There are many times when no matter how much you advocate, the school will still not comply with your requests. However, even if they cannot see that there is a need for an independent study program or for differentiation, there are things you can do to help challenge and motivate your gifted student. So how do you cope with an unresponsive school system? What do you do if you have tried advocating, and speaking with as many levels of the school administration as you can, and they still refuse to see it your way? Well in this post I will outline some ways in which I have dealt with the school systems failure to meet my needs, as well as some ways that I think could work for numerous gifted students whose needs are not being met by the school system.
First, you have to analyze the problem. Has the school decided that your student is fine working at the level that is being taught and that they should be able to meet the teacher requirements for the year? Or has the school set up a differentiation program that does not fully meet the students needs? In order to determine the correct solution, you first have to identify the problem. When you have identified the problem, you can move on to the next step: Identifying Goals.
Next, you have to identify goals for what you want to accomplish. Since you probably thought of what you were looking for when you first sat down with the school to discuss the problem, you can base your goals off of the same principle ideas. However, because you will most likely be working outside of the school system to accomplish your goals and solve the problem, the goals will have to be a little different. For example, your original goal may have been to further challenge your student in Math and gain Math credit; however, now your goal might have to be to challenge your student in Math and learn real-world skills. Once you have made a goal that you think will solve the problem that you face, you can continue on to: Choosing a Solution.
After you make your goal and outline what you want to accomplish, the next step is to Choose a Solution that will both solve the problem and accomplish your goal. There are many different programs and other options that you can use as a solution. Here I will outline just a few of them.
1.Distance Courses- I have talked about these before, they are a great way to challenge your student and in some cases have them meet more gifted peers.
2.Seminars- I know that CTY runs many good ones, and there are other seminars that are not run by a talent search, but are held at local colleges. If there is no age limit, often discussions and talks held at museums and libraries are good as well.
3.After School Programs- If you are not already involved in programs such as Math Counts or Academic Decathlon, those could be beneficial. For a less competitive environment, try a journalism class, or a writing club.
4.Other Clubs- Not necessarily after school, these are often run by students, and meet during lunch or other free times. These can also help your student meet other gifted individuals.
Of course, there are many other options, only limited by your imagination. This step is probably the hardest. Finding the write program to accomplish your goal is one thing. Finding a program that fits your gifted student and one in which they will be happy is another. Often all they will need is a good peer group to interact with, something that they may or may not find during a regular school day. By branching out and participating in some programs that are outside of their comfort zone, you will be surprised by the amount of growth that may occur. Once you have decided on an option that will accomplish your goal and that will help your gifted student grow, you can proceed on to the actual program.
This step is the actual implementation and culmination of all of the ideas up to this point. Up to know, you have defined the problem, set goals, and identified programs. Now it is time to act on your decisions. Good luck! After the program has been going on for a short period of time, and you have been able to see if your gifted child is enjoying the program. If they are happy where they are then you can move on to the last step: Evaluating Your Decisions.
When you evaluate your decisions, you are assessing the choices that you have made up to this point. Once you can judge the success of the option that you chose, you can decide if it has met the goals that you set, and solved the problem that you were having. However, this is not an ultimate decision. If you decide that it has not met the goal, that does not me that you should stop the problem. Sometimes you need to revise your goals. When the solution solves the problem, and your gifted student seems as though they are not complaining and they are content, that is when you know that your solution has been successful. What started out as a bid not to be bored in Math, may end up as a spot on the local Chess team, but if the problem has been solved, then maybe that is exactly where your gifted student needs to be. Often just a little experimentation may help in solving your problems.
Now you have hopefully solved your problems and have satisfied your gifted child’s need. Be content in the knowledge that you have succeeded where the school system has failed, and you have successfully met your students needs. Good Luck in your quest towards System Recovery!