Gifted Guardian - April 2017

Columbus City Schools Gifted & Talented Family Newsletter

Spring is Sprung!

Welcome to the spring edition of the quarterly newsletter for families of gifted learners in Columbus City Schools. If you have ideas for article topics, just let us know! (This month's article on self-advocacy was a parent request. Keep them coming!) Feel free to share the link to this newsletter with others. We will keep a list of the links on our website, as well.

What is a Scholar?

The Gifted and Talented department has adopted an instructional approach developed by Dr. Sandra Kaplan from the University of Southern California that utilizes various strategies to add depth and complexity to daily instruction as a means of encouraging critical thinking among our students. (Visit our website for an overview of this model). One of the strengths of this model is the emphasis beyond academics to include personal learning skills so important for any child. Dr. Kaplan refers to these behaviors as "Habits of a Scholar."

The Habits of a Scholar include behaviors such as preparation, perseverance, and goal setting while being organized enough to save their ideas and manage varied resources. Scholars are encouraged to ponder ideas from multiple perspectives, be curious, and take intellectual risks. It is expected that a scholar will seek excellence while demonstrating academic humility. These are the "soft skills" that so many of our students, particularly those who are gifted, need to be taught and have reinforced regularly.

Merriam-Webster defines a scholar as someone who studies under a teacher, has done advanced study, or is a learned person. This academic aspect complements the personal side described by Dr. Kaplan as explained above. These are aspirations for all children today, including those who are identified as gifted.

For that reason, the Gifted and Talented department will often refer to our students as "scholars." Our purpose in doing so is not meant to be elitist or to imply a sense of superiority, and, as mentioned above, academic humility is part of the scholarly mindset. Rather, our goal is to help the young people we educate begin to view themselves as capable lifelong learners and to develop the mindset and skills needed to pursue excellence, even when it is challenging. Join us is preparing the youth of Columbus to be scholars today and tomorrow.

Teaching Self-Advocacy

Parents and guardians of gifted children often have to fill the role of advocate. From a young age, a gifted child may need special accommodations to align his or her world with the unique intellectual and social-emotional needs that come with giftedness. When very young, the child needs an adult to be his or her voice. And so, caregivers become that voice of advocacy.

As the child ages, it is important the young scholar develops his or her own voice of advocacy. While spending six hours at school away from parents, the child needs to be able to speak up when his or her needs are not being met. When the student eventually goes into independent, adult life, being a self-advocte is critical in college, the workplace, and when dealing with the day to day demands and responsibilities of life. Self-advocacy is a skill that needs to be taught, practiced, reinforced, and accommodated by the surrounding adults while the scholar is still young.

Teaching self-advocacy begins at an early age by encouraging the student to ask questions in class or seek help when confused. This can be challenging for a child who is used to school being easy, as a struggle, particularly an academic one, may lead the scholar to doubt his or her abilities. The child may feel shame and try to mask any need for assistance. It is important to assure the child that real learning involves confusion and a struggle, and asking for help is the way to move past that. As a parent, it can be tempting to approach the teacher on behalf of the child, but that prevents the scholar from learning the skill of self-advocacy. Instead, if your scholar is hesitant to ask a question or ask the teacher for help, work with the teacher to find a more comfortable way to do so. Maybe it is having a question journal the student writes in to reach out to the teacher. Maybe it is a joint conference between parent-teacher-and student where the parent sets up the context, but the scholar actually asks for the needed support. Eventually, as the scholar becomes more comfortable with the process, he or she will initiate the conversation with the teacher independently.

Sometimes the student is concerned that the teacher will be angry or think less of him or her. Or, sometimes the scholar's approach is more authoritative than inquisitive, and it creates a challenging situation with the teacher. Those situations may require practice at home before the student reaches out to the teacher to ensure the student has the words and tone that simultaneously allow him or her to self-advocate while also demonstrating respect for the role of the teacher. Tamara Fisher suggested teaching scholars the four Ps of self-advocacy: do it in Private, be Polite, show Proof of need, and Propose an alternative or solution. Role-playing these steps at home can be a useful tool.

As a scholar moves into middle and high school, it is important that they are actively involved in conversations about future course selections and school choice opportunities. The scholar will have an opinion based on interests and personal goals. When those ideas do not match the family's or school's thoughts, it can be easy to slip into an argument or can create frustration on all sides when no one feels heard or understood. In those instances, a conversation where the student and adults have discussions that begin with, "Help me understand...." or "Tell me more about why you think/feel that way..." will lead to shared understanding and solutions rather than continued conflict. It will increase the buy-in and motivation of the scholar and will increase the likelihood of him or her advocating for self in the future.

Probably the most important, and most difficult, thing for parents and caregivers to remember is to avoid the temptation to always intervene on your scholars behalf. There may be a time when it is necessary to step in, but in most cases, it should be collaborative and actively include your student with the goal of eventually completely turning advocacy efforts over to your student. Doing so will build the skills and confidence your child needs to exercise his or her voice for a lifetime.

For more information on this topic:

Resource Review: Parenting Gifted Kids by Jim Delisle (2006)

The book, Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Gifted Children (Delisle, 2006), is filled with explanations and tips for parents of gifted scholars of all ages. Topics cover information to help you better understand your gifted child along with strategies for guiding him or her at home and supporting your student at school. Information includes understanding the nature of giftedness and the quirks, joys, and challenges that come with it. Including both philosophical and practical information, this book is a great first read for parents of gifted learners. It can be purchased at most book stores and can also be borrowed form the Columbus Public Library.

Looking for Summer Fun?

The summer is a great time for scholars to take advantage of enrichment programs around our area to explore interests or try new things. You can find updated lists of opportunities at Columbus City Schools does not sponsor or endorse any programs; the lists are just a tool for families to begin their search. Some application periods have already past, so don't delay if you are interested in making summer plans.

Gifted Service Information Update

Initial gifted service selection letters were mailed to eligible rising 3rd through 8th graders at the beginning of March, and forms were due March 31. If you received one of these letters and did not yet return your form, it is not too late! We are still placing scholars in services for the fall as space is available. Confirmation of placements were mailed right before Spring Break to families who returned their forms by the March 31 deadline. The Gifted and Talented office will send confirmations of placement in June for students whose forms are received after March 31.

As a reminder, young scholars entering grades 1 and 2 will not receive letters regarding formal gifted services, however their schools and teachers will be notified of gifted identification in the fall so that the teachers can provide support in the classroom. Students who are gifted and entering grades 9 through 12 may self-select advanced coursework, such as Advanced Placement, KAP, International Baccalaureate, and College Credit Plus, available at their school of enrollment. Rising high school students will not receive a service letter but are encouraged to speak with their counselor when scheduling to ensure enrollment in challenging courses as appropriate.

May PACE Meeting

Thursday, May 25th, 6:30-8pm


The next PACE meeting will be focused on the topic of transitions. Come talk with educators and other parents about strategies to help your scholar transition to a new school or to a new phase in schooling. Check the PACE website or the Gifted and Talented website or look for the PACE flyer in upcoming weeks with the location of the meeting.

Gifted Organizations

Columbus PACE

PACE is a community of parents, grandparents, guardians, and families of gifted students in Columbus City Schools. This group meets approximately once a month to discuss advocacy issues at the state and local level and to provide educational and informational programming of parents of gifted students.

Ohio Association for Gifted Children

The Ohio Association for Gifted Children is a state level advocacy group of parents and guardians, families, educators, and interested community members to support the needs of gifted learners in school, at home, and throughout the state. The group holds educational conferences and events for members and others interested, offers scholarships in support of student interests, and works with state leaders to develop policy for gifted learners. Members also have access to online events sponsored by the National Association for Gifted Children.