Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our 2011 Election Promise for Gifted Advocacy

Although minds have been concentrated nationally on renegotiation of the IMF/EU bailout, job creation and our failed health service, we have recently seen some more success in raising awareness of the educational needs of Exceptionally Able learners. Yes, we know it's a side-issue in terms of the big picture of Ireland's current woes, but we and other advocates throughout Ireland have been working hard to reach those who will be part of our new government. We have been in touch with the political parties to raise awareness of the needs of gifted students over the last few months.

Education policy will be under scrutiny in the next government, from the dual perspectives of resources and of standards. The PISA results are a national concern and have been mentioned by most of the political parties in the run-up to polling day. With literacy and numeracy issues on the agenda, as well as overhaul of the Junior Certificate and parts of the Leaving Certificate, we are well placed to make our voices heard on behalf of highly able students. This is a crucial crossroads for Ireland, in many different ways. The importance of education cannot be understated, and among the nation's children exists a group who have been at the margins of education provision for many years. Our highly able students, contrary to the beliefs of many parents, educators and policy makers, will not achieve academic success on their own. They need the support of teachers and parents to find and reach their true potential. This need not use valuable monetary resources, but it does need training and planning by those who educate these learners.

We were pleased to see that Fine Gael's manifesto addresses the issue of gifted learners and that in government they intend to examine the supports in place for this group of students. It is to be hoped that they will take the views of parents, advocates and those who have expertise in teaching gifted learners on board as policy is re-examined. We will be pleased to be part of the consultation process on this issue alongside our colleagues as we endeavour to work together to move gifted awareness forward.

We have at last a chance to speak on behalf of highly able children. We need to do so cohesively, cooperatively and with due recognition of each other's work over many years of advocacy. Some have been working behind the scenes for years, others are newly arrived, some have teaching expertise, others are experienced in twice-exceptional matters, but all are valuable. Ireland is too small a country to have advocates not working together. So let us too make an election promise, let us all pledge to keep the focus on our common goal; raising awareness of highly able learners within the Irish education system.

1 comment:

  1. I was mulling over a cuppa (Lyons Tea) the other day when a friend from a long way back bumped into me and asked me if I was still involved in politics. I laughed off the fact that it was SO long ago but such is life.....people pass through your life on their way to somewhere and who knows when you will see them again.
    Anyway, they wanted to know the usual - because that was their mental model of me - wasn't this a great time to get involved again etc. But I declined to answer except to say ' know'.....which of course begged the question why not. The answer is the same now, as it was 20 years ago.
    In elections, people want promises (and I don't do promises). People don't want to hear that something may be difficult to achieve, that resources are scarce, that there are competing demands, or that I'll 'try'. Reality counts for nothing in elections - even in these ones. People want promises. And they will complain afterwards that the politicians didn't deliver on the promises they made. But they still want them - as if the imagined reality is always better than the alternative. The alternative, of course, is a reality that may not be all one dreamed and knowing this, one would rather dream.
    Not me. I don't sit dreaming into my cup of tea. There is a job to be done. I think I have found a way. I may be wrong, but I'm sure I'm not. Either way no amount of reading tea leafs will yield me the future I want. I'm going after it. Some people came into my life, and had they not, I would have been doing something else. But they have the same goal as me and we ahve found a way to work together.
    I know there are more. Some have said they would like to join but can't -just now. THe IAGC was founded in 1976 and still, in 2011, most teachers know little of lives of G&T children. 2011 is the beginning of the end of that. If this was a dream, no one could join in it. But because it is reality, there is always an open door. My teaching theme for this year is 'collaboration'. I like to practice what I teach. Some people were looking for me (excuse my arrogance) though I didn't know it...they found me. You can too. Can I find you?