After discovering your child needs something different in school, your child’s teacher is your first contact. Though the thought of approaching the teacher can be daunting, there are several actions you can take to increase the chances of a successful outcome:
- Talk with your child about exactly what happens in the classroom and what she might like to see change.
- Collect information about the options in your state, district, and school. Contact your state’s gifted association or go to the state pages of the NAGC website to see what the education policy is in your state. Talk with the district curriculum coordinator or gifted coordinator, if there is one, about options for advanced learners in your district and school.
- Develop a description of what it is you want to happen. Is it for testing for admission in a gifted program, or for more challenging work in a specific discipline(s)? Try to narrow down the specific skills your child is ready to tackle and how he might do that. Be specific.
- Think about how you can be a partner with your child's teacher. Differentiating for many types of learners is difficult. Are you able to spend some time in the classroom? Can you bring in mentors?
- Approach the teacher as an ally in your child’s education, not a roadblock. Be open to what he says, acknowledge the limitations in the system, but be firm in moving towards your goals.
- Make sure you walk out of your meeting with clearly defined “next steps” and a timetable.
If the teacher does not have the ability to help, you will be ready to talk with the principal, superintendent, and, if necessary, the school board. You might find you need a bigger voice. Parent Groups can be more effective in creating change than individual parents.
Remember to speak positively at home about your child's teacher and school. Complaining about the teacher or school allows your child to blame the teacher for his own lack of effort.
You are the most important advocate for your child's education, so don't be shy; just do it with tact and flexibility.