If You See Something, Say Something: Gifted Education
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do. – Edward Everett Hale
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi
I didn’t plan on advocating for gifted kids. I wanted to be the kind of parent who lets the schools run as they deem best and volunteers to help with after-school activities and field trips. I would support the teachers by backing them on their decisions and helping my kids with homework. Heck, I didn’t even plan on having gifted kids.
It wasn’t my intention to have to go to my children’s teachers and ask why they were being taught what they already knew. I figured a teacher would test all the children and then divide them into groups based on what they needed to learn. Isn’t this the age of individualized instruction and differentiation? Yet, there we have been at every parent-teacher conference wondering why our daughters are being taught what they knew a year ago.
I didn’t want to get the principal and learning consultant involved. I had hoped that talking with the teacher would have resolved things. But teachers have 25 kids to work with and a strong incentive, professionally and personally, to pay attention to the average and struggling learners. There is a huge emphasis on each student reaching a threshold and the school’s reputation is formed largely by how students perform on these threshold standardized tests. For teachers it also can be very obvious when a struggling student finally “gets it”, but not as much when they help an advanced learner. In a profession where many enter to make a difference in children’s lives, it can be harder to see the results with gifted students.
I really didn’t want to take it to the district administration and Board of Education. It feels like being sent to the principal and public speaking always puts a knot in my stomach. But when we could make no headway with the principal and the response to our suggestions was always “We tried that once and it didn’t work, so we won’t do it”, we had to escalate the issue. What kind of parent would I be if I ignored my children’s needs because of adversity from authority? And so when the principal and learning consultant weren’t willing to make adequate changes, some of us went to the district decision makers. Frankly, I thought it would be fairly easy. I had asked my city council for a pathway in my subdivision and they put me on a committee to make it happen. Now families can walk a safe distance from the road.
It wasn’t a goal to form an advocacy group for my district, but it quickly became apparent that numbers are important and that other families were struggling the same way we were. We don’t have the funds to send our children to private gifted schools and we believe that public education should meet the needs of all students. We know it can be done, as many school districts across the nation have programs that educate children where they are at academically, not just chronologically. We live in one of the best districts in our state, so shouldn’t it also be one of the best for advanced learners?
I didn’t plan to have to defend my advocacy or feel weird when talking about my children’s accomplishments. I’m still not sure why it is OK to be thrilled when your child is an athletic or artistic genius winning the big game or blue ribbons but speaking about how great your child is doing in school needs to be done in hushed voices with like-minded parents. I wasn’t prepared when someone dismissed my issue with “That’s a good problem to have!” and didn’t realize that a child who spends the day on stuff she already knows and doesn’t learn to work hard isn’t a good problem to have, but just a different problem. I was taken aback by parents who believed I thought my child was better than theirs. I most certainly don’t, but I revel in the accomplishments of each child, whether it is in academics, athletics, the arts, leadership, or just doing something they hadn’t been able to do before.
I didn’t want to start blogging about gifted children. I’m a very private person. My Facebook page – another thing I hadn’t planned on – has no information about my family and little information about me. I don’t have a desire to go into politics. It wasn’t my plan to read books on gifted education, spend hours writing, or attend every school board meeting. However, when I saw how little understood gifted children were, I felt the need to write about them so that perhaps I could make a bit of difference.
“If you see something, say something.” This little phrase is a public awareness campaign by the Department of Homeland Security. But while our country may suffer wounds from terrorist bombs and hijackings, it will be brought to its economic knees by failing to educate our children. While China spends billions on turning gifted learners into top scientists, engineers, and innovators, our federal government has typically spent less than $10 million per year on its only program for gifted students and now has defunded it.
If you see that we shouldn’t cede America’s position as the land of entrepreneurs and innovators, say something.
If you see that all kids deserve to be educated at their academic level and not just pigeonholed by age, say something.
If you see that your child’s academic skills should be just as valued as other children’s athletic and artistic skills, say something.
If you see that the good of our nation and our children depends on not waiting for someone else to raise the issue, say something.
Blog it. Whisper it. Yell it. Write it in a letter. Make a sign. Wear a button. Say something.
Say it to a friend. Say it to an educator. Say it to a legislator. Say it to a group. Say it to an individual. Say something.
Say it until you are heard.
Say it until you are understood.
Say it until it changes.
Thank you for reading Rochester SAGE. Together we can make a difference for gifted children!