Each February in the state of Wisconsin the period of Open Enrollment begins. This year it opens February 6, and closes 4:00 p.m. on April 28, 2017.
Open enrollment provides an opportunity for parents to explore school districts outside of the district in which they live. The option of going to another school district that provides resources and programs for gifted students not found in their home district often helps meet the needs of the student.
It is often a difficult decision for a family to decide to pursue open enrollment because they must confront the fact that their child’s needs are not being met. However, it may be one of the best decisions a parent can make. My family utilized open enrollment for several years in middle school and it was one of the best decisions we made for our child.
I highly recommend if you are considering open enrolling your student that you take the time to do your homework. Go visit the school(s) in which you wish to enroll your child. Talk to the principal, teachers, GT teacher, students, parents and anyone else you can find. Walk around, look, and listen. How is it different from your current district? What can they offer that your school cannot or will not? What is the atmosphere when you walk in and go through the school? Is everyone welcoming and smiling? Go to meetings or an open house at the school if they have some. Go back as many times as you wish-that is what these public times are so parents can learn about the district, services, and classrooms. Talk to other parents with children in the program. As the teacher or principal for references whom you may contact. If you are considering a virtual school (online school) attend the open house and meet and greet sessions they hold. Meet the teachers, students, and parents. Look at the curriculum. Ask questions. Go to another meeting and continue the process. Learn as much as you can.
There are procedures and deadlines with the open enrollment process. Be sure to check the DPI Open Enrollment website listed below. Information, application, and links for further information may be found on that website.
You may apply for open enrollment but if your child is accepted, you do not have to confirm attendance right away. There is a June deadline for a decision. If you are considering a change for your student, the application period is only from February through April, so do not miss the deadline for the application. The decision to attend or not may be made later to give you and your family an opportunity to consider the ramifications of open enrollment.
Currently in education one of the topics I see coming up in professional literature, staff development, and conference sessions is social/emotional learning (SEL) and the social/emotional needs of students. Of course this piqued my interest because in the field of giftedness we know the importance of the social/emotional realm.
What is the social/emotional realm? There are many broad definitions. According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” (Retrieved from http://www.casel.org/what-is-sel/). For gifted children, youth, and adults the social/emotional realm may be much broader and their needs more unique.
As a SENG Model Parent Group (SMPG) facilitator I’ve talked with many parents who are seeking guidance and help regarding their student because of social/emotional needs they or others recognize. This often comes from the school when teachers notice the student isolating him/herself, acting aggressively toward others, or not fitting in. Each student is different as is each setting in which the student learns. Learning about the unique needs of your child and becoming their advocate is an important step for parents. Teachers are often willing to learn but have so many responsibilities they frequently do not have time to search for solutions for each individual child. Do not be afraid to advocate for your child’s needs and educate the teacher and school. Many teachers find that what helps one student often helps many students in the class and are grateful for the information you provide.
One organization that can help parents and teachers learn more about assisting a gifted child with social/emotional needs is Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, or SENG (www.sengifted.org). They have a myriad of resources available on their website, a monthly newsletter, and an annual conference, among other things. This year’s conference is SENG In Our Hands Chicago 2017 and is August 3-6 at the Chicago Marriott Naperville. Since it is close you may wish to attend to learn and meet others who may be experiencing the same things you are.
SENG has a number of articles in their library related to the topic of social/emotional needs of gifted children, youth, and adults. Several of the articles may be found at the following website:
The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) offers a new book “The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know” published in June 2016.
Ian Byrd, a gifted adult and teacher, has information about social/emotional needs of gifted people on his website which is focused on helping others learn about gifted people. Here is the link to one of his articles: http://www.byrdseed.com/10-facts-about-social-emotional-needs-of-the-gifted/
Learning about the social/emotional needs of gifted children, youth, and adults is important for everyone-parents and teachers alike. The resources herein are just a starting place for your journey of learning more about the gifted children, youth, and adults you know.