By Roberta Braverman
Who is responsible for teaching the gifted students in your school or district?
If you could name a person who may provide some specialized services to gifted students that answer is only partially correct. Almost every educator teaches the gifted, whether his or her title is media specialist, music, art, technology teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, advanced placement instructor, or general education classroom teacher.
Since most of a student’s time is spent in general education classes, everyone who comes into contact with these students has a responsibility to know about the academic and social emotional needs of our approximately 75,000 fastest learners, representing five percent of the total school K-12 population in New Jersey.
The New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC), a professional affiliate group of NJEA, advocates for gifted children and their families and teachers. Myth busting is often a first step to opening dialogue with key decision makers. You can find 11 myths debunked at bit.ly/mythsgifted.
New Jersey Administrative Code requires every school district to identify and provide services to its advanced K-12 learners. Through its active volunteers, NJAGC fought for inclusion of language in the law assuring services to gifted students.
Ten ways to celebrate gifted and talented students
NJAGC also successfully lobbied the state Legislature to produce a Joint Resolution designating every March as Gifted and Talented Students’ Month. Here are 10 ways you can participate and resources to help.
1. Recognize gifted education in your school by reading, sharing, printing and posting.
2. Update your knowledge about gifted students by attending the NJAGC conference and hear from a panel of experts about ESSA and funding that may support local gifted services. Take home strategies for your class.
3. Have gifted students show their appreciation for programs or services, explain their needs, and share their work with teachers, your local board of education, superintendent and the media.
4. If you can locate gifted and talented program graduates, invite them to the classroom, in person or virtually, to speak to your current students about how the program influenced their lives.
5. Encourage gifted students to creatively express “things we want our teachers to know.” Invite parents, teachers, administrators, board members and others to hear from a panel of students. Allow time for questions and discussion. Document the responses on video or in writing. Seek solutions to problems and make action plans of ideas for improvement.
6. Promote contests and out-of-school opportunities for children and families. Share information about Regional Activities for Children with High Abilities (REACH). Attend for professional development hours. Consider hosting an event like this in your school.
7. Learn about the social and emotional needs of advanced learners, who are often labeled underachievers, twice exceptional, perfectionists, too sensitive, or absent minded professors at www.sengifted.org.
8. Check your district’s schedule for program evaluation and when your gifted services are up for review. Volunteer to be part of the committee that will make suggestions for improvements. Multiple offerings in grades K-12 should be “on the books” to accommodate the needs of K-12 gifted learners. These may include cluster grouping identified students, pull out and push in programs with gifted and talented specialists, subject or grade acceleration policies, specialized counseling, distance learning, mentors and more.
9. Talk with the gifted specialist at your school. He or she may travel between buildings and be the only one with his or her job description in your district. Acknowledge that the work is valued and that the gifted specialist has a seat at the table in your faculty room.
10. Recognize that gifted students are children first. Although they may ask endless questions or appear aloof or inattentive, they have a right to learn and grow under your leadership. They need to be accepted with their idiosyncrasies, protected from bullies and encouraged to thrive as lifelong learners. Check out Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights at bit.ly/giftedbor.
Roberta Braverman is the NJAGC Advocacy Vice President and an NJREA member in Burlington County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.