Tag Archives: advocacy

Tents Expanding

I want you to imagine for a moment that you are surrounded by people who understand your passion. Picture being enveloped by people who feel all the things that you do so very strongly. Visualize sitting 3 feet apart or across a room from someone else who has the same values, worries, and hopes for the kids you serve. It’s a good place, isn’t it?

I attended the National Association for Gifted Children convention in beautiful Denver, Colorado (at a VERY spendy “resort,” where wine is $10 a glass and “spaghettini” is $24…both worth every penny). They talked about “expanding our tents” to be more aware of the giftedness of children of color, children who are labeled “behavior kids,” and others who need something different than neurotypical kids both academically and emotionally.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

In one of the pre-convention sessions, the speakers talked about the idea of expanding our tent. Giving more space within gifted education for those who get overlooked and passed over…because of their skin color, ethnicity, gender identity or orientation, socio-economic status, and language. The “Gifted Tent” should encompass more than just high-achieving, compliant, white students. Everyone should be welcome…and sought out.

My head hurts.

But my heart is happy.

This is the first year that I didn’t have a session of my own to stress out about, worry over, edit continuously while at a conference like this in a long time. I was in the exhibition hall and overheard others who were breathing sighs of relief that their session was over. We commiserated over the love of sharing with others against the anxiety over it on a hundred levels. It was nice to not have to prepare anything…just show up and be there to take it all in.

I suspect that the women I sat with at the bar, and the group who sat over near the windows, and the people at the bar, are all here for the same reason. We want to improve and get better at what we do. We want to learn and understand. We want to support others, find support for ourselves, and be among people who get it.

A good friend said a long time ago that there is a place for everyone in the world. Everyone has a purpose regardless of ability, intelligence, or schooling. Some of us choose to work with specific populations of kids for a reason. For some, we want to give back to the system that provided us with our own education. Others, we want to support those who deserve and need strong teachers and role models. And still others, we hope to help others SEE the kids that others don’t…the ones that people overlook, think will be just fine, and don’t see a purpose in serving beyond what’s expected for the “middle.:

[squirrel] I have probably 15 unfinished posts right now…all around essentially the same thing. Someday I’ll finish them.

I spent some time reflecting on the sessions I attended. Some were inspiring. A few made me want to apologize to kids I’ve had in my class for not knowing or understanding better. All of them made me think.

What do we want gifted education to look like? What’s the ideal? What’s ideal AND sustainable?

Who do we SEE? Who are we missing? (Yes, I made multiple lists…)

What do they need? What do they want their education to feel like?

What do their families, their teachers, their peers need from us?

The tent is expanding. If we work intentionally together, we can fill it with those who need us to SEE and support them…all of them.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com


Most days, I feel as though I’m floundering from task to task on my to-do list, knowing each is important somewhere in the grand scheme of things, but still feeling unfulfilled and unsettled because despite knowing that all of it matters somewhere, it doesn’t feel like any of it is worthwhile and I find myself feeling resentful of everything. It’s like a never-ending game of “Wipeout” in which there is no winner.

This whole pandemic has been incredibly difficult because so much of it has simply been survival, jumping through obstacles to get through each day, each week, each month, and ending each day, week, and month deflated because goals and ideas have to be tabled in order to make room for the support of survival. So much of it has been taking on tasks and projects to ease burdens, fixing problems, figuring out how to overcome the seemingly endless roadblocks that get in the way, listening to others share their thoughts on all kinds of topics, all of it sounding like criticism even when it isn’t meant to.

And some days, despite the ever expanding to-do list of little tasks and checkboxes without checks in them, feelings of resentment and hopelessness, my bucket is filled by people who share the things that bring me joy, hope, and purpose and who share a piece of what I want my career to look like because it does make up a huge part who I am and my place in the world.

When I became a teacher, I was certain that I would remain in the classroom and had mixed feelings when I found that I wanted to do more and “more” would require me to give up my safe space where I had some semblance of control and felt confident (most of the time). I found that the “more” I sought would require being uncomfortable and unsure of myself, my knowledge, and my abilities.

I cannot afford another Master’s degree or a Ph.D. and I don’t know that either one would provide the growth I seek–the first Master’s degree certainly didn’t. I don’t enjoy formal research, nor am I eager to get bogged down in the endless stream of district level meetings, paperwork, school law, or waivers. I don’t want to be a principal when I grow up. This is as close to “admin” as I want to get, to be quite honest. And while I worry as I see so many friends who began their teaching careers around the same time as I did working toward administrator licensure that I am somehow behind and not heading in the right direction, I know that I would not be happy in a fully administrative position.

I get the opportunity to work on some level with several education-based organizations whose missions I truly believe in. Sadly, none of this work will pay a mortgage or buy food for furs who refuse to get jobs. Much of this work is far outside my comfort zone and challenges me to learn and grow in my knowledge of all that is Gifted.

