How I Failed at Gifted Advocacy

My son is about to turn 13 and I have been failing at gifted advocacy for about 10 of those years.

“Wait, did you just say failing?”

Yes. Yes I did.

Since I only have a handful of years to continue failing him, I thought I’d share with you all the ways I went wrong.

I didn’t start early enough.

B taught himself to read at 2.5. By the time he was in preschool he was pretty much reading chapter books independently. For some reason I didn’t want to mention this to his teachers in fear of “showing off” or something.  I guess I thought they would figure it out on their own. Once I realized they didn’t (which was over a year later), I did mention something and he was placed in a grade up reading group.

 

I empowered my son to speak up when he wasn’t satisfied with his education.

I didn’t want to become “one of those parents” who thinks their kids need to be pushed into MORE so when B had a complaint about school we role played how he could approach his teachers with the problem.

This sounds like a good idea right?

It failed. EVERY. TIME.

I’m not going to get into details of how my son was treated when he tried to advocate for himself but I’m here to tell you that it’s not a good idea.  If I could do it over again, I would BE THAT PARENT over and over again.

 

I used too much WD 40.

It’s hard to believe that I wasn’t the squeakiest wheel but I’m here to tell you that I wasn’t and in turn missed out on opportunities that were given to the squeakiest.

I’ve since thrown all the cans away.

 

I didn’t get actionable items in writing.

I can’t tell you how many hours we had meetings with well-intended educators, to collaborate on paths we can take to support B in his educational journey. These educators have come up with excellent ideas worth executing. We were so on board we would leave these meetings feeling GREAT.

::a month passes by::

Nothing happens. Not. One. Thing.

With nothing in writing I had nothing to follow up on except words in air.

 

I assumed being involved would allow me to have all the knowledge I would need.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am 80% more informed about our local education programs than the average person but that 20% I don’t know sometimes has the information I need.

This may all make me sound angry and bitter but I am not. Our educational journey has not always been a smooth road but it’s been our road.

Our number one success in advocacy is listening TO our child. What does he say about school, what works for him, what does he want. What are his goals?

When we combine listening to our child with efforts to advocate for him, we aren’t failing. We are parents.

3 thoughts on “How I Failed at Gifted Advocacy

  1. Hello from the other side…almost. My oldest is now a HS senior. K-8 was a mess, a nightmare, a web of frustration and disappointment that finally just left us counting the days (okay, years) until high school. High school is not perfect, but it has been So Much Better. His load of AP and honor’s classes seems to leave him with plenty of time to pursue interesting side projects, be active in sports (who saw that coming?), and play video games/hang out with friends. He has a respectable GPA, but he hasn’t gotten straight A’s, but see the part about projects, sports and friends. We’re okay with that. IMO, he still has poor study and time management skills, but l think life will teach him the lessons that we, his parents, were not able to. (I fear life will be harsher than we were, but he’s never been one for the “easy way”).

    Mostly though, despite the many past educational failings, he’s in a good spot. Which is good, but it also concerns me because then I feel like all those early teachers are somehow off the hook and they’re not. K-8 was mostly miserable. He could have been a happier child, he could have been a more engaged learner, he could have felt better about himself if he were given challenges to meet at school and even though he’s achieved a lot, if he received an appropriate education when he was younger he could have achieved even more (which to most people sounds obnoxious or pushy because he’s actually achieved a good deal and we’re proud of what he’s accomplished), but if you have a gifted kid, I think you get what I mean.

  2. Ugh, left an awesome reply that was like 5 paragraphs long and really well thought out. It erred out and blew my reply away, so now you get the condensed version :)

    You didn’t fail him, the school system did. You did everything that you knew how to do, and it wasn’t like there was a ton out there to go on. I’ve been following this struggle of yours with the school system for a while now, a good long while. It’s not your fault you didn’t go into this situation with all the knowledge and hindsight you only get by having to trudge through red tape and bureaucracy. You couldn’t possibly have known.

    And don’t discount the really valuable lessons B learned in making this trek with you. He learned how to problem solve, how to be creative and come up with solutions to problems no one could really help him with, and he learned that you really care a LOT about the quality of his education. And yeah, he learned because of all of the mistakes you now realize you have made, there’s a list of them right up there above this reply. HUGELY VALUABLE!! And he learns them at 13, not 40 something like us :)

    I bet B would agree with me on this too. Love you lady!

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