Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is There a Place at the Table for Parents?

You often see me write about the ‘gifted community’. Recent events within this community have led me to wonder if there really is a ‘place at the table’ for parents. Consequently, I began to consider who is already seated there: educators, researchers, teachers, psychologists? Where would I look to find out just who makes up the guest list? National organizations? State organizations? University research centers?

Well, I looked. I didn't see many parents. You see, I’m beginning to think that in most organizations … parents don’t get much respect. Parents are tolerated at best, ignored by most.

Here’s the rub ~ I think it is rather short-sighted not to recognize the potential contributions of parents. First and foremost, parents produce the children for which these organizations are supposed to exist. AND, in case anyone hasn’t noticed – funding for gifted education and thus a major revenue stream for gifted organizations has been tapering off lately. Parents aren't going to suddenly become philanthropists, but those small membership dues and conference fees can add up when they find something of value!

Of course, a place at the table does require that one’s voice be heard as well. And you know … parents can be difficult; even disagreeable. At least that’s what I hear. Who wants to invite that kind of trouble? And they might even have the audacity to start asking questions! No, no, no … we can’t have that!

Organizations have tried to reach out to parents; or they think they have. The trouble is that they really don’t know how to relate to parents and their efforts ultimately end in failure; but no problem. At least they can say they tried and parents were unresponsive. Parents are just too busy raising those quirky kids to be active in major organizations. Who needs them anyway?

Well, from my vantage point … I think the gifted community needs to look around and see who is engaging parents. They need to see how it’s done and then find a way to replicate that success within their own organizations or they will soon face becoming irrelevant.

Good organizations do exist; albeit rare. They reach out to parents by meeting them where they are; such as holding regional conferences. They have parents on their boards of directors who are not also academics. They recognize the value and contributions of parents at their annual conferences. They understand parents and acknowledge the difficulties inherent in raising gifted children; beyond the classroom. 

The parents who confide in me have grown weary of academics deciding who is gifted and what a child needs to do to stay gifted. They are frustrated by terminology that infers their children are little more than a commodity; valued only when they contribute to society without regard to their own personal needs and interests. These are real voices with real concerns. At times they feel like they are crying in the wilderness.

It is my sincere hope that those in leadership positions will consider setting another place or two at the table and expanding the guest list. Parents are on the front lines every day when it comes to advocacy and responsibility. They can be listened to or they can be watched …walking out of the room with their support in tow.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Orientation: The School for Gifted Potentials

When first contacted by the author (yes, I did receive a copy gratis) of this book to review it, I was in the midst of a dozen projects with deadlines looming. I reluctantly agreed to read it when I got the chance … until I read the first page! The plight of Everett and his mother grabbed my attention immediately and struck a chord with my own life experiences.

Set one hundred years in the future, this story has the familiarity of a young adult fantasy/sci fi novel similar to the Artemis Fowl series; but, as an enchanting tale of a boy unaware of his origins and unsure of his future.  Ringing dystopian for some and utopian for others, the main character – Everett – lives in a world where gifted children are sought out for their intellectual gifts and talents, and then whisked off to a residential school where they are rarely ever allowed to see their families again.

Much of the story weaves Dabrowski’s theories of over-excitabilities into Everett’s orientation week at the School for Gifted Potentials. The reader will find his theories much easier to understand as presented by author, Allis Wade, than in more traditional academic works. We watch as Everett begins to discover his own giftedness and his realization that his entire life up to this point has been affected by his mother’s attempt to shield him from that discovery.

But Orientation is more than just a story about a gifted boy … it is a novel filled with intrigue, mysteries yet to be revealed, subplots of ‘coming of age’ issues and everyday challenges faced by gifted children. More importantly, it offers the reader strategies on how to meet those challenges.

Orientation is a book that will appeal to the entire gifted community – kids, their parents, teachers of gifted students as well as gifted adults who have struggled with understanding their own giftedness. Many parents, I suspect, will use the book as a way to help their own children learn about social-emotional issues and how to deal with them.

I did not hurry through this book. I read every word. You could skim it; it’s an easy read … but you shouldn’t. This is an excellent first novel by Ms. Wade; her years of experience as a teacher of gifted children shine through the pages of Orientation. I highly recommend this book and hope that it makes its way into the curriculum of gifted programs in our schools to open discussions surrounding the needs of gifted children.

The best news is that Orientation School for Gifted Potentials is the first in a series. You are left at the end of this book wanting more … and there is more to come!

Buy the book; it’s a good investment both in terms of good fiction and great information with a solid foundation in current gifted research. Read the book. It will make you think. Share the book. The recipient will thank you. I’m already planning to buy additional copies!