Tuesday, March 08, 2011

pre-meeting shivers

Okay, so I think I've been doing this advocacy thing for a little while now. The nice thing about it is that I get to have the same meeting, over and over. Which is also the less-nice thing, because some days I do rather think that hello, world? time to get it already. Hemophilia means X, allergies mean Y (except when they mean Y squared) and don't confuse them with asthma, which is, well, something else. Sheesh, people.

On the other hand, when I'm working my way through my third virus in three weeks, routine is good.

blah, blah, blah, did I mention that I hate talking to groups? look, cute picture of the kid, timed to buy me some breathing room, and yes, everything that I say pretty much translates to please, please, please help me make this work. Or heck, help me understand how to help YOU make this work. And did I mention please? I bring photos, I tell stories, I bring props - oh yes, even the muddy soccer ball - and do everything short of wearing sequins.


I try too hard, I know. And I over-prepare. Oh, dear gollies, I do. I talk out loud, practicing possible directions that the conversation could take, because oh, I am not a negotiator. I'm a burbler, an earnest leaner-forwarder, and a gaping, gasping person hunting for rabbits in my bag of negotiating tricks. But I try anyway. And I get better at the meeting with each rep.(hello? naive much? a tetchy bit of my brain will shrill. Didja forget getting kicked to the curb?)

Which is why tomorrow has me twitching. Medical needs I get - being earnest and a good team player helps there. Having