Most parents of gifted and talented (GT) students care deeply about the education of their sons and daughters. They also want to be a part of the conversation. Parents want to feel informed about their student’s progress, Advanced Learning Plans, socio-emotional development and challenges.
If you’re a parent of a GT student, you may feel elated and/or frustrated when dealing with your child’s classroom teacher or GT coordinator. And though you’re apt to be proud of your son’s or daughter’s giftedness, you may also feel nervous about his or her future. Whether you have a profoundly gifted student, a visual-spatial learner, a creative wonder or a twice-exceptional student, you may be fed up with GT communication logjams or utterly impressed. Regardless, you want the very best for your child. This post is for you!
Take a moment and pat yourself on the back for being a proactive parent. If you’ve found the Ingeniosus blog, you’re someone who seeks out, absorbs and likely applies relevant information on gifted issues. Being an informed advocate is simply one of the greatest gifts you can offer your son or daughter. How you communicate your passion, though, can – and will – impact your child’s overall experience.
And while there’s obviously no one-size-fits-all communication strategy for parents (who experience vast differences in GT programming across the country), I’ve assembled a few timely and exemplary tips for consideration. Thank you to the many gifted and talented teachers who volunteered their thoughts on this subject!
Bret Loucks, a teacher at Scottsdale Unified School District in Phoenix, shares this sage advice:
- Most of what we learn, we learn by making some mistakes. This is how we develop tenacity and resiliency. GT kids are not made of glass. Don’t be afraid to let them fall and fail a bit.
- Let kids manage some of their “free” time. Filling up their evenings and weekends with obligations prevents them from being introspective.
- Your child may have some extreme sensitivities. These “quirks” can be managed if we listen to their needs, and help them learn strategies to compensate.
- They may be smart, but they are still kids. They need to know they are loved and safe. For this, they need their parents to set limits, rules and principles to live by.
- Parenting GT children is more challenging. Look to others for support and information. Help is available through associations, teachers, books and other parents.
Carol Fertig, author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook (Prufrock Press: http://www.prufrock.com), offers these recommendations:
- Assume that you will create a very good educational environment for your child. Know that there are many options. Consider your child’s school your ally, not your enemy. If you are not able to work with teachers at your child’s school, you have the choice to find alternatives.
- Teachers are most receptive if parents approach them with consideration and respect. If you come in with anger, emotional curtains may immediately fall, as the teacher feels attacked.
- Be willing to really listen to teacher’s observations about your child and about the class in general. You may gain insight into a different side of the situation.
- Ask, “In what ways might we…” This will demonstrate a willingness to work together, rather than expecting the teacher to do it all.
As noted before, personalities play a bit part in building bridges or detonating bombs, which can both have long-term impact. Give your teachers the benefit of the doubt and listen longer and more actively than expected. If you find yourself getting defensive, bite your tongue and take a deep breath. Don’t assume your view is the only correct view. And certainly don’t rush to the principal without trying to share your concerns with your child’s teacher first.
Diane Moline, a gifted and talented teacher in Bellevue, Washington, shares the following with regard to parent/teacher communication challenges:
I want parents to e-mail me with a question or concern. I can usually tell from the tone how to handle it: phone them, email them, or write them a note. I figure as often as not they blind copy my principal if they really want to complain or express frustration…If I hear third-hand from another parent or the principal that a parent is unhappy about something, it just makes me mad, especially if s/he remains "anonymous." Parents of gifted children are, as we all know, much more involved with their child's education, than others - mostly a good thing, sometimes not. I've taught gifted kids many years, get few complaints, and pride myself on being able to handle the occasional complaint. But I am left "defenseless" against those who would criticize and not put me in the conversation.
I agree with Diane. As I’ve said before, parents often forget that teachers can’t read their minds! They’re also human beings who have feelings and distinct personalities. So, extend a hand and an olive branch. We need parents and gifted educators working ardently together if we are to help launch our gifted and talented students toward meaningful futures.
Even if you arm yourself with books and information online, be sure to seek out input and advice from educators regularly. These individuals went to graduate school for a reason, and they’re eager to serve this population. They want nothing more than to make an impact. Remember, these men and women are often stretched for time and resources, but they do have insights and strengths worth tapping, admiring and applauding.
Lastly, be willing to give. Ask your child’s GT teacher about volunteer opportunities. Perhaps your biggest frustration is with your son’s or daughter’s regular classroom teacher. If that’s the case, your GT educator may be able to set up a meeting to talk cooperatively and find ways for you to better support that teacher and your student. Your instincts may be right, but be open to joining forces and serving.
The education of gifted and talented children is our collective responsibility. It’s not your GT coordinators’ job to ensure your child becomes valedictorian or gets into Harvard, MIT or Stanford. It’s their job to support your son’s or daughter’s strengths. Pressures and expectations on these students and teachers are great. Finding ways to support them both will serve you and your child in powerful ways.
If you would like to receive post updates for the Ingeniosus blog, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Subscribe” in the subject line. As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing your comments. If you tweet, I’m @DeborahMersino. I’m also on LinkedIn; feel free to connect with me directly or via the “Gifted Talented Network” group.
Until next time, cheers!