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Fall Blog Series - Part 5

Fall Blog Series!

Week Five

Teagan Taylor

fall

As we are heading further into the fall season and beyond the “back to school” phase, this is the perfect time to replenish our gifted educational resource base! The fall months are often when we are finishing gifted assessments, introducing parents to the world of gifted, and even assisting teachers with gifted differentiation. Each post in this Fall Blog Series will touch on an important topic that is hopefully relevant to your environment, and can be implemented right away!


Topic: Sharing with School Stakeholders


To Ponder: “An ancient African proverb advises: If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together…Stakeholders play an important role in all school improvement activities, whether it is developing a plan, monitoring progress, or celebrating accomplishments. All of these activities will be most effective if done through collaboration of all stakeholder groups.” (California Department of Education)



family

Tidbits:

WHO to Share With: Stakeholders are the important people who play a part (big or small) in a particular endeavor. Stakeholders are those who should be “in the know” and should feel encouraged to participate and make decisions in regards to whatever the endeavor may be. Stakeholders have direct impacts on the endeavor and without them, change and growth would not be possible. In gifted education, the main stakeholders include parents, teachers, school specialists (such as counselors, EC, EL etc.), administrators, and policy makers (such as school board members, district directors etc.). And not to be forgotten; our AIG students themselves are also stakeholders! We should look to them first to see what unique needs they have and how we can better engage them in the learning process.


In this blog post, you will find suggestions on how to more effectively connect with your school’s gifted education stakeholders (in particular general education teachers and parents), so that they feel empowered and are more likely to collaborate and support you and your gifted students.


together

WHY Share?: More times than not, the conceptions (and usually misconceptions) of stakeholders can determine the direction our AIG services take. Read more HERE!


It is essential to build trust among your various stakeholders, keeping in contact with them frequently throughout the school year, gaining ideas from their expertise just as much as they are gaining ideas from your expertise. For example, if you have a 2e (twice-exceptional) student, seek out your school’s EC teacher/specialist or even the school counselor to get their perspective, and then work with them to support the student through their strengths, not just their weaknesses.


Be a part of the global school conversation! Oftentimes AIG teachers feel like we are on our own island, that we are not a part of the school wide community because we are not there full time perhaps, or do not follow all the same policies. Get off that island and swim for shore! Your admin may not be the one to engage you in the schoolwide conversation, so insert yourself. Show them that your role is important and that they need your expertise to help their AIG students flourish. At my school, my admin brought up in a beginning of the year staff meeting that one of their goals is to help grow our AIG learners. I took this opportunity to meet with admin and told them that they will absolutely need my help if they want to reach this goal. We worked together build a plan in which I attended grade level PLC meetings, pushed out standard specific enrichment resources, and most importantly, dispelled misconceptions about giftedness and school achievement (growth is often much harder for AIG learners due to a system not built for their advanced needs, read more HERE). Yes, it took a bit of effort on my end at first, but then after meeting with teachers one time, they were more likely to come to me and to take on the workload themselves!


Involving stakeholders in their students’ education allows for clearer expectations, and will better reinforce what you are doing in the classroom. What we may understand through our years of gifted research and experience may not make complete sense to stakeholders, so be sure to explain what giftedness is, how we test for giftedness (see blog post #1!), and what a gifted curriculum encompasses; but do so in easy-to-understand and attention grabbing formats (see ideas for this in the “How to Share” section below!). Send pictures home of student work, have virtual office hours for stakeholders to meet with you and ask questions, give them a taste of the amazing things that the world of gifted education has to offer!


classroom

WHAT to Share:

  • Take advantage of NCAGT and their plethora of amazing resources! I encourage my stakeholders to join NCAGT as a member and highlight all of the benefits of being “in the know”. For my AIG families, I tell them to attend the Parent eXchange sessions, and join a PAGE chapter. I send my teachers resources from the monthly nuggets and the bi-annual newsletters, as well as direct them to the Thought-Filled Thursday sessions, not to mention these blog posts ;-)!

  • Share with stakeholders updates on what your AIG students are learning during their time with you, providing a short blurb and perhaps even what standards are aligned. This will help general education teachers “buy in” more and find purpose in you pulling students from class. I even had teachers reach out to me wanting to tie in what I was doing with them, to what they were doing in their classes!

