1999 GCABC  Conference Burnaby B.C 

Presidents Message

The GCABC has for several years been in a holding pattern, working hard for change, supporting our members and waiting for leadership to emerge from outside to assist us.  Safe and warm in our vehicle, we have continued happily round the traffic circle, discussing our future route but not taking any of the exits, waiting for the right sign.  We can continue this pattern or we can choose a path to follow. 

Pressures in the school system, lack of staff training and awareness of our special needs children have seen services slip substantially in many districts since we met last year.  What has not dwindled is parent resolve.  But as parents pursue information in support of their children, their increasing knowledge widens the gap between their level of understanding and that of the general population.  This increasing gap creates asynchrony between adults, resulting in frustration and less common ground, rather than understanding.  Your child faces the same problem seeking to find common ground with their age normed classmates.  This knowledge gap is wider than ever before in our history as parents pursue more and more research to support their children, and the general population has less time and fewer reasons to keep up.  The gap is exacerbated by the enthusiasm, skill and speed the gifted population applies to situations which interest them.  The information you gather here today will inadvertently increase the gap.

The system can only be adapted by our population. Motivation for change does not exist where understanding is lacking.  Would you invest in something whose existence you do not understand, and which will be of no benefit to you?  In order to effect real change we need to seize the opportunity our knowledge and position at the forefront of support for gifted children gives us.  We are the leaders.  We know the situation from our internal reality, as well as from the knowledge we have gained in our odyssey to support our children.  From our position on the mountain we have to throw back a line to help pull others up to our level.  We must accept that we are at the edge of unexplored territory.  In order to proceed we must lead.  For our association this is an enormous step and one we hope you will discuss with us today.

Universities, teacher's organizations and politiciansare unable to enact real change for something perceived as a special skill the general population lack.  They CAN support and enact change for general benefit.  The needs of our children must be presented like those of elite athletes.  We all reach our own fitness level without resenting olympic performers.  Why?  We understand and appreciate that some of us are built differently from others.  We see the work involved, try the first steps ourselves and are not embarrassed when we choose to exit at a particular level.  In discovering our own level, we can unashamedly support those who choose to go on. 

Einstein's theories, although unproved and not understood by the majority of the population, are celebrated.  Why?  They are perceived as beneficial and are not viewed as underlining the inadequacies of the general populace. 

Imposed barriers to self progress cause resentment.  Understanding and acceptance of your personal limits allows support for those who reach beyond you.  Dropping out when something becomes too difficult for you is okay.  Being told by an authority that you are unfit to try out causes resentment. 

We need to ensure the needs of our children determine the adaptations in the school system.  Actual needs must be identified and supported.  Add on programs where entry is based on arbitrary cut offs or assessment levels may become impossible to support.  When assessment levels are arbitrary, levels can be shifted up or down, eliminating some groups entirely.  Athletic programs only for those who win medals, music or language programs only for those who win prizes at the conservatory cannot be supported in times of change.  Special programs based on a test score entry eventually become indefensible.  We must ensure gifted programs are not so exclusive they suffer the same fate.

The opera singer is generally not supported by the hockey audience We must celebrate our children's differences within the communities that support them and to which they hope to belong.  We must forge links with those will employ our children, with training institutions and concerned professionals.  It is no longer appropriate for us to represent only those fortunate enough to become members.  We must take on responsibility for those who struggle against economic, cultural and gender bias.  We must work together to plan ways to include and educate the wider community, so that your child's experiences with learning at this conference, become the norm, rather than a once a year exception. 

It is easier to stay going round and round the traffic circle. It is easier to walk away from ignorance, than to struggle to change it.  Today we hope you will discuss with us the route we should take into the future, the beginning of The Gifted Centre of British Columbia..  Otherwise we will run out of gas as we continue to circle waiting for leadership and change to emerge from some outside source.

 

 
Which way now? 

Society understands and respects gifted athletes without concerns of bias or elitism, so I will put our needs in those terms. Think of the education and support of your children as if you are working with an elite athlete.  It helps make the goals more understandable and gives a useful analogy when you are asked to explain why your child needs adaptations. 

Gifted parents are a team who've been playing defense too long.  Once we realized we had trained players who understand the rules clearly, are in the right position to direct the play, and are prepared to go on the offensive, we felt a bit of a shock.

Here are ten things all of us need to work on this year to change the way we play in order focus on our offense and move on down the field towards the goal.
 
  • 1. We need a clubhouse, so that people know where we are and can approach us for training, sponsorship, to socialize and to find out if they are eligible to play and where they can join a team. 

  • As we outlined in our provincial submission to the Special Needs Review, we need a Gifted Center.  In order to ensure that it effectively supports parents, we need parents to initiate the fundraising for development of a non-profit Gifted Centre of British Columbia.  In the coming year the provincial association will be preparing materials to attract Corporate support and work out partnerships with those who will benefit from our children's abilities.  We need our members to seek out this support from their own workplaces, and help develop the mandate for our non profit gifted centre. 
  • 2. All areas need standardized playing fields to encourage play and promote a healthy lifestyle for our children.  

