I cannot speak for all the members of the board past, present, and future, but I will try and put into words why I am a participating member of the Washington County Association for Gifted Children.
As a parent of precocious children, it is encouraging to be able to encounter others in our community who have had similar experiences with their children. As an educator, I am constantly trying to better myself in an awareness of the needs of children, as a whole, in the community. The more I assimilate, my awareness increases of how little I know and how much assistance there is in absorbing from others knowledge that betters the lives of those with gifted tendencies. Parents of children with a disposition towards higher aptitudes in one or more subject matters, in my experience, find that a traditional classroom, with a traditional teacher, may not have the optimal experience for their children’s learning style. This is not to say that traditional teachers are flawed, or doing less than their best, or that their classrooms and approaches are failing.
One example that I remember clearly involved a child who came home from school in tears. The teacher had asked the class members to do a math problem and then explain how they came up with the answer--simple enough, right? Well, this child explained the process in which the answer was acquired and was met by a blank stare from the teacher. Finally after an awkward silence, the teacher responded, “I don’t understand.” This child was crushed because “even the teacher” did not understand what was going through this child’s head. The child felt alone, strange, an outcast, crushed, etc. We may see it as “not a big deal.” Unfortunately it was a life-changing experience for this student for the negative. The student learned to withdraw, not participate for fear of being misunderstood, etc. Fast forward to a year when the same student was allowed to be in a classroom of children who also had an aptitude for math. After one day, the child came home glowing. Then asked about school, the child chattered on excitedly; but, the first comment was, “There are other people who think like ME!” This was an exhilarating moment for a child who was used to being alone, misunderstood, and misperceived. My experience was a heart ready to burst with joy for a child who finally was experiencing (after 5 years) joy in learning in a classroom setting. Some will make light of this experience. Some will say that their child has never experienced joy in a classroom setting. To me, that does not change anything. My goal is to allow growth for all children, no matter their aptitude. If we do not start somewhere, it will never get better.
Let me back-track to the original teacher and the math problem. Was the teacher deficient? Of course not. Teachers attend years of school and they go to continuing education classes and workshops. Every year they learn, they grow, they stretch, they try and better themselves. The hard truth of the matter is one teacher cannot be everything to every student. Teachers pick and choose their emphasis, their endorsements, their areas of expertise. They share, share, share their wealth of knowledge with anyone who will listen. Still, there are not enough hours in a day for one teacher to learn and master it all; nor is it possible for all teachers everywhere to accomplish all there is to grasp. Legislatures can pass laws, school boards can introduce programs, parents can continue to place all the blame on teachers for what their child does not know; but, that will NEVER fix the issue.
So why Washington County Association for Gifted Children? I feel that by having resources close to home for students, parents, educators, school board members, legislature, community, and news outlets alike allows for growth. If one teacher, in one classroom can find our site, and help one student, then we have succeeded! If one parent can find our Facebook page and reach out and talk with another parent and discover that this child they do not understand has a purpose and a capacity for greatness they do not comprehend, and now this child has a community on their side rooting for them and passing along resources to help with perceived problems or weaknesses in their day-to-day living and experiences, once again, I feel that we have succeeded. If we can advocate for the needs of the few; if we can pass along testing date windows and information on who to contact at your local school for help; if we can create a list of resources for teachers and parents to better the life of one or more student, we have succeeded!
We are Washington County’s (and any surrounding Counties) local resource for information on children and students with gifted tendencies. We are Washington County’s (and any surrounding Counties that do not have a local chapter) local resource for learning opportunities for educators and parents. We are here because there is a need. I hope that you will join our community of learners and share what you know and glean from others who can fill the gaps in your knowledge. We are here to help--volunteers who have full-time jobs, full-time families, full-time lives. Volunteers who make space in their lives to better the community for the precocious, those with an affinity to learning, and those predisposed to stand out in a way that only a truly gifted and talented individual will.