A few weeks ago my 15-year-old son and I were talking about school, and how he was doing in a few of his classes. After telling me his grades, some which weren’t up to par, he looks me straight in the eye and says, “Dad, the struggle is real.” My response was “punishment is real.” Since then his grades have improved. But what he said to me has stuck with me.
One of the most important aspects of being an advocate for children is to realize their struggles are real. We have students in our classrooms who have struggles. Those struggles aren’t always plainly seen. Sometimes their struggles are social, emotional, and sometimes educational. Their struggles could be bordem, lack of motivation due to work that they feel is unworthy to do, or being the class tutor. Some of our gifted students are withering away.
The social and emotional struggles can be based on not fitting in with their peers, or being seen as the “teacher’s pet.” some students here in my school try to hide their giftedness so they have some street credibility. Some students are seen as nerds, geeks, and weak. Sometimes gifted students are used by other students to get answers or help. Once the help is over then they are ignored.
There is a few things that advocates of gifted students need to do. Here is a list, but it doesn’t include everything. I also created a wikispace about being an advocate. Feel free to check it out.
Listen to you students: I have found the more I listen to my students about what they are doing in their regular classroom I can get a clearer picture of what they are learning. Sometimes, they share their frustration with me. When that happens I try to work with the regular education teacher help come up with some activities that my gifted students can do to help with their struggle. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of time to build a working relationship with teachers, but it will make a difference for students.
Give your students time to be creative: One of things I try to do in my classroom is to give choice to my students. I feel it is important to give choice to gifted students. I try to get them to be as creative as they can depending on their strengths and interests. I want my students to have time to work on something they enjoy, and are interested in.
Communicate with parents and teachers: As I stated above, it is important to keep in communication with other teachers. No teacher is an island. To be an advocate for your students you need to work with your gifted students regular teachers to help make lessons and activities for your gifted students. When possible give advise to teachers who need some assistance. When you get word about webinars, conferences, or speakers that regular education teachers would benefit from pass it on to them. The more resources they have, the more of an advocate they can be for your gifted students.
Another important aspect of being an advocate for your students is to keep in contact with parents. Let them know what you are doing with their children. When you get word about webinars, conferences, or speakers that parents would benefit from pass it on to them. If you can’t meet with every parent, use social media to help spread the word about those resources.
Along the lines of using social media, start a Facebook page or a tweetchat for your school or program. This will help to get an active parent / teacher interaction.
There are so many ways to be an advocate. Sometimes they are only appropriate for your situation. Be creative when advocating for your students. How are you advocating for your students? How are you trying to help their struggle?