Thanks to Roya Klingner of the Global Centre for Gifted Education for the invitation to write a post as part of Gifted Education Awareness Week in Namibia.
In December 2010 I proposed on #gtchat on Twitter that there should be an Global Gifted Education Awareness Day. From participating in #gtchat, it was clear that the biggest obstacle to promoting the needs of gifted children was awareness that they even existed in the first instance. It is simply not possible to address the issue of the needs of gifted children without first recognising what is a gifted child.
I was disappointed with the response. Although it was initially positive, it was clear that there lacked either the will to get behind the idea and contribute to it or that advocates – real and imaginary – had better things to do. Clearly new initiatives require us to move out of our comfort zone. This can be hard for people.
The declaration of a Gifted Day by the World Council last year, as a tag on to the end of their World Conference, was a nice recognition of my request to them..even if it doesn’t get a mention on their news page. But it wasn’t what I was getting at. Firstly, it’s name varied – gifted day, international gifted day, day of gifted etc., meant that no one, including the World Council, knew what to do with it. Secondly it did nothing and it achieved nothing. Preaching to the converted never achieves anything.
If gifted advocacy is to achieve anything, it must look outwards beyond the narrow confines of those who ‘get’ (and those who earn from) giftedness. Advocacy must be pro-active. It must go to teachers, schools and policy makers and convince them of the merits of our cause; a cause that holds that gifted children have unique educational, social and emotional needs that must be specifically addressed in education if these children are ever to self-actualise.
It is on this basis that I co-founded Gifted Education Awareness Week in Ireland with my colleagues, Dr. Catherine Riordan and Karen McCarthy. For this event, we produced a leaflet and poster which was sent to school principals (2011) and SEN Coordinators (2012).We recongised that most teachers have the skills to address the educational needs of the majority of gifted children. However, we also recognised that teachers recieved little training that would inform their awareness of the presence of gifted children in the classroom. By directly emailing schools we were able to speak directly to the 76,000 teachers in Ireland. I am pleased to support Talent Development for Children in Namibia 2012. I am even more pleased that as part of the week, they aim to send a flyer and information leaflet to schools. It is direct advocacy like this that has the power to transform the reality of school life for gifted children. I would like to also highlight in this regard Roya Klingner’s work in promoting awareness among advocates.
I do not believe that gifted children are the ‘saviours of the universe’. I think the majority of children can acquire skills and other qualities that can enable them to contribute to our futures. However, it is clear that no country should allow the talent of any of their children to be wasted. By addressing the needs of its gifted children, Namibia can develop its pool of collective national genius to aid its development. Gifted Education Awareness Week in Namibia 2012 can be a powerful step in this direction.
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