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After all these years, I am starting to realize that I am highly gifted!

A letter to the webmaster, by Howard L.

Dear Carolyn,

All my life I have agonized over what could have gone so very wrong during my childhood. I am 42 years old, and it is only now--after all these years--that I am starting to realize that my only "problem" was that I am highly gifted! I had never been informed that I was at all gifted, much less highly gifted. None of the schools I attended ever had any programs for the gifted, all the gifted students were merely mainstreamed into the regular classes. So I had no idea that such a concept as giftedness even existed.

I imagined that I had no higher a level of intelligence than the other children in my classes. Because I preferred to read books rather than watch TV, I attributed my superior classroom performance to merely taking better advantages of opportunities to learn than others did. So I had no idea that the problems I kept on encountering in school were all directly related to my giftedness.

I had always gone to great extremes to try to please my teachers and "fit in" with the other children. Yet I was horrified to find that many of my teachers nevertheless seemed to dislike me and appeared to be irritated by me. As for my classmates, most wouldn't have anything to do with me, and many teased me mercilessly. In fact, some teachers actually seemed to subtly encourage the other children to pick on me by being painfully slow to do anything about it. I agonized over why all my efforts to please my teachers and make friends with the other children seemed to be complete failures. I imagined I was nothing more than a weird and lonely misfit.

I sought out the advice of trusted adults as to what was going wrong with me and why I couldn't seem to fit in and make friends. But I received a lot of conflicting and contradictory responses that didn't seem at all to fit, and advice that never seemed to work. I was told that the problem was that I was too shy, too forward, too serious, too silly, too this, too that, too everything! These attempts to seek out advice and get to the root cause of me problems only left me all the more frustrated, confused and depressed.

One high school teacher, who was also the chairman of his department, went so far as to tell me not to participate anymore in his class discussions. He claimed that displaying my knowledge of the subject through participation was discouraging the others from taking part. When a teacher highly praises the modest quality work of children of average intelligence and ignores or becomes severely critical of the superior work of the highly gifted, just was is a higly gifted child expected to think?

More modestly gifted students became hostile critics, loudly and gleefully challenging me in front of the rest of the class on every seeming misstatement, every apparently misspelled word. During class presentations, they would all put their heads together to try to ask me questions calculated to trip me up, requiring me to prepare all the more thoroughly in order to be able to answer anything they might happen to throw at me. I didn't understand why I was being "double-teamed" by above and below average students alike. I kept agonizing over what it was about me that seemed to alienate everyone!

The plight of the highly gifted placed in a regular classroom could perhaps be compared to forcing an adult to go back and spend every day as a student in an elementary school and fitting in socially with a class full of first graders. Of course, any adult would be absolutely livid at the thought, but the teacher would merely say the adult is being disruptive, and perhaps manifesting additional behavioral problems and poor socialization skills as well. It seems to me now that attempting to educate the highly gifted in a regular classroom is like trying to produce a high-performance customized car off of an assembly line designed for mass production of a medium-quality standardized vehicle.

A teacher who was an acquaintance of my parents alerted them when I was 3 years old that I was probably gifted, owing to my already being able to read at that age. She recommended enrolling me in a university program for the gifted. But my parents were afraid that I would be turned into some sort of "freak," and decided to mainstream me in school in order for me to have a "normal" childhood. But as a result, my school years turned out to be sheer torture, and were anything but "normal"! In the eighth grade, the school secretary leaked to my parents that my IQ had been measured at 145, but neither my parents nor I understood what that implied. I graduated high school 4th out of a class of 852, determined never to set foot in a classroom again. I went on to work with my father as a carpenter, but I could never figure out why my school years had gone so wrong--until now!

Thank you again for the fine service you are performing by making information about giftedness readily available to the public!

Sincerely,

Howard L.

 


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