I don’t claim to be an expert in gifted education and I never have–there’s so much to learn, I probably never will be an expert. Statistics and research studies don’t roll off my tongue in conversation about gifted education, but after serving and working alongside these kids for the past 15 years, I can tell you that they need advocates. They need someone who will stand next to them with guiding questions and encouragement while they try the things that make them uncomfortable, the things that aren’t typical, the things that don’t fit neatly into a Google form. They need someone who will go head to head with a colleague and say, “THIS is what she needs.” They need people who will “go to the mattresses” and fight for outside-the-box thinking to help a floundering gifted student. They need people who will provide support to educators serving them and preach challenging the process rather than quiet compliance from the rooftops. Gifted kids need something *different*in their educational experience, and doing the same thing as everyone else isn’t different enough.

Gifted kids need advocates who will focus on what’s most important, learning and growth, not checkboxes, to-do lists, and activities to prove they can regurgitate information. They need a cheering section when they take a risk and then hit an obstacle and wipeout, encouraging them to get out of the water and try again because that’s when the learning happens. And that is where I need to be, with others who will be their advocates and cheering section.

Photo by Guy Kawasaki on Pexels.com

Magic Word

There are certain words that strike us. Words that bring about feelings of happiness, sadness, frustration, anger. Trigger words. Words that remind us of who we once were…and remind us of who we hoped to be.

I have had a very long day and been on the brink of tears for some time. Hell, I’ve had a long month. Fine. A long school year and it’s only November. Part of me feels as though the last one never really ended and despite all the new beginnings and good things, there’s been no down time to be able to really start fresh despite two brand new planners, a multitude of productivity and inspirational podcasts, nightly meditations about knowing my worth, and revising my own rituals to make them better so that I feel as though the self-care that I know I need is really happening. But I have felt lost for a long time, as though somewhere I left a big piece of myself somewhere else…setting it in a box and tucking it away safely for later in favor of all the things that others felt were important or all the things that simply needed to be taken care of.

Tonight a friend uttered a magic word as he made a request of me that I haven’t thought about in a while, except in those infrequent passionate conversations with people who get it when frustration is winning and tears sting my eyes. I figured that others had forgotten or that they never saw it to begin with.


Let me explain. I write a lot about my Why, which right now reads like this:

To engage in work that impacts the world around me positively so that others can grow, learn, and honor one another.

I’ve felt for a long time that my Why Statement was general, and that was fine, but there was something missing.

The days that I feel best about my work involve giving our kids opportunities to self-advocate or advocate for others, whether that’s talking with a teacher about modifying a project or activity, taking the lead on something that could make a difference, or speaking up about how to best support a peer. The days I go home happiest are the days I get to talk with parents and am trusted to support them in advocating for their kids and their needs, even if the conversation was difficult or complicated. The days I feel good about the work I do are those in which I get to share some of the best practices we’ve developed and implemented over time that benefits the kids we serve. The days I feel accomplished and fulfilled are the days that I get to share a bit of what these kids, these tall poppies, really need us to know and do on their behalf to make their lives better, their school experiences meaningful, and help them go off into the world and do good…whatever that might look like for them.

I get to do a lot of things in my current role and generally, I appreciate that I’ve been entrusted with all of those things–I wouldn’t have been asked if someone didn’t think I was capable. I use the word “get” intentionally, for the record, but the to-do list is ever-growing and all of the things are important in some way to the greater good. With all of those responsibilities though, something has to get set aside. I’ve felt all year that something was off–I was missing a piece of myself, not getting to the really important bits, and not often leaving school at the end of the day feeling like I’d done much in support of the things that really matter.

That piece that’s been missing is advocacy for these glorious gifted kids.

It’s why I choose to work where I do and want so much to help teachers SEE the kids they’re serving. Not the behaviors. Not the work that gets done too fast or too slow or not at all. But SEE WHO THE KIDS ARE.

It’s why I choose to present at conferences and spend hours of my own time creating what I hope will be a meaningful session to the people who choose to spend an hour with me, all the while hoping that they leave the room being able to look at one of their kids a bit differently when they go back into their classroom on Monday.

It’s why I revise wording in outreach emails meticulously, and ask lots of questions so that I understand better what people are in need of learning. Do they want a quick fix, or do they want to really learn about who these kids are and what they need?

It’s why when I talk with other educators I get so incredibly upset when they can’t find their way to seeing that gifted kids NEED people who are willing to go the extra mile and think outside the box and provide an education that is meaningful to them.

It’s why when one of our kids is hurting or struggling, it hurts me that much more–whatever pain they’re experiencing is so multi-faceted…and so many only see one facet of it, trying to insist it’s something simple.

It’s why I seek out others who get it–people who know what it is to not quite fit and who are able to see past the pieces of these kids that others see as faults and see the beauty of who they truly are.

It’s why I find it so hard to say no when there’s critical information that needs to be shared to better help people, everyone from parents to the guy who came to fix the cable to teachers to politicians, to understand who these amazing kids really are…truly see them.

Gifted is who they are, not what they produce and not what they do. Gifted kids need advocates. They need people to stand up on a soapbox and tell the world that they need for us to make changes to how we’re doing things to ensure that they all learn something every day, that they all grow, that they all know that they are SEEN.

Thanks for helping me see the thing that’s been missing, friend. Thanks for seeing me.