I have a challenge to issue to you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to apply to present about gifted learners for a non-gifted-education-focused conference or group. Yes - the librarians, the principals, the science teachers, the homeschoolers, the psychologists, the Lions Club and Rotary Club, the Soroptomists and church ladies... All are potential audiences ripe for opened eyes soaking up new knowledge about a group of kids they hadn't considered before.
I used to never attend our state educators' conference because (among other reasons) as a Gifted Education Specialist, there was very little there for me. At the same time, though, I loved our state gifted conference because it was there that I could cross paths with so many others who spoke the same language I did. But then I got into presenting... and while I love presenting at gifted education conferences (again: same language), it soon occurred to me that the people who most needed to learn about gifted students were the ones who weren't coming to the gifted education conferences. "Preaching to the choir" is a heck of a lot of fun, but you don't often find potential new converts there. I decided I needed to go to them. So (almost) every year since, I have presented at our state educators' conference, and while the crowd is sometimes small in the gifted ed room, it's still a group that is taking the first steps to becoming more aware of the gifted learners in their classrooms. Local organizations have proven to be a viable audience for the message, too. The Indian Education Committee, the county Republican Women's Caucus, the Rotary Club, and others have all heartened me with their newly enlightened curiosity and passion for the needs of gifted learners.
So, with this continued effort in mind, I recently applied to present about gifted Native American learners at the annual conference of the Native American Student Advocacy Institute (NASAI) of the College Board. (Their conference rotates around the country and will be in Montana this year.)
Who will you choose? I'm truly serious. There are thousands of you out there with great knowledge and insight about gifted learners. And hopefully you have already shared your knowledge and ideas at a gifted education conference. But this year let's all break out of that box and reach out to the grand and obscure groups who need to hear what we have to say. This will help to broaden awareness and knowledge of gifted and advanced learners... which in turn will help to increase the number of people and places that are better equipped to reach and understand gifted kids.
If you don't have an idea of your own, please steal one of mine:
"Perspectives on Parenting the Advanced Reader" (librarians, PTA, language arts teachers, etc.)
"Five Easy Things Administrators Can Do for the Gifted Learners in Their Schools" (principals and other administrators)
"Opening the Door for Independent Science Investigations" (STEM, science teachers)
"Differentiation Strategies for Math Students Who Already Know X" (STEM, math teachers)
"I'm Teaching the Letters, But (S)He's Already Reading Chapter Books!" (early childhood, primary general education teachers)
"At the Root of the Problem: Could It Be Giftedness?" (school counselors, administrators, psychologists, general classroom teachers)
"Acceleration: Not Just for NASCAR" (administrators, school counselors)
"RTI for Gifted? Are You Sure?" (special education, administrators)
"Your Tax Dollars at Work: Stretching the Least-Stretched Student" (local groups)
(Do you have a topic/audience idea that you don't mind others using? Post it in the comments section.)
Will you join me in the Outreach Corps? Yes, you can do it. Whether it's a national conference for a national organization or a local group with five members, we can all find someone to reach out to, someone who just might be curious enough to let us talk a bit. Think about what your areas of expertise in gifted education are. Then, how can you connect that to another group's purpose? Google them and find out what the process is for applying to present at their conference. Or, particularly in the case of more local groups, pick up the phone and offer your availability. It might be a bit like fishing... you may have to keep trying until you get a bite. But give it a whirl. If one-fourth, or even one-tenth, of you do this, that'll be a sizable Gifted Education Outreach Corps. Together, we can reach thousands (dare I hope for many thousands?) of new people with a message that brings them insight, awareness, strategies, and understanding regarding gifted learners.
This blog post will not self-destruct in five seconds. So get to it! Then come back and let me know how it went. I'm setting a goal for you: Within a year, I'd love to hear from 100 of you about your outreach efforts. Thank you for joining me on this vital mission!