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Letter to a teacher?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

This is a x-post from the Davidson forums. I'm putting it here specifically and not in general parenting, because I want feedback on writing a letter to a new teacher about my gifted child regarding issues that relate to her specific academic and social needs. So, here's the copy-paste from the other forum:

 

 

 

I was wondering if anyone has written an introductory letter to a teacher about their child, and if you did, if you have any advice or "been there done that" feedback. 

My daughter, just turned 8, is going into 3rd grade in a small public school. She's getting a new teacher this year--the woman was a long term maternity sub in the fifth grade last year. I've had several disappointing years with DD, which included several meetings with her 1st and 2nd grade teachers, along with the principal. 

For what it's worth, the school hasn't had a gifted program, but is instituting an after-school one this year (better than nothing, I guess) with the idea of making it a school-day program down the road. 

Also, just some background--DD's traits in school seem to put her in the moderately gifted range, but her scores (WJ-C GIA was 152) and behaviors at home put her higher than that. I don't know if that's relevant in deciding whether to write a letter or not, or what to include.

 

Thanks!

Stacey

post #2 of 15

I much prefer to write letters than phone people or talk to them in real life -- that's the introvert in me -- but this is an instance where I think I would have a meeting instead. I think a letter to a teacher has a vaguely confrontational air, a sort of I-want-a-paper-trail-for-this-because-I-don't-expect-it-to-go-well kind of expectation. At least where I live, the norm is to meet with a teacher in person and to do otherwise would make a teacher feel a bit defensive and wondering what the parent's agenda was.

 

If you got a bad vibe off the meeting, or weren't left feeling very encouraged about it, then I would write a letter in follow-up, cc'ing the principal, outlining your understanding of whatever was agreed upon at the meeting, and voicing any ongoing concerns you have. 

 

"Thank you for meeting with me on Thursday September 5. I'm hopeful that your offer to evaluate L's reading level within 2 weeks and differentiate language instruction accordingly will provide her with appropriate challenge. As I mentioned in our meeting I continue to be concerned about ___ and ___, and I would like the possibility of ___ to be on the table. I hope that we can make progress on these issues as well and look forward to follow-up meetings with you as appropriate."

 

That sort of thing. But really, I'd only write a letter even after the fact if you're left feeling wary about lack of progress made at the meeting.

 

Miranda

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your feedback, Miranda. This letter wouldn't be in lieu of a particular meeting, more of an introduction, rather than allowing weeks to pass while my daughter flies under the radar. I do get what you're saying, though. It's a really good point. 

post #4 of 15

I agree that I would try to arrange a meeting maybe. Before school starts if possible-- simply go in and state that you would like to see what the year will look like for your DD and would like some clarification.

 

Write down concerns & points you want to mention so you dont get off track and have some scaffolding for the meeting.

 

A letter is more 'official' in nature and may potentially put the teacher on a defensive. Also know that any letter you write can possibly be in a childs file for many years.

 

As a teacher- I prefer to NOT look at any non-emergency (medical or needs addressing immediately) info and get my best first impression of kiddos. Sometimes words from other teachers, students, administration, etc will change the lens you view students with. I like to be as clear-eyes as possible to help make sure my reactions and impressions of students are my own and genuine for that moment in time.

 

I would try to approach it as " My DD really enjoys reading/math/etc - what do you do to really engage kids that are passionate about X Y Z?" or  " X intervention  has been tried, but unfortunately was not successful" Do you have any alternative ideas with the new year? or "Socially my goals for DD this year are X. Do you have some ways to help me reach those this year?"

 

As far as including GAI or other specific testing. You could offer to share it, but I would not just toss it out there unless you are in a meeting for acceleration, skipping, compacting, etc. that may need specific documentation and justification. If you have a GT consultant, maybe share those scores and current DDs performance with that person.

 

That way you are seen as proactive and trying to promote success instead of 'damage control' mode.

 

Try not to let past teachers influence your outlook on a new teacher! Give her/him a chance and start with a friendly meeting !

 

 I LOVE that one of my DDs teachers signs her letters   "Your partner in Education". It really really stresses the team aspect-- that teachers and parents need to work as a team for each child.

 

 

As far as letting weeks slide by--- set a few weeks for adjustment and assessment. THEN if you do not see many changes in a few weeks, maybe write a letter or ask to meet. The first two weeks are usually work that is easy for EVERYONE to help ease the kiddos  into the school routines and rhythms. It starts almost everyone off on material they know to help build confidence and let them focus on learning all the small routines and procedures that have to go in place.      I always give my DDs a heads up that the first few activities are meant to be work they did last year as review. It will get more challenging and new things will start soon!

 

I hope your DD has a great year!

post #5 of 15

You mentioned that the school does not have a gifted program but do they at least identify those who are gifted? If not, I'd at least push for that so that can be endorsed to her succeeding teachers.

The school district that my son is in puts their "gifted program" with the special ed department. I put the gifted program in quotation marks because it really just is a token twice a week pull out program. More importantly for me though is the fact that they are identifying and putting them on an IEP so his teachers have an understanding already of where he's at and differentiate when needed.

