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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Three Ways to Successfully Work with "Gifted Parents"

Recently~ after giving a presentation on gifted education to students at the University of South Florida~ one of them asked about a topic that often scares aspiring educators away from working with gifted children.

The dreaded gifted parent.

Yes~ gifted parents have earned (rightfully so in some cases~ but definitely not the norm in my experience)~ a reputation among educators. They can be known to be overbearing~ over involved~ and just a pain in the-you-know-what. You need to remember that many gifted parents are gifted themselves~ which means they can be highly educated~ well-read~ sensitive~ motivated and energetic.

Truth be told~ in the last four years~ I must have worked with over 100 parents of gifted children~ and the majority are kind~ supportive~ and positive. Of course~ there are exceptions~ and the purpose of this blog is to provide you with three strategies for working with the gifted parent. By applying them~ you will drastically reduce potential problems that could arise in your classroom.
(By the way~ these strategies can be applied by any teacher~ regardless if the parents have gifted children).


Parents want to know whats going on in their childs classroom~ and parents of gifted students are no different. In fact~ many want as much information as possible. Therefore~ you have to have a system for providing consistent information. One method that has worked well for me and other teachers is providing a weekly or monthly newsletter~ detailing the homework assignments~ projects~ special events and other classroom happenings. Once you develop a template for your newsletter using Microsoft Publisher or another program~ you can save time by reusing the master copy of the newsletter saved to your computer and updating its content.

Developing a mass e-mail list of your parents and sending regular updates is also effective. You can send e-mails reminding parents about permission slips~ upcoming deadlines~ etc. Take it a step further by sending personalized e-mails to parents providing updates on their childs progress in various subjects or on a particular project. Personally~ I know that parents of my students love getting individualized updates and often thank me. Think of it as not only differentiating your instruction but your communication as well.

Strategy TWO:

When dealing with highly educated~ highly involved parents~ you better know what youre talking about. The only way that happens is by gaining experience and learning. While you may be new to teaching~ you can still research and study all the latest research on gifted education by reading Gifted Quarterly and other academic journals. Use the literature and point to best practices in gifted education when explaining your motivation for certain teaching methods and practices. Its harder to argue with decades of research.
Strategy Three:

Parents of gifted children want to be involved. To accommodate that need~ provide plenty of opportunities for them to assist in the classroom. However~ a word of caution: remain in control of when parents visit your classroom. I have known teachers~ who have allowed some rather ambitious parents to visit their room whenever they like or spend every day in their classroom. You are asking for problems. The best approach is to schedule volunteer times~ when parents can join their children on field trips~ help create projects~ watch performances~ etc. This way~ you remain in control of the schedule~ and instruction is not interrupted.

My final thought on working with parents of the gifted is to consider them as potential teammates~ who can help steer you toward victory. As difficult as it seems~ never consider them opponents~ working against you. You want them on your sidethis is whats best for the children and the classroom.
Practice effective communication~ know your field~ and invite parents into your classroom at the right times~ and you will be well on your way to creating positive~ productive relationships with parents~ those of gifted or otherwise.
Thank you~