifted in France and hosted by the American University of Paris. We are grateful to the AUP for its support in hosting this educational gathering.

Please be sure to RSVP in advance as space is limited to 70 people; please email: giftedinfrance@gmail.com, Subject: Gumbel/Sheard. Checks must be received in advance to secure your space. Please mail checks payable to Gifted in France, 39 ave de Versailles, 75016 Paris. Space will be given on first come, first served basis.

Gifted in France is a non-profit loi 1901 association, aimed to help parents, educators, and mental health professionals understand the social, emotional and educational needs of gifted and twice-exceptional children.

If you would like to become a member of GiF, the annual membership is 30 euros, good for a year from the time you join, and for the whole family. Gifted in France organizes educational meetings for adults and enrichment activities for children, including the annual Paris Spelling Bee.

Best regards,

Helen Sahin Connelly

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