Back in December 2010 when I first proposed on #gtchat an international pro-active effort to promote the needs of gifted children I had a very specific purpose in mind. Advocacy has a very particular meaning to me. Not one to holler and do nothing, two colleagues and I set about establishing a Gifted Education Awareness Day in Ireland.
It was pleasing to see the World Council respond to requests with a day at the end of their conference last year, even if the day had different names and seemed more like an addendum rather than a purposefuly planned event. Progress is progress.
This year in Ireland, we extended our National Awareness Day to an Awareness Week with the help and support of many including CTYI and ICEPE. It is nice to see the World Council following on this year with a week of their own.
Sadly, I fear that yet again, one of the most significant bodies in the strongest position to advance the needs of gifted children has missed the point again.
Certainly, as a community, advocates for gifted children must be mutually supportive; not for their own ends but for the needs of gifted children. Advocates can be a vital safety net when our own individual kites go haywire and fall from the sky. Fellow advocates can help us unwind our twisted lines and get us flying again. The more advocates we have, the better. So any effort that seeks to bolster mutual support is welcome.
However, we should be careful not to use our own hot air to fly our own kites aimlessly. Unless gifted advocates are working outside the community of advocates, unless we move beyond preaching to the converted, we cannot advance the mission of ensuring the needs of gifted children are met – locally, nationally and globally.
Firstly, ‘International Days of’ should be reserved for spreading the word beyond the existing community, for promoting awareness and insisting on policy responses to the needs of gifted children. If such days are seen as an ‘in-house’ day, how can we and our cause be taken seriously. Certainly, I can’t see gifted children thanking us for it; “well done, you’ve had a great week but I still have to go back to my crumby classroom”.
Secondly, many advocates have moved beyond the confines of the gifted community – true outreachers such as Mary St. George and Roya Klingner and have achieved huge amounts. But we need more internationally. Our efforts should not be limited to an occasional event but rather a movement with a goal and a plan. As in 2010, if you’re interested, you know where I am.
I’m not entirely sure what you’re hoping for. I’ve seen a vast international reply to this call. I myself am certainly not ‘in house’ anything, more like ‘behind the house next to the dumpster’. Perhaps you are misunderstanding the power of social media but the advocacy base has grown so significantly that there are states over here in the US discussing increasing funding. Louisiana is serving as a model and several teacher friends of mine have been discussing the professional development going on for the gifted and often thank me for sharing these days and weeks.
Perhaps you are not seeing what you want, but I think over the pond here in America it feels quite international.
Could you perhaps explain what it is you want to see since you are clearly unhappy, what would you have done had you been in charge?
Susanne, thanks for taking the time to comment. There has indeed been excellent work done in advocacy in the USA and while this is significant, it is hardly ‘international’. Nonetheless, I am aware that there has been an excellent response to the call – and not just for this week but for others – and from advocates in different parts of the world but it always seems to be answered from within the same group of people. Obviously not everyone who is an advocate blogs or is involved in social media and so the picture is not a true picture of all the efforts of advocates. But how many teachers internationally even know of the existence of the World Council, never mind much of giftedness itself?
On weeks when we aren’t pretending that we are achieving something, social media is full of parents’ accounts having been forced to homeschool their gifted children because teachers don’t even know what ‘gifted’ means; of parents whose gifted child had to move school because they were being bullied as a result of the difference giftedness creates in them, and so on.
I have outlined clearly on my blog and in various chats what I think the goal of gifted advocacy should be; simply, it should be to make gifted advocacy redundant. As I pointed out in my post above, it is good to have a week when we can pat ourselves on the back and be mutually supportive; these things are necessary and important; but we shouldn’t think that in having such a week that we are making progress in raising awareness of the needs of gifted children where they matter most – in schools. The Hungarian Presidency of the EU made a significant move in trying to address giftedness on a policy level last year (http://www.talentday.eu). I suggest the World Council could take a leaf from their book.