Monday, February 25, 2013

Preaching to the Choir: They Need to Hear the Message, Too!

Recently, I have read several blog posts focused on some negative aspects to ‘preaching to the choir’. They believe the gifted community has become too insular and must now focus on outreach.

This seems like a reasonable assumption; except for one thing. Members of the choir can come from any segment of the community; including parents. For too long, parents have often been dismissed as transient members flowing in and out of the greater community as their children enter the system and eventually leaving when their children reach adulthood.

Am I advocating against attempts to reach out to the larger education community; to policy wonks; to decision-makers? Certainly not! What I am saying is that the leaders in our community should not forget about parents. They need to hear the message. The entire concept of ‘giftedness’ may be new to them.

Those who make these observations have often been living and breathing gifted advocacy for more years than many of you have been alive. They have been going to gifted conferences every year since becoming involved with gifted education. It’s easy to see how some of them wouldn't notice the new faces in the audience.

I am talking about parents attending their first meeting, workshop or conference. I’m also talking about first-year teachers who may never have had a single undergraduate course in gifted education. Reaching out is fine as long as it isn't in lieu of attending and presenting at gifted conferences as well.

The gifted community is relatively small in the grand scheme of things. The very idea of community is one of shelter; refuge. For many, especially parents, a conference is the ONLY time they can associate with those who understand the struggles and frustration of advocating for a gifted child.

Parents, in fact, are on the front line of community outreach. Parents are the ones facing skeptical or unsympathetic teachers. Parents are the ones attending school board meetings to advocate for better gifted programs in their schools. Parents are the ones who need to be persuaded to call their elected officials to request funding for gifted education. They need to know what they are talking about.

Preaching to the choir? Not such a bad idea after all.