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SMPGs – The Heart of SENG

By The SENG BOD Team.

“The concept appears to be a paradox: ‘Instruction’ and ‘conversation’ are often antithetical, the one implying authority and planning, the other equality and responsiveness. The task of teaching is to resolve this paradox. To most truly teach, one must converse; to truly converse is to teach.” (Tharp, Estrada, Stoll Dalton and Yamauchi, 2000, pp. 32-33)

SENG Model Parent Groups (SMPGs) are the heart of SENG. The objective of these facilitator guided groups is to unite diverse caregivers of complex, gifted children and provide space for each of us to learn from one another’s expertise and experiences in a nurturing, non-judgmental environment. While not counseling or therapy sessions, SMPGs provide space for critical conversations on how to best support the healthy social and emotional development of individual gifted youth.

In many ways, by encouraging authentic dialogue among caregivers, SMPGs promote harmony and are a model of the continued evolution SENG would like to see occur both in classrooms and society.

Last year, SENG engaged in a comprehensive evaluation of the SMPG program. We collected quantitative and qualitative data from active SMPG facilitators and recent participants via both surveys and interviews. The anonymous surveys encouraged honest, unfiltered responses and attempted to prevent positive self impression response distortion. Here are a few highlights of what we learned.

SMPG Participants Report Transformational Experiences. All but one survey participant reported their SMPG experiences exceeded expectations. Additionally, participants rated their facilitators’ skills nearly uniformly as superior. Here is an example of the of feedback we received:

“This group was SO badly needed for my family. Other families I know need a group like this too, but this particular time did not work out. I wish everyone with challenging gifted kids could attend this program!”

SMPG Facilitators Hold Tremendous Expertise and are Mission-Focused. While SMPG facilitators are not trained as clinicians, approximately eighty percent have more than twenty-six hours of formal professional development in the field of gifted. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of participants rated their SMPG experiences as “delightful” or perfect on our Likert scale. The survey also reinforced our perceptions that facilitators are mission-driven. When asked why they facilitate groups, facilitator explanations align with the purpose of SMPGs: to grow understanding of gifted children, remind parents they are not alone and create safe spaces for parents to connect and share.

This year, SENG is prioritizing taking better care of our SMPG Facilitators. Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:

· More opportunities for SMPG Facilitators to connect, share latest research and best practices (including an exclusive, facilitators only event at conference).

· Additional SMPG marketing and promotion support.

· Increased administrative support, including with registration and book distribution logistics.

· Focused attention on recognizing the contributions and achievements of expert facilitators.

· Creation of an SMPG Board Champion Position.

The Launch of SMPG PLUS+ Parent Retreats

In response to feedback from both facilitators and participants, SENG will be piloting a one day SMPG PLUS+ Parent Retreat in 2016. This workshop format will cover core SMPG topics. The structure will alternate discussion with frequent breaks for movement, meditation, lunch and to connect with family at home throughout the day. While the discussions will be structured in a similar manner to the traditional SMPG model, parents will be held in the comfort of tribe for a full day (8am-4:30pm). We expect this format will help us reach families whose schedules do not align with the traditional eight-ten week program. Our goal will be for all to leave feeling relaxed, replenished and empowered with expanded community and expertise. We already have three SMPG + Retreats scheduled for May. Keep a lookout for more to come!

In Gratitude,


Reference: Tharp, R.G., Estrada, P., Dalton, S.S., & Yamauchi, L.A. (2000). Teaching Transformed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

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