Are you familiar with the children’s book “Caps For Sale?” The opening image in the book is of the cap selling man who has many multi-colored caps hoisted upon the top of his head. One morning he tries to sell his caps, but to no avail. This image perfectly captures how I have been feeling as of late as the Gifted and Talented Coordinator in my small school district in a suburb outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’m sure I’m not the only gifted and talented educator in Wisconsin who has been feeling this way recently. It seems to be the accepted norm in gifted education. For those of you who remain curious, I will share with you the plight of the gifted educator in Wisconsin.
You see, as the gifted and talented coordinator in my district, I happen to be the only gifted and talented educator in the entire district. So therefore, I must wear many hats. I identify students who may qualify to receive gifted services. I work with classroom teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of our students. I give direct services to identified students in small groups, by pushing into classrooms and in pull-out groups. I provide professional learning to the educators in my district about differentiation and gifted/talented students. In my small school district of 1,312 students, there are 68 students that I am directly responsible for in kindergarten through eighth grade. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love working with my amazing students. However, due to all the hats that I am wearing, I don’t feel that I am doing my job justice or meeting the needs of my students in an adequate manner.
It’s not that I’m not capable of doing what needs to be done. My roadblock is funding. There is not enough funding in our school district’s budget to hire the teachers that are necessary to work beside me to get the work done. It’s not that my district doesn’t want to improve and expand our gifted and talented program. The issue is bigger than that. In Wisconsin, our gifted and talented programs are woefully underfunded. Wisconsin earmarks about $474,400 towards the budget for gifted education. Of our surrounding states, Iowa budgets $40,800,000 towards gifted education, Minnesota $12, 280,000, and Ohio $77,900,000. This was after WATG worked so hard with legislators to double the budget in 2021. Our gifted and talented students deserve better. Our gifted and talented educators deserve better. We all deserve better.
So, what can you do? Please buy some hats. Take one of my advocacy hats, put it on and work with WATG to help Wisconsin do better for our gifted and talented students. Take one of my hats and work with your local school district to advocate for the gifted and talented students. If you’re a parent, put on one of my hats and advocate for your gifted child. Ask your gifted and talented coordinator and educators how you can help advocate for them. Let your school district know that you value quality education for gifted and talented students. I have so many hats. But, without your help, I have too many hats and not enough heads to wear them. Caps for sale. Will you please buy one?
WATG Board Member