Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I want my script back

Okay, so this is how it is supposed to go:
Congratulations, your child is gifted. You can stop worrying about how much you suck at saving for college, he's going to go anywhere he wants, on a full scholarship, partly because he's spent his summers doing some really astonishing and groundbreaking biochemical research or maybe something involving quantum physics, which you don't understand because you are just his mom - but that's okay. 

Oh, he's also going to be wonderfully happy, because he's going to have a rich intellectual life, energized by the pleasures of research and discovery. And yes, there will be grandchildren.
[end scene]

Except, this is how it really does go:
[scene 1]
Gifted? What about his brother? Are you saying that the Eldest isn't gifted?
[incoherent, defensive end to scene]

[scene 2]
Gifted? who isn't? 
[silence, end of scene]

[scene 3]
Gifted? I see. So what kind of learning environment are you looking for?
um. I don't know. In your experience, what works?
Depends on the child. 
[insert garbled explanation from the parent, shuffling of paperwork by expert hands, lapsing into silence by parent]
Well, there's a gifted school that we usually refer children like this to.
[flabbergasted end to scene. repeat with each school visited.]

[scene 4]
Gifted? Are you saying that you want the school to take resources away from struggling kids for a gifted program?
um, no. Kids should get the help they need.
Differentiated instruction already has the teachers working with different kids, at different levels. I think you are making a fuss over nothing.  And is it really necessary? Lots of gifted kids turn out just fine.
[abashed end to scene]

[scene 5]
Gifted? Really. And you are asking schools to do what?
Well, see, the expert said - 
My kid is gifted, and I'm not asking the school to do that. What makes your child so special?
[abrupt silence. merciful end to scene]

And here is the short guide to the gifted conversation. Insert silent, notetaking mama with appropriate facial expressions as needed.

Well, so your child is gifted. Do you know what that means? No? We-ell, school is going to be a bit of a challenge. There's only one gifted school in your area, and it's oh, an hour away. You'll take him there, right? No? Well, then, most of his real learning will probably happen outside of school for a while. Most schools don't have gifted programs until the 6th grade, and right now, most of those are on the budgetary chopping block. So, even if he's willing to sit politely and be quietly bored - because, you know, boys are good at that - then he's likely still SOL, which means that you are going to have to keep a careful eye on behavior issues that arise. Setting aside, of course, that a good early education experience is pretty important, let's just assume that he's going to be fine, no matter what.** Work habits aren't really important, because, you know, he's so smart - and he's going to be really popular because he'll know the answers to all the questions. Oh yes, all. Because he's gifted, so by definition, he's going to be gifted at everything. 

Except sports. There's a rule about that somewhere.

And that 18-25% drop out rate for these kids? Don't worry about it. You can afford to pay for extracurriculars, right? Good. Resources for parents are online, and you should know that it's a really bad idea to talk about this to anyone in person, and most parents-of-gifteds will refuse to admit to anything of the sort if you ask them, in person. Talk about it with others, and you will be seen as elitist, bragging, a pain in the academic arse, and so on. Also, you'll have a sudden urge to sew suede patches onto perfectly whole sleeves, and start smudging your home with certain aromatic pipe tobaccos. Either that, or you will begin to explore marketing options for your child's artwork or other salable skills - he what? no, the arrangement of Star Wars scenes does *not* count.

[end scene in a whiff of disapproving silence]

or, if you prefer the condensed version:

Your kid is gifted. He - and you - are screwed.
[end scene]

Offended yet? I am.
Coming next: a conversation with graphs

**"The observations reported by Barbarin and Crawford (2006) are entirely consistent with numerous research studies that have shown the quality of the teacher-child relationship to be a major contributor to school success in the early childhood years (Birch & Ladd, 1998; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Howes et al., 2008). Howes and colleagues (2008) found that the best predictor of gains in academic outcomes for preschoolers was high quality instruction and close teacher-child relationships. Hamre and Pianta (2001) found that children's relationships with their kindergarten teachers predicted academic and behavioral outcomes through eighth grade. Combining scores on conflict and dependency scales into a variable they called relational negativity, they found that, "Particularly for boys, kindergarten teachers' perceptions of conflict and overdependency were significantly correlated with academic outcomes throughout elementary and middle school" (p. 634). "  more can be found here.


Rixblix said...

When we moved to our new district, we were asked to implement a 504 plan for his hemophilia. During that meeting Sam asked what kinds of enrichment opportunities were available to him (he'd previously been in an accelerated charter school). The principal told him that they had an after school challenge program. Sam told them all "I really prefer to be challenged during the school day. After school is 'my' time." That pretty much sums up our experiences. Both boys were in the gifted 5th grade class but there really are limited resources. (And don't get me started on Sam wanting to get an exemption from PE so that he can take either extra math or science as a sophomore. You'd think he wanted to set fire to the building or something.)

Kelli said...

I wonder if you know Julia? At julia.typepad.com? She has an incredibly gifted elementary school aged son and has written quite a bit about finding the right school situation for him. She and her family have tried a couple of different things...might be a good resource, and she's been writing since he was in preschool. Good luck!

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

Rix, darlin', you are way ahead of me and once again, I should be taking notes. Tell Sam that I said, "damned straight." And keep writing! I'm reading, you know.

Kelli, I didn't know Julia until you pointed in her direction. Although, having read bits of her blog, I'm now under the mistaken impression that I *do* know her. Or at least, recognize a great deal of what she describes. Oh, that Patrick!

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