Thursday, 17 April 2014
The G Word
One of the things I’ve been dealing with privately is the discovery that Mariah is indeed a “gifted” child.
It’s been an interesting label to come to grips with. Of course we’ve always known she was smart and ahead of the curve with her verbal and reading skills. It’s why we sent her to French school – we didn’t want her to be bored since she’d mastered kindergarten state standards just a few months after she was four. But we didn’t want to be one of THOSE parents who thinks their kid is just the best thing in the whole world. “OF COURSE my kid is gifted! Look how AMAZING they are!” Yuck.
Right before the gifted assessment was administered at her school, I started looking into what gifted is. Did she show other signs besides just being “really smart” in language and math? That little look around opened a whole new world I’d never known about. There is a lot more to this gifted business than just being really smart.
AND IT MADE SO MUCH SENSE! I felt like I could better understand Mariah knowing she wasn’t just a smart, super emotional “teenager” as I’ve called her so many times.
I learned that gifted kids have intense emotional sensitivities and they develop asynchronously and there is certainly not just one kind of gifted child. It’s a wide spectrum across so many of areas. There are about as many definitions of what a gifted child is as there are gifted children in the world.
And then I began to hear a lot of talk about “You need to become your child’s advocate.” and “No one will stand up for your child’s needs like you will.” Which was completely new to me. What kinds of needs could a super smart kid have? They’re smart. They don’t need help.
Then I began to see it in Mariah and read about it and understand it more clearly. She has needs. Needs that go overlooked because most people (and even teachers) are like me. They don’t see the need. Or in most teachers’ cases they don’t have time to address the needs – they have a class of 20-some other kids and those who fall behind are the ones the focus of need-meeting goes to. No Child Left BEHIND they say, but what about those who are ahead? I get it. I’m not saying teachers are evil. It’s just that teachers are under so much pressure to get their kids up to speed and pass those dang standardized tests (which by the way I’m not 100% against) that they can’t spend time on those ahead of the game.
I remember filling out a form for Mariah’s teacher at the start of the school year and answering a question asking if I had any concerns. I wrote, “She’s well behaved and quiet and really smart. Please don’t overlook her.” I’d felt she was overlooked in preschool – I once sat in a parent teacher conference where the teacher told me all about other children and how they were misbehaving. I heard very little about my girl. She was meeting all the standards and very well behaved, what else was there to talk about?
I started asking Mariah questions about school. She was going through a rough spell with some bullying and emotional issues, so there were lots of questions about so many things. I found out that while she LOVES school and learning (it’s in her blood), she’s ready to move on. In her words, “I’ve been doing the same things for 4 years!”. Yes, it’s true. She was doing some of these things at 18 months when she was in preschool. She’s been asking since before Christmas when she can go to first grade.
This is where I see the biggest need for her and for other gifted children in traditional public schools – they can’t move on when they’re ready. They have to stay and wait. And do more worksheets. And read more books. And teach other kids.
Eventually she’s going to dislike school if this keeps up. Eventually she’ll start doing the bare minimum just to please the teachers. My biggest worry – that eventually she’ll lose that wonder and excitement of learning if she’s always told to wait and not given the opportunity to explore.
So, we made a choice.
Since we had a piece of paper that said Mariah is indeed gifted, we were now eligible to apply for the Gifted and Talented Magnet school in the district. It starts at first grade, and only those who test as gifted can apply. After a tour of the school, I knew we needed to apply. There just aren’t opportunities or resources available at her current school to move at her own pace.
Thanks to living in a neighborhood that has priority in the selection process for district magnet schools – just after sibling priority we’re the next lot of candidates. We got in!
I’m really excited to see Mariah grow at this new school. More project based learning and creativity. Math is done at the same time in the entire school so the kids move to whatever level they’re ready for (which is good considering she figured out how to do division in less than 2 minutes on Saturday). Teachers trained to meet the needs. Peers who are at or above her level in more areas.
It was a tough choice to know she (and I) would need to let go of friendships made this year, but she’s thrilled for the change and at this point doesn’t seem too concerned with moving on. Besides, next year she’d have a new set of classmates anyway since the class rosters mix up and change at the grade switch. No guarantees she’d have her BFFs with her again. It’ll be hard for me to leave the PTO behind as I feel like it was a really great rebuilding year for the organization and I feel this sense of responsibility to continue. But my daughter’s needs come first, and I so I’ll move along happily with her.
So all this to say, you’ll probably hear more from me about giftedness. The few blogs out there I’ve come across on the topic have been so extremely helpful and I hope someone can read pieces of our story and journey and be encouraged. And perhaps those who don’t know much about gifted children can get a better picture of what these children look like and what they need.