For those of us that work in gifted education, you know that it can be a pretty fascinating place with everyday bringing a new adventure. It has long served as the laboratory and testing ground for the latest innovations in pedagogy. Yet, gifted education has had a tendency to operate in relative secrecy and isolation from the rest of education. As a consequence of flying underneath the radar, myths, misconceptions, and misinformation have permeated our field. Meanwhile, those outside of gifted education are left devices to create their own uninformed version of what is happening in our classrooms. It’s time that we open our classroom doors and invite the world inside to see the difference that gifted programs are making in the lives of the students that we serve.
A Lesson in History
Even though Alexander Hamilton was on the $10 bill, prior to 2015 almost no one other than history majors, Federalists, and readers of the Ron Chernow biography, knew much if anything about him. Instead it was mistakenly assumed that he must be a “dead president” rather being able to identify him as the first Secretary of Treasury. On June 17, 2015, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the $10 bill would be redesigned and would replace Hamilton by 2020.
(Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda)
In August of 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical debuted on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theater, and in October, the original Broadway cast recording was released. In the past three years, I have listened to this album probably over 100 times. There is something that is incredibly infectious about this musical that a multitude of people just can not seem to get enough of. Because of the sudden success and fanatical obsession with the Broadway musical, it was announced on April 20, 2016 that Alexander Hamilton would remain as the face of the $10 bill.
But What Does This Have To Do With Gifted?
When I was first elected to the NAGC Board of Directors, I vividly recall during one of my first meetings a discussion of how we could raise awareness about the importance of gifted education. It was Lauri Kirsch who spoke up and said that the problem that we were facing is that "gifted education has no sad puppies". Instead, there are plenty of people and educators that feel that the gifted will “be fine on their own”. Gifted educators and advocates know that this is absolutely incorrect. If we have any hope for solving the world’s problems, then we must invest in helping our best and brightest students to continually grow. We all know this to be true, and it is why we have devoted our careers to identifying and serving gifted students.
The secret is making people care about gifted education. As was the case with Alexander Hamilton prior to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, people only know what they think they know about gifted. If we want to help gifted education move forward then, we must not follow the advice that Aaron Burr gives to Hamilton, “Don’t let them know what you are against and what your are for.” Instead, we must RISE UP! and share our story with the world.
Many of the people that I follow on Twitter and Instagram are teachers just like you. I love seeing photos and videos of what is happening in their learning environments and how they are challenging their gifted students. It is helpful to include a hashtag like #gifted, #GiftedEd #GiftedMatters, #GiftedMinds or #GiftedMakesADifference. To spread the good work that you are doing even further, feel free to tag me @brianhousand in your posts, and I will be sure to share it with my followers as well. Don’t forget to also tag your school’s and school board’s accounts. Also, consider including your state gifted association and @NAGCGifted in your posts. The important thing is to spread the word far and wide.
I would also encourage you to have your gifted students share their experiences and the difference that gifted programs have in their lives. Schedule a trip to the next school board meeting to have them speak to the members about what they are learning and doing. This can be a powerful tool for advocating.
Finally, do not underestimate the power of video testimonials. I am anxiously awaiting the release of a series of videos featuring gifted kids telling their story from the always impressive Alabama Association for Gifted Children.
So, open your doors. Step outside of your silos, and shout it from the rooftops. Do not let someone else tell your story for you. Rise up, and tell your own story. Gifted education matters and makes a difference in the lives of the students that it serves. Remember, you are not in this alone.
This is not the moment, it’s the movement.