Illinois Association for Gifted Children
As parents, we evolve as problem-solvers. When our children are hungry, we feed them. When they fall down, we help them up, dry the tears, and reach for the band-aids. So when we see our grade school children become upset about difficulties in the classroom--perhaps at the kitchen table as they attend school online - our first instinct may be to reach for our laptop, send an email to the teacher, and make the problem go away.
It is essential for parents of high-ability students to communicate with teachers and advocate for their children. However, sometimes going a step further to support our children means taking a thoughtful step back. Buried beneath those sometimes frustrating daily school challenges are rich opportunities for parents to help to teach their children to become articulate, respectful, and effective self-advocates.
Especially during times of remote learning, these opportunities may be right before our eyes — when it is difficult to hear the classroom conversation over the internet, when our child whips the morning’s assignments and does not know what to do next, or when the homework instructions are unclear —
So next time that you are inclined to pick up the phone and problem-solve for your child, try the following three steps instead:
Discuss the issue thoughtfully with your child. For instance, if your child is frustrated with the sound quality of the remote lesson, what has he or she done to address the problem? Is she managing her time correctly at home and using class time wisely? If your child feels that assignments are insufficiently challenging, are there any aspects of the lessons that she finds interesting, or topics that she would prefer to study? Has your child taken advantage of any extra credit or enrichment opportunities in the classroom? Is she doing her best work, or rushing through to get the job done?
Brainstorm some options for “problem-solving.” Have your child create a list of several potential solutions to solve the problem. Then, evaluate each potential solution with your child. How would solving the problem this way make you feel? How would others' feelings be impacted? What other points of view might there be about this situation? What would be the likely result of this potential solution? What practical implications may be involved? If your child does not have enough information to propose a solution, discuss what questions might be helpful to ask the teacher or others involved in the situation.
Consider ways to support your child with handling the matter independently. For example, if your child has a simple question for the teacher, help your child to compose a short e-mail or “rehearse” how to respectfully bring the matter up with his or her teacher via Zoom or during in-school time. Your child may discover that sending a respectful email is all that is needed to clarify homework expectations or to alert the teacher of an incorrectly answered grade. Or, your child may experience how a well-timed request for extra help or enrichment can yield a desirable result.
Of course, some school-related concerns are best resolved with more direct parental involvement. But many day-to-day issues also provide wonderful opportunities for students to take charge of their own educational experience and learning.
Patricia Steinmeyer, Executive Director, IAGC
Upcoming IAGC Virtual Workshop -Supporting Self-Advocacy for Children with Gifts and Talents - Featured Presenter: Deb Douglas: For a more comprehensive understanding of the benefits and power of self-advocacy for gifted children and for practical strategies to help them take ownership their education, please attend the IAGC “Supporting Self-Advocacy for Children with Gifts and Talents” virtual workshop on Saturday, October 24, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Our featured presenter will be Deb Douglas, author of The Power of Self-Advocacy for Gifted Learners: Teaching the Four Essential Steps to Success (Grades 5–12), Free Spirit Publishing, 2018.
Illinois Association for Gifted Children
1500 Sullivan Road
Aurora, IL 60506
Ph: 630-907-5047Fax: 630-907-5976
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