As a disclaimer, I must admit that all these events occurred about three decades ago, so my memory may not be clear about all of them. What is clear is that the formation of a parent group for the gifted students in Aledo, Illinois had a profound emotional impact on me and my family.
My oldest child was in second grade when he was diagnosed gifted, and it came as a surprise to me. Everyone in my family was like this – able to pick ideas up quickly, using an advanced vocabulary, able to sing and play musical instruments, and, I must add, having a hot temper. While it took me a few months to really comprehend what this meant, I went to an educational conference in Iowa and heard Joan Smutny speak. Inspired, I went back to Illinois and began to question school officials about getting a gifted program into the school system. I learned quickly that one parent receives nods and is ushered out the door. I consulted with friends, and we decided to organize a parent group called the Academic Boosters Club. Our first venture was to create weekend enrichment programs for all children. It was thrilling. My children and I went rock-hunting with the science teacher, I taught a class in Logo for kindergartners, and there were many more classes. We scheduled these on two weekends in the spring. Then, as a group, we began asking the high school to allow students who were academically talented to receive the same letters as athletes, which they did. One of the parents was more diplomatic than I, and she convinced the schools to begin a pull-out program in fourth grade. They hired her to do it. The fifth graders were allowed to progress at their own rate, but couldn’t “bother” the teachers if they had problems on something that wasn’t being discussed. Luckily, my kids were very independent. We moved away in 1989, so I don’t know what happened to the group. If my experience helps anyone, I am grateful. The most important thing I learned was to form a group. Administrators will not listen to parents who come in one at a time, but they will listen to a group of parents whose children are not receiving the services they need to learn.
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