What Can I Do to Help?

Four Ways to Help your Child in School

Political correctness has led us to avoid even mentioning IQ or other terms like gifted program, superior intelligence, or genius. No one wants to make any student feel they are less capable than any of their peers. The truth is, however, the kids already know who's the smartest in the class…as well as who's the nicest, meanest, prettiest, coolest, funniest, etc. Yet, a smug attitude gets you nowhere in life, regardless of whether or not you have reason to back it up.

1. Instill in a sense of pride and humility in your child.

There is no reason a student should hold back academically for the sake of the others students. If the goal is for all students to receive a beneficial education, what does the exceptionally intelligent child gain from performing at a lower level? Did baseball player, Barry Bonds, hold back on homeruns so his teammates wouldn't feel less capable? No. By performing to the best of his ability every time he was at the plate, he currently holds the homerun record. While everyone has the right to be proud of their abilities, no one has the right to use those talents to insult or marginalize another person.

Often times, teachers are too busy to differentiate their regular instructional time for just one or two students. Finding good materials for the gifted learner often gets pushed aside in the wake of everything else that occurs during an academic day. Please understand, I am not blaming teachers. Quite the contrary!

Classroom teachers are under an enormous amount of stress these days. Time spent in the classroom would be much more effective if it weren't for meetings that take up planning time, trainings and workshops, changes in political policies, massive job cuts, and a seemingly infinite number of other tasks teachers are made to undertake such as: coaching, department meetings, assisting with school events, PTO meetings, planning and organizing fundraisers — all of this on a salary that qualifies most teachers for some type of government assistance.

Yes, teachers are overworked and underpaid, but don't let that make you take a backseat approach to your child's education.

2. Be an advocate.

Tell your child's teachers what is working, what isn't working, and what can be done better. After speaking with several large groups of adult members of Mensa International (a high IQ society for anyone with an IQ score in the top 2%), I learned that very few of them had completely positive experiences in school. Many reported boredom with school, which led some to mischievous behavior and others to dropping out of school all together. Of all the adult Mensans I spoke with, all of them had at least mild feelings of resentment.

Once I met a 3rd grade boy whose IQ was in the 99.9%. When I asked him if he'd like to change anything about school, he expressed frustration with his math teacher making him show his work for problems well below his cognitive ability. The class was working with long division and he is able to do the math in his head quickly. Even though he gets the same right answers as the other students, he must show his work just like everyone else. Why? To be fair? Fair does not mean everyone gets the same, but rather than everyone gets what he or she needs. If a group of 5 toddlers and 5 teenagers are having dinner, is it fair to give everyone one hotdog and one soda? The small children are ok yet the teenagers would remain hungry. Moreover, should a student show their work for a problem such as 2+3+3 = 8 at the 4th grade level? I think not since rudimentary math is easy for them at this point. Since, long division is rudimentary for the student in question, showing his work only benefits the teacher as a means of maintaining class control through perceived fairness. If the student is breezing through long division, he is obviously ready for something more challenging. So, why is it not being provided?

In order for America to compete at the Ph.D. level at CCNY or any other educational institution, the top 10% of any school must be given opportunities that challenge them as early as possible. As a parent, make your requests known. If no one listens, make turn your requests into demands. Demand that your child receive the unique educational opportunities he or she needs.

Statistically speaking, 10 out of every 100 people have an IQ of 120 or higher. Typically, most school systems begin gifted or accelerated learning programs for students who score within these parameters. So, you are not alone. If there are 500 students in your child's school, then there should be at least 49 other families who are up against the same challenges as you and your child. Discuss, research, hypothesize, theorize, embody the issue and

3. Become a catalyst.

After over a decade of experience in various educational settings, I have seen that major changes usually don't come from the top down, but rather from the ground up.

Teachers, administrators, school boards, and other local authorities are much more likely to take the voices of genuinely concerned parents into consideration before rhetoric of any elected official. Educate yourself, then, educate others on what can be done to improve education for the academically and intellectually gifted students.

In your research, you might find there are already parent groups who are well established and have regular meetings. Groups such as these could facilitate your endeavors, answer your questions, and provide you with support without reinventing the wheel.

Many highly intelligent youth lack the social skills to make and keep friends. While many often socialize with others who share the similar interests, the main goal of socializing is not just to make friends but also to gain experience and firsthand knowledge of how to navigate both positive and negative social situations. Kids who lack social skills might ask themselves questions like:

  • "Does this person like me or are they being sarcastic?"
  • "Do I have to give someone a present if they give me a present?"
  • "Why do the other kids get mad when I tell them the truth?"

4. Find a time and place for your child to socialize safely, where others will respect them.

Some schools have chess clubs, book clubs, Odyssey of the Mind, quiz bowl teams, computer clubs, drama clubs, science clubs, and much more. If your child is musically inclined, perhaps they should join the school band. As kids grow up, the need for constant parental supervision will probably lessen, but the need for socialization will definitely increase. Some gifted kids struggle with Asperger's Syndrome or other neurological problems. This can further their difficulty in socializing while increasing the need for structured opportunities even more. Whether in a big group or a small group, all kids need to interact through socialization either through play or through conversation.