  • We have to make sure there are playing fields available for all players, not only for those who have a supportive teacher or district, or those who can remove their child from a non supportive system for another choice such as home schooling or private education
  • 3. Everyone needs to understand the game rules are built on an inclusive model.  You fit the profile, have the desire to play, run fast enough, jump high enough, you are in.  We will not restrict our game to only the first 2% who show up!  Those who are willing to work hard will be encouraged to try out for the team.  We may have various levels, A teams, B teams and players who only sub but everyone will have a chance to play. 
Just as you would not expect an art teacher to pick members for the football team and base their choice only on past game scores, we should not expect untrained classroom teachers to identify gifted students based on screens.  Trained staff must be used to recognize gifted students and we must not base recognition only on achievement. 

We have to continue to combat the ignorance and prejudice surrounding our children, in their daily lives, in their communities and in all levels of the system responsible for their education.  We have begun with our articulate submissions to the special needs review, we have to disperse the same information gently throughout the education system, the press and the community.  Let them know what specific gifted children need, for one course, for this year, for their emotional well being. 

No single criterion should be established for entry into or exclusion from services for students who are gifted (Ministry of Education Special Ed Unit, Manual of Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines.).  Teacher's should know the levels of all students in their care and should provide specific adjustments for children based on demonstrable needs, not population percentages and non specific or group screening.  This way every child in the system gets their needs addressed and those who stand out get special provisions, just like athletes or musicians. 

  • 4. Training has to start early, to make sure our players are fit when they reach advanced levels of play. 

  • We need better ways to reach parents of very young children, regardless of their economic level or language to ensure they know what to watch and ask for when their children start school.  We have a special newsletter edition almost ready to go out to Doctor's and Dentist's offices, Public Health Clinics, and Early Childhood Educators with information on how to recognize and support Young Gifted Kids.  We hope this will help some parents realize how their children are different before they enter school.
  • 5. Play promotes leadership and team spirit, it develops ability and reduces stress.  Players who play regularly are fitter and have a better self image.  

  • This is as true of our gifted children as it is of athletes or musicians.  We need to continue to press for the educational needs of our children, their right to an opportunity to learn new materials, just like everyone else in their class.  Their need and right to practice their skills at all times, not just when a coach is available, not just for 1/2 hour on Thursday or only on field trips.  The idea of an athlete or a musician developing their skills with only 1 hour a week of practice time is ludicrous.  We must ensure gifted children are not restricted in their access to developmentally appropriate learning through artificial pacing barriers, education contracts, or lack of skilled teachers.  If need be we must develop training colleges for gifted children, just as there are Conservatories of Music, Athletic programs and Fine Art schools.
     
  • 6. Uniforms and special equipment are supplied, all players are supported by the league. 

  • Each time we speak or write to advocate for our gifted child, we also represent low income families who cannot afford access to resources or private testing, and children who are left off the list due to cultural or gender bias, or language issues.  These biases are one of the reasons we are determined to provide assistance through a gifted centre.
  • 7. Come out and watch the game!  We need more than parents and coaches at the games. 

  • Realize that many in the field are aware of our concerns and our needs but we need to send gentle informative letters to those workers in the Ministry and in school districts who are unaware of the issues our children face.  Just like the non playing audience who turn out to support and watch the game or the concert, we need to create a wider supportive audience who will enjoy and benefit from our skills without being able to participate directly.
  • 8. Corporate sponsorship sought for team uniforms, field rental and awards… 

  • to develop the gifted center, to fund publications and their distribution, to sponsor identification of children , bring in guest speakers, invite research, and sponsor activities for children or individual children's places at our conference.  As we approach our place of business to sponsor our child' sports team, so we must request sponsorship and create partnerships with professional associations, and corporations whose members and employees are gifted individuals.  We need funding to ensure our children can develop the skills that will make them valuable to society.  Just as importantly we need the links to the communities our children will choose for their area of practice when they seek opportunities to develop and use their skills.
  • 9. Sport Canada offers support for all athletes in all fields  

  • There in no single way to be an athlete or a musician, no map for development, no single pathway.  Our members are charting new territory as we head into the year 2000.  We stand, with very few others, at the top of a very small pile, and it will take our continuing team-work to pull others up to a plateau, let alone reach a pinnacle.  Just like athletics and music we must work with a pool of talent, and allow it freedom and support to develop in its many varied ways.
  • 10. A League of our own!  The definition of league is agreement for mutual help, an alliance. 

  • The key to our move forward down the field is sharing knowledge and experience. That is why we asked all of you to send the executive copies of your submissions to the special needs review.  Those chapters and individuals who did, gave us a base of knowledge to support particular issues.  No single district in this province has a particularly effective model for identifying and meeting the wide ranging needs of our children.  Many districts have some parts of the puzzle and we need to continue to share the pieces to support forward motion.  We must also recognize that all experiences are valuable contributions.  Individual contributions in outlying areas are often more useful to the overall plan, than voices from well organized areas.

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