The School Life of a Gifted Child
by Dawn Meier
4 Years Old: The first thing I noticed (I worked a lot until he was 4) was when I was reading, he always needed to sit beside me. This was fine, but I didn't know why he didn't want me to read while he was facing me. I found out that he was reading ahead (as much as 2 pages before I hit the second paragraph!) Jeez.
Kindergarten was a mess. I was told by another parent that my son was sent to the corner during reading time when she was there. When I asked son "Why?" he said "Because I was teaching the other kids to read." So I asked the teacher about this, and was told there was not enough hours in the day to teach my son and all the others, and he was disturbing class. Advice given: You'd better learn to go with the flow or you're not going to make it. Sigh...
First Grade: I told the teacher about classroom boredom: (big mistake) she laughed. "Nonsense," she said. She thought I was one of those mothers who thought her child was better than the rest. I didn't want to be one of those mothers, oh but please listen I need help with this. Sorry, I am retiring this year can't help you.
Second Grade: Amazing! I found a teacher that understands... She tells me, "He really says some profound things, amazing really. I will help. I will challenge him every chance I get." And she did! It was the best year, except she had to leave toward the end. a better job offer, so there was no one to speak up for next year.
Third Grade: I say son just hang in there this year you will get more of a challenge from a different program. In a meeting with the teacher at the beginning of the year, I hear: "Your son is a disturbance and I will not recommend him for a gifted program. He has to learn to fit into the social and academic realm of the classroom." I say, "But he is way ahead without trying in all subjects, he reads novels, writes books, does experiments on his own." Teacher says: "It doesn't matter what he is doing, he has to do what everyone else is doing." My mental note to the teacher in December: Oh you really hurt him when he came to you with the picture and story and you rejected it and him. You made him feel weird and different and not in a good way. Bad teacher, bad human! He loved learning until now.... even if you never acknowledged him or encouraged him he still loved learning until this point. Darn you for not understanding. Funny that this very story was chosen by the school to receive an award (at least that is something).
Fourth Grade: Son this year will be different. You are learning at home now so just go to school and have fun, but don't cause any trouble. They don't understand and it's not their fault, I will help you to learn the things you need at home. OK mom, I love You. It took about a month before he was arguing with the teacher about history and correcting her and unfortunately for her he was getting it right. He would bring in proof. I learned of this too late to do much about it until later. Needless to say the teacher was not happy. "I will put you in a corner desk away from everyone that will keep you quiet!" she tells my son. "But son," I ask, "Why did you wait for a whole month to tell me about this???" "Mom, I didn't want you to be disappointed that I couldn't fit in!" I was reduced to tears, then I got angry, then felt stupid and irresponsible for letting this go on, then took action. I will get him tested ($500) and show the results to his father who always says "That gifted program never helped me, they didn't challenge us - leave it alone!" from there I decided that no matter what she would keep going to help him, alone if I must! Well thank goodness his father got angry about the desk isolating ordeal, finally he listens. Good grief, what took so long.
Well you know my husband was partly right. The gifted pull-out didn't help that much, but maybe enough to raise my son's spirits and help him to love learning again.
Over the summer, I say to my son: It would be better for you to skip a grade. Oh no way, mom. I am so different and sometimes feel like no one gets me, that will only make it worse. I won't do it. You can't make me. Anyway we always learn at home anyway right? I say to myself, true enough, but does he realize it takes time and money to constantly challenge him in the way I know he needs to be challenged? Sigh... "OK son, we will let it go for now."
It's the first week of middle school: I am terrified. They don't know or understand him. He's getting older and mature and needs to not feel alone. He is in activities so maybe this will help. Who knows. I ask him "How was it today?" He says "Great, mom. I think this year is going to be fine." This is the same conversation every year... with the same response...
Well at least he is still hanging in there (I hope).
I wrote this to let off some steam, and also to let others know where I went wrong. I should have fought from the very beginning with a different attitude. I should have trusted my instincts. Please, parents, always trust your instincts. Teachers - this is not directed to all of you. There are some good teachers out there. Please don't read this and get angry. Please learn from it. Go to Hoagies' Gifted Page and read the characteristics of gifted, highly gifted, and profoundly gifted - all the different levels.
Thanks for listening.