I was very heartened by the response to the suggestion of a World Gifted Awareness Day. But to be honest, and I’m writing globally here, I was surprised that the notion wasn’t run away with altogether….at least in the ‘Oh…now now ‘ type way. It’s not such a big thing or naive thing really – if the EU can declare a day (April 9th 2011), surely a World Day can be declared also – it just needs a catalyst. So this blog post is partly to examine why this might be the case. I will follow up again with how I think a World Day could run.
1. People are busy. People just can’t drop everything and run the minute someone comes up with a good idea (see 2 below). People have a variety of projects on the go and to get involved (at whatever level) in such a day would distract from their day-to-day activities – even if setting up a global Day would enhance their individual activities. It simply isn’t possible for people to get involved. I can live with that.
2. Good Idea. I can’t believe it is SUCH a good the idea is that no one thought of a World Day before. Indeed, the question I have to ask myself is why no one has thought of it before. Maybe someone has, but in 16 years of teaching gifted and talented children, I’ve never heard of it. Ordinarily, it is difficult to organise a World Day of anything. Usually, an agency like the UN gets a look in and it can take for ever to convince it or its agencies to adopt such a day. The result can be more complicated than needs be. In the end, it can become an uphill battle except we already have an organisation with ‘World’ in its title.
3. World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. The World Council presents on its website its mission statement as follows
The purpose of the World Council is to focus world attention on gifted and talented children and ensure the realization of their valuable potential to the benefit of humankind. To meet these goals, the WCGTC commits its resources to the following activities:
*facilitating the worldwide communication of information, ideas, and experiences through a biennial assembly;
creating an atmosphere of acceptance and recognition of gifted and talented children from any background in any country;
*supporting and disseminating research into the nature of giftedness, talents, creativity, and the education of gifted and talented children and their teachers;
*establishing opportunties for the worldwide exchange of ideas, experiences, and teacher training;
*supporting and enhancing national groups in recognizing and providing for the gifted and talented children in their countries;
*supporting international programs and activities for children; and
*supporting and enhancing parent and family education regarding the development of the potential of all children.
I’m a bit uncomfortable with some of the wording but as a latecomer, it’s really none of my business. What is more of a concern is why, as an ordinary teacher, I haven’t heard of the World Council before this year.
I must be fair. This is as much my failing as the World Council.
The second bullet point in the Council’s mission statement is important. It says the Council’s mission is
*creating an atmosphere of acceptance and recognition of gifted and talented children from any background in any country;
This to me is advocacy. But I would go one step further an call it ‘external advocacy’. The other bullet points seem to me to be all ‘internal advocacy’ – preaching to the converted if you prefer. External advocacy I define as extending a mission to the ‘unbelievers’, those outside the gifted fraternity who have not yet seen the light and who we know would be all the better for seeing gifted kids as we do. In truth, while it is nice to talk to each other, it is in talking to the ‘unbelievers’ that we can advance our cause and avoid going around in circles.
Yet as an ordinary teacher of high school/second level children I have never once received the message of gifted children’s needs – not in training college, not in practice, never in in-service and never by email through Ireland’s many education agencies. I suspect it is the same for other countries. Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say that such is the job of the World Council but it certainly has a role to play in promoting the needs of gifted and talented children among teacher training agencies.
I am thoughtful so I know this is not simple. But if acceptance and recognition of gifted and talented children is the goal, it surely makes sense to target the one place and venue and people with which and with whom G&T children interact the most outside of home – teachers and schools. Sure, training colleges are important too – but I lump all these together – when it comes to advocacy GET TO THE TEACHERS.
4. Advocacy. So to the issue of advocacy. Primarily, to whom are we advocating and for what purpose and where should this advocacy take place? For me the advocacy has to be about meeting the educational needs of Gifted and Talented children so that they can achieve their potential. In Ireland, the government has provided resources and funding to enable less able children achieve their potential. For me, it should be a given that Gifted and Talented children (indeed all children) would have equal opportunities to achieve their potential.
While advocacy has an important role in extending a message of support and providing resources outside a school setting, school acceptance seems to be the bigger issue among parents.
I do not subscribe to the notion that we should advocate for gifted and talented children because they will one day be the saviours of the universe. Most children, with the right guidance and education can become such just as well. This is not to deny the huge potential of a self-actualising gifted individual. But the philosophy of our advocacy should never be reduced to the mere notion that they will save the earth and that therefore they should be treated as special.
Gifted children should be treated with equality, fairness and the same respect to which every child has a right. I think this should be our argument.
Advocacy should never be about what we want Gifted children to be but rather what we would like them to have, as a right, for themselves.
And neither should advocacy be for its own sake. Arguably there is nothing wrong with this but it should not get in the way of the genuine desire to meet needs of gifted and talented children and it should especially not be disguised as meeting such needs when in reality it is something else.
So, World Day or not, I think that if we are to talk of advocacy, we should recognise that there are enormous resources available to help parents understand and help their gifted children. What is missing, in Ireland, is informed teachers who are aware of gifted issues, are unafraid of the challenge of gifted kids and who can help your child become their potential in collaboration with you.
As a teacher, I can speak with some authority to teachers on how simple actions and varied methodologies can yield huge gains for both teachers and children. However, and it is a very big however, I am still only one individual………………….