Last week, I wrote a post discussing common myths about early enrollment and acceleration. What should you do when educators hold on to these fallacies at the expense of your child’s social growth and academic development?
This week, I am happy to share a post from my friend Celi Trépanier, author of Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling, as she relates some insightful advice on what you should and should not say to your child’s teacher.
**Also, see follow up post, Words You Should Say to Your Child’s Teacher
Gifted children need and deserve an appropriately challenging education as do all children, but as the educational system focuses more on improving test scores and teaching to the middle, our gifted children have found themselves left out in the cold—unchallenged and not making sufficient educational progress.
As parents of gifted children, we find ourselves in the position of having to advocate, trying to convince our child’s teacher and the school to implement the needed educational accommodations our gifted child needs. It is most certainly an uphill battle. Schools and teachers face increasing demands on their time from their administration to focus on children who need to meet grade level standards. And guess what? Our gifted children frequently already meet the grade level standards and attention then focuses away from their educational needs.
And, there are times, many times, in which a regular classroom teacher just doesn’t understand gifted children. Many of these teachers have had one too many parent push to get their high-achieving child identified as gifted and into the gifted program. When a parent arrives at the classroom door wanting to talk about their gifted child who is apparently under-challenged, teachers become jaded. A teacher’s predisposition to believing you will be that parent doesn’t make them a bad teacher, just one who forgets that there can be gifted children in their classroom who need more.
Trying not to appear to be that parent is a situation you will have to contend with, as unfair as it is. But when your gifted child is suffering because she needs acceleration, accommodations or differentiation, you have to step in and advocate.
Need some help? Here are three things you should probably not—no, maybe never—say to your child’s teacher when advocating for the appropriate education your gifted child needs.
1. NEVER USE THE WORD “BORED”.
Telling your child’s teacher that your child is bored is like telling the teacher she is boring, how she teaches is boring and that her class is boring. No one wants to hear criticism, especially a teacher who cares about her students and is working tirelessly for all of the children in her class. And bringing up the negative points never helps a discussion move in a positive direction.
2. AVOID USING THE WORD “GIFTED”.
Yes, your child has been identified as being gifted. And yes, “gifted” is the clinical term used in psychology, education and in the medical field for a child who has a higher IQ and above-average intellectual strengths. But, yes, “gifted” does trigger emotional reactions such as resentment, frustration, anger, indifference and envy which can be detrimental to what you are trying to achieve. Instead of using the word “gifted” to describe your child, point out your child’s achievements, strengths and abilities using test scores and classwork as proof.
3. TRY NOT TO USE THE WORD “YOU”.
Avoid making the conversation about the teacher—“you need to give my child more challenging work”, “can you differentiate her classwork?” or “why can’t you accelerate her?” Instead, keep the conversation focused on your gifted child and her needs. Express clearly what negative behaviors you are seeing in your child due to her being unchallenged, and state the educational accommodations your child needs to succeed. Keep the focus of the conversation on your child, not on what your child’s teacher has not been doing or should be doing for your child.
Advocating for your gifted child is a tough gig and the odds are, you will likely get some push back from the teacher and the school. Be diligent, but thoughtful when advocating for your gifted child because your child needs you to be in her corner. She deserves an appropriate education.
Celi Trépanier was born and raised in south Louisiana. She grew up with a strong Cajun French heritage, eventually married a French-Canadian, and has three wonderful sons. She currently resides in central Iowa with her husband and youngest son.
Celi has a vast and varied background in education. She received her B.S. from Loyola University in New Orleans and her M.Ed. from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, then taught in Louisiana, Ontario, and Alabama, in public schools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops.
Celi became a passionate advocate for gifted children after tiring of her family’s painful battles with traditional schools and the misunderstanding and neglect of gifted students. Through adversity came her passion, her strength, and her voice. She advocates for the educational, emotional, and social needs of all gifted children, and her dream is for schools and society to one day understand the truths about giftedness in children. Her writing centers on her advocacy for gifted children and her own journey with her three gifted sons. Her emotional and sometimes pointed posts can be found on her website, Crushing Tall Poppies.