When it comes to special needs, how much training do teachers get before they are thrown in to sink or swim in the "inclusive" classroom? For giftedness at least, I think the answer is “none”. Rather than think the worst of them, we need to try and empathise and support teachers. As advocates for gifted children, our job is to help teachers to help this group. A very good first step which would be of benefit to us all, would be for some of the basics of giftedness to be covered in all pre-service teacher training. If we didn’t have gifted children ourselves, would we have a clue of how it might present or how to deal with it? Most of us, even with our knowledge and experience, struggle with the task ourselves at times. I believe that most teachers, if they understood what giftedness really means rather than the usual myths, would be open to working with parents.
Let’s face it, one facet of giftedness is intensity. So, at the very least, I think they should be warned that the parents of gifted students may well be very INTENSE, but they are not to be feared! They are usually just very EAGER to help, but maybe aren’t sure how. As in so many aspects of parent-school interaction, understanding, respect and openness is required on both sides. For our part, parents must remember that we don’t really know how schools operate on a day-to-day basis and what may seem obvious and reasonable to us, may in fact be well nigh impossible to do.
Teachers, please don’t feel threatened by us. We know that our kids can be difficult to provide for in our current system. We know that you are largely unsupported in this regard. Parenting a gifted child is not easy either. Sending our children to school can be both frightening and frustrating for us and sometimes that emotion may spill into our behaviour when we interact with you. You have no idea how wonderful it feels when a teacher is receptive and supportive. Speaking from personal experience, when my own child was struggling in early secondary school, finding just one teacher who “got it” transformed the lives, not only of that child, but of the whole family. Instead of being a nervous wreck sending him to school each morning, I felt secure in the knowledge that he had someone to turn to if things began to overwhelm him. In the end, she didn’t need to do much at all. It was just knowing that she was there and that she understood that made the difference to us all. We all have teachers from our dim and distant pasts who we remember with affection and this one will certainly be one of those.
It is by talking to each other, sharing ideas and experiences, that parents and teachers of gifted children can make a difference.