Back to school with gifted kids. It’s time for conversations. Communication. Advocacy. Whatever you call it, as parents of gifted kids, we have the right and responsibility to see that it happens.
Jim Delisle advises parents to, “Take charge of your child’s education.”
Consider taking a moment in the first few weeks of school to send an email to introduce yourself and your child. Try to keep it to a page or less. If your child’s situation requires more, send an email to schedule a phone call or meeting. Focus on no more than three things that will help the teacher know your child better. Focus on your child’s needs rather than labels. What are your child’s favorite school activities and subjects? How does your child feel about coming back to school? What interests does your child have outside of school? What have you observed about your child that helps your child learn best? And although we often forget to ask this, what are your child’s challenges, whether academic, social-emotional or developmental?
If you or your child’s teacher are new to gifted education, Hoagiesgifted.org is hosting a Gifted 101 Blog Hop this month. Both Ten Things You Need to Know about Teaching or Parenting Gifted Kids and Gifted 101 for Teachers New to Gifted Students are especially helpful for dispelling some of the gifted myths, as well as reminders to treat gifted students as individuals.
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development designed Advocating for Exceptionally Gifted Young People: A Guidebook for parents of children whose IQ scores lie in the upper end of the gifted range. Still, I found that this 40 page document provides useful information for parents, regardless of a student’s level of giftedness. If your child’s needs lead you to advocate beyond the classroom level, this is a good place to start.
Along with increasing the awareness about your child’s academic and social/emotional needs, many of the resources in this guidebook recommend parents become aware of any state laws and local policies that affect their gifted students. Parents may want to know if their district practice with respect to gifted education is in compliance with state law. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction makes a Gap Analysis tool available so districts can review their gifted program and practices to ensure compliance with the state standards for gifted education, and to identify opportunities for improvement.
Parents may also want to investigate their district’s school board-approved gifted education policy. Are there district policies regarding early entrance to kindergarten and first grade? Does their district have an acceleration policy? What about dual-enrollment (attending college while in high school or middle school)? Knowing the answers to these questions can help parents know what is available for students with advanced learning needs. It may also lead to some conversations with administration and school board members to address any opportunities for improving services for these students.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) provides a Back to School Resource Roundup, with something for students, parents, educators, and administrators so that all involved with gifted education can get a refresher. The site includes a glossary of terms for the beginner, as well as an Administrator Toolbox and Advocacy Toolkit for those whose goals include district and community-wide communications.
I encourage parents to begin those conversations. Your efforts may or may not work out exactly as you hope, but to quote Jim Delisle, “Appreciate that less than perfect is more than acceptable.”