Starting on the Road of Public Schooling
Here is our Smarty on the first day of school – so small, still looking a bit like a well fed baby and very exhausted after her first day. Transition to a kindergarten is a big step, and, looking back, I think we approached it with a great deal of trust and good faith. It was not misplaced, since Smarty was very lucky to have an amazing teacher and a strong class in that first year, but I still want to share the advice below, since this journey so far was certainly not without its bumps.
Do Some PreworkI am sure that you already gave some thought to the rules for gifted education in your state or country, because they could not be more different. For example, in California where we live, gifted identification only happens in the second grade. In addition, every school district might have their own gifted policy that might be more generous or stingier than guidelines from above. Finally, an individual school might offer their own take on gifted education. That individual take depends on many factors, including available resources, knowledge, and simply desire of administration to accommodate outliers. It really helps to talk to more experienced parents in your circle who also send children to this school to understand what is available. This is how we knew that our school has K-1 class that takes 10 strongest incoming kindergarteners and puts them in class with 15 first graders under the care of a very experienced and enthusiastic teacher. We specifically asked to put Smarty into that class, and she thrived in K even though she was a full year younger than most of other K-kids in this class and 2 years younger than first graders.
Do Not March In With “Gifted Talk”Unless your child clearly requires special accommodation, give a teacher a chance to get to know your child. Most schools have a “back-to-school” night within 2 or 3 weeks after the school year begins. It’s a good opportunity to listen to the teacher describing his or her approach to differentiation in the classroom and formulate your questions based on the information you receive during this event. Then schedule a meeting with a teacher, if needed, to talk about individual details for your child.
Decide on Whether Gifted Testing Is NeededTo test or not to test? Different parents will have different opinions on this subject. Personally, I think that it is not needed for high achieving kids, but might be useful for twice exceptional learners, so the right accommodations can be provided.
Do Not Expect a Teacher to “Just Get It”I have a healthy amount of respect for every teacher my 4th grader had so far, but remember that they are not really required to apply themselves to the problem of students who are above level. Every teacher promised us “a year of progress” for every child in her class but was not able to quantify how that would look like for a child like Smarty who was always a couple of years ahead in academic subjects. In my opinion only the third grade teacher sort of delivered that, and only because by that time we were very “hands on” with Smarty’s education, in constant sync with this teacher and supplementing math at home. Therefore, see my next point.
Do Not Wait for a Parent-Teacher ConferenceIn our schools these conferences usually take place in November. By that time your child might be already engaging in not-so-healthy behaviors trying to keep himself or herself entertained or challenged. I think 3-4 weeks into a school year would be a reasonable time to touch base with a teacher to discuss what “a year of progress” would look like for your child and how you can work as a team to support this goal.
VolunteerMake a difference in your child’s and other children’s education by volunteering your time and skills. Being in your child’s classroom will give you a better understanding of challenges that teachers are facing every day in their classrooms where the gap in abilities can be staggering. Having parent volunteers allows teachers in our school to work individually with smaller ability-based groups of students while parent volunteers supervise the rest of class working independently.
Yes, Be a Squeaky WheelIt’s extremely frustrating when your gifted learner is struggling in school, and we’ve been there in the second grade when our daughter seemingly lost all interest in learning, because her teacher taught strictly to the middle. We’ve made several mistakes during this experience by trusting the teacher do the right thing and waiting too long to bring the matter to a principal. One of the reason we waited for so long is because we did not want to be “helicopter parents”. But you know what? I am over that label. Our gifted children deserve a year of progress just as much as struggling students, and, unfortunately, it’s often up to us to make sure that happens.
Have FaithI don’t want to finish this post on a sour note. Overall, despite its ups and downs, our easy going gifted learner is thriving in public school. It helps that she is by far not an only gifted child in her year, and she enjoys the friendships that she has established over years. She also has a chance to help other students and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities offered by her school including a choir, a fall musical, GATE program where they get to build things, and more. We are optimistic that we will have another good year by applying all the lessons that we learned so far. I hope that my readers will also work with their public schools to make them an excellent educational choice for gifted learners.
More Resources for Gifted Kids and Their ParentsFrom this blog – check all my posts for gifted :
- 10 Resources for Parents of Gifted Kids
- Gifted Advocacy for Beginners
- Group Work for Independent Learners
Follow my Pinterest board Resources for Gifted Children.Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Resources for Gifted Children on Pinterest.