  • Direct stakeholders to the best quality gifted educational resources, and no this does not include Teacher Pay Teachers! See below for my go-to online gifted resources (that are well researched and aligned to gifted best practices):

  • Provide parents a connection to school with ways they can challenge their AIG students at home. One way I do this is by providing them a list of questions or sentence stems they can ask/use with their students to engage and encourage them to open up about school, beyond the often unsuccessful, “What did you do today?”. Instead they can ask questions like, "Ask me two questions about something you learned today.", or "What was something you learned today that made you feel [insert emotion here]?". This year I started something called “AIG At-Home Extensions” in which I provide parents with digital Depth & Complexity frames to complete with their students based on our AIG units. Click HERE for some examples!

  • Make use of all of those gifted education textbooks and workbooks that are just laying around your classroom by offering teachers and other school staff a digital AIG Library for them to check out books (or even games) from! Click HERE for an example.

  • At the grade level PLC’s I attend every so often, I try to keep it short, simple and purposeful. I usually start off by showing teachers a quote, or a gifted myth/misconception, or even a question for them to respond to. This helps me gauge their level of understanding and need right off the bat. Then I use visuals and charts to show some tidbits on different aspects of giftedness (such as perfectionism, twice-exceptionality, overexcitabilities etc.), usually focusing on one area at each meeting. Next I update them on AIG curriculum, AIG events and their AIG students, asking for their input. I find this is when I gain the most insight into how their students are interacting in class and what needs are coming to the forefront. Finally I end the meeting by providing them with 1-2 “takeaway resources”, printed and ready for them to implement right away in the classroom. Sometimes this is a choice board, an extension task, a puzzle, an independent research project and so on. Remember to have PLC resources easily accessible for teachers! Click HERE for an example PLC.

  • I love engaging my stakeholders in activities that their AIG students are experiencing, so they can better understand the types of thinking we are working on in AIG class. For example, at Open House and in my newsletters I provide brain teasers and puzzles for stakeholders to try out! It’s amazing how much they love the struggle of it, and come to me wanting to see if their answers are correct (and sometimes there is more than one correct answer!). See below for some teasers to try!

puzzle

HOW to Share: The information you send out to stakeholders should not be too wordy or “jargon based”. You want to grab their attention and entice them to read more, to learn more. For example, if there is a great research article about different types of giftedness, feel free to send that their way, but also in your message, maybe bullet point key quotes from the article that you really want them to focus the most on. If you send out a monthly newsletter, make sure it has great visuals, has links embedded (so there are not too many clicks and downloads needed), and showcases ideas specific to their student(s). Here are some more suggestions:

  • Use google slides or something similar to structure your notes when presenting at staff PLC’s or PD sessions. Provide teachers a link to the google slides, so that they can access it wherever, whenever. I usually put my slides and resources in my school’s Google Drive share folder, and organize it by grade level (see image to the right)

  • Google drive is your friend! If a teacher reaches out to you with a student support request, put all of the needed information and resources into a shared folder between the two of you so you can both edit and collaborate as needed.

  • If your school uses a platform like Schoology or Canvas, have a dedicated AIG course or page for extra resources. I direct my teachers to their grade level’s AIG Schoology page for fast finisher work. I also use Schoology to post updates (such as upcoming absences or events), and to communicate with parents and students outside of AIG time. See the image to the right for an example!

  • For a quick and easy way for teachers to reach you when they need student support (and for you to get the precise information you need), create and send out a Teacher Support Request Google Form. This will help you manage your workload better, and let teachers know you have a system in place for their needs. Click HERE for an example of a form that I use!

  • Have a beginning of year teacher and parent survey (and even mid-year and end-of-year), to learn more about your stakeholders, their viewpoints, and how to best structure your support. HERE is an example.

  • Make use of newsletters! This is a great way to push out information to teachers and parents, especially since you may not see their students everyday all day. I use Canva to create a monthly parent and teacher newsletter. I structure them similarly, and there are some crossover resources between the two, but I make my teacher newsletters more “school” focused, and my parent newsletters more “at home” focused. Click HERE and HERE for some examples!


When to Share: Frequently! You want to touch base with stakeholders often, but not so often that they start to disregard your messages. I typically send out my AIG newsletters once a month. I update my Schoology AIG pages, once a week with an update or a new resource. I attend PLC’s once a month. Usually that is all it takes for stakeholders to start to reach out to you! Before you know it, they will be stopping you in the hall with fun tidbits about their AIG learners, or telling you how they made use of an extension task they loved from the latest newsletter. Embrace the collaboration, but do not forget to set boundaries and expectations, so they know your time is just as valuable as theirs.



To Extend: What are some effective ways that you have shared information with stakeholders? What work is there still left to do in regards to spreading the good word about gifted education? Share in the comment section below!



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