 

I'm not sure if it's the norm in other schools but my son's school also has a process where the current grade teachers endorse their kids to the next grade teachers. I think this may be done during the time they are discussing class lists (toward the end of the schoolyear). My son is in 2nd grade and they are now just in the process of getting him an IEP but even after kindergarten, the teachers at school pretty much knew who he was even those who were teaching 5th and 6th grades. Kids are discussed routinely during staff meetings so everyone's on board. Is it possible to get your child's 2nd grade teacher to also bring the new teacher up to speed with regards to your daughter?

post #6 of 15

I write an introductory letter for my kids teachers every year.  It is just a basic overview of his health, our home situation, his interests, and his academic strengths/weaknesses.  I keep it brief, using bullet points, etc.  I always include my contact info and ask them to call/email me if they have any questions.  When I meet the teacher for the 1st time, I always ask them what their preferred method of communication is, and I try to stick with that.  I usually give them the letter then, and say something like "I did not want to monopolize your time tonight, so I wrote out a quick info sheet about DS.  If I feel we need to discuss it further, I will contact the teacher and ask for a conference at their earliest convenience.

post #7 of 15

Let's open up a can of worms...........so, what about looking into having an IEP done for your child.......they are for children with special needs........BUT what many parents don't know is that is some schools/states, gifted is considered 'special'......and that IEP is a legal and binding contract regarding your child's education........(i need someone else to chime into this please)

post #8 of 15

IEP's can be done for gifted students.  'gifted' falls under special ed.   I would get an outside psych to assist you.

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by zebra15 View Post
 

IEP's can be done for gifted students.  'gifted' falls under special ed.   I would get an outside psych to assist you.

 

This depends on what state you are in. Our state does not have GIEPs. http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/StatePolicy.aspx  CHeck here for your state the the level of support for Gifted Students.

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by KCMichigan View Post
 

 

This depends on what state you are in. Our state does not have GIEPs. http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/StatePolicy.aspx  CHeck here for your state the the level of support for Gifted Students.

And that graphic doesn't even describe where GIEPs actually occur.  NJ, the state where the OP lives, is a place where I know a lot of people struggle to get the services promised by the state.

 

I would be laughed out of the principal's office if I went in with the approach of documenting my kid's abilities and then asking that my kid be covered under special ed.  Worse than laughed at, I would lose all credibility with the principal.  And this is a principal who gets the needs of gifted kids in a district where it is funded!

 

Advocacy for gifted kids is hard.  It takes time, energy, knowledge of the local funding conditions and attitudes, negotiation skills, and a lot of patience and good humor. 

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geofizz View Post
 

And that graphic doesn't even describe where GIEPs actually occur.  NJ, the state where the OP lives, is a place where I know a lot of people struggle to get the services promised by the state.

 

I would be laughed out of the principal's office if I went in with the approach of documenting my kid's abilities and then asking that my kid be covered under special ed.  Worse than laughed at, I would lose all credibility with the principal.  And this is a principal who gets the needs of gifted kids in a district where it is funded!

 

Advocacy for gifted kids is hard.  It takes time, energy, knowledge of the local funding conditions and attitudes, negotiation skills, and a lot of patience and good humor. 

 

No the graphic is not for GIEPs but rather gives an idea of what states have mandated funds and/or mandated programs or both or neither. GIEPs will vary. It just gives you an idea on what states have legal legs to stand on.

 

Yes, GT falls under Spec.Education in *some* areas that have mandated funds and programs for it. In our teacher coursework-- we covered Exceptional Children: which was kiddos that fell outside the standard educational model- including special needs. In some areas Spec.Ed just covered students on IEPs. On others Spec. Ed covered IEPs and 504. Sometimes a (G) IEP can covered both LDs and giftedness other times an IEP and GIEP are two separate entities.

 

It is one of those fuzzy areas.

 

Some states have GT teacher or support teachers. Some have none. I dont even know where you can get a GT certificate in my state...but many states that have manadated funding/programs the teaching certificate programs offer it as an endorsement.

 

 

Advocacy is hard. The lack of uniformity of resources and clear cut options/definitions/funding/education of teachers about GT    makes it even harder.

post #12 of 15

I'm not sure that graphic is current either.

AK doesn't have any state funding at all anymore for gifted programs nor is it mandated. It's left to each district if it wants to sustain a gifted program.

OP, it's best to probably go to your school district's website or call them directly.

post #13 of 15

I think it depends on the state and the school district. My children were identified as "Intellectually Gifted" and the youngest one as "Profoundly Intellectually Gifted" but our district doesn't do IEPs for Gifted Children unless they also have learning disorders. My kids had 504 plans, but those were based on neurological and health issues that really may not have been related to the giftedness.

 

In our state, little or no money is allocated for Gifted Programs, each district decides on its own whether to have a Gifted Program, and although LOTS of money is allocated for IEPs, little or no is used for 504 Plans. I'm assuming every state must have different ways of doing this. In our state, IEPs tend to be quite expensive to put together and work out and not all Gifted children need them. But, I'm guessing it depends on the state and the individual student.

 

 

 

post #14 of 15

A lot of teachers have the attitude of "every parent wants to tell me all about their special snowflake right away, just give me the first quarter to evaluate them myself" So watch out for that.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post
 

A lot of teachers have the attitude of "every parent wants to tell me all about their special snowflake right away, just give me the first quarter to evaluate them myself" So watch out for that.

 

Or else "Parents, please give me a chance to learn what is special about your child in my own way, in this environment that is different from your home, and which I have prepared with care."

 
Miranda
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