Dear Teacher, What I Want to Tell You About My Gifted Child
My gifted child is going to be in your class. And here is what I want to tell you, but I probably won’t. I want an open dialogue, but I know your time is valuable and, frankly, I’m a bit scared.
1) I feel like you are already skeptical. I’m worried when I use the term gifted or say that my child is academically advanced or high ability, you’ll think I’m seeing through rose-colored glasses or believe my kid is special. I’ve already met educators who don’t believe any student is gifted or believe all children are gifted. I probably don’t know you very well and I don’t want to start off the year damaging our relationship – or the relationship you have with my child. I might not tell you even though this could be very helpful information. You might have to initiate the conversation, but the email of “Your child is ahead and I want to help her learn at her level” will probably be the best email we get this year and an immense relief.
2) I don’t know how much you know about gifted learners. I don’t know what you learned in college or through professional development, but statistics tell me that only about 1/3 of teachers have had a course that focused on gifted students. I don’t know if you’ve had much experience with other gifted children. I’m willing to help – but I might be new to understanding giftedness too. Unless you ask for recommendations, I probably won’t give you a book on giftedness as that could be perceived as an insult – and I respect you as a person and a professional.
3) I want my child to learn, but I feel guilty. I know you are busy and that so many kids are behind grade level and require your attention. I know the school, district, and state and federal governments probably aren’t giving you a lot of support for gifted learners and demanding your attention elsewhere. Please let me know how I can help because we’ve had years where she didn’t learn much and spent the year bored and frustrated. You and I both want school to be a positive experience for her and we are willing to help. Let’s work together and have a great partnership!
4) Gifted kids can be tricky. My child may be two years above grade level academically, but socially, emotionally, and physically, he might be average chronologically or even a bit behind. He may be gifted and learning disabled. He might have an overexcitability and be overly sensitive to stimuli such as touch or noise, have a wild imagination, or be unable to sit still. He may need more assurance or approval from you because of previous bad school experiences. He may be an underachiever and already have given up on school. He might hide his abilities to fit in socially or show off because he wants to be recognized for what he can do well. Giftedness affects every part of who he is and isn’t just academics.
5) Gifted students still need a teacher. My child may seem like she already knows the curriculum – and she may know a lot of it – but she still needs instruction, direction, and someone to answer questions or help her with a concept she isn’t understanding. Gifted kids can learn at two to five+ times as quickly as other students – and then make stupid mistakes or not understand a simple concept. They may be too embarrassed to admit it. They are in school to learn, not be a mentor or teacher’s assistant or isolated in a corner reading. We need you and understand how much our children need you to teach them, guide them, and believe in them!
We are hoping for a great year and hope that we can work together to make it be one. But we are very nervous about approaching you. If we don’t, please extend the invitation to talk – and we will be astoundingly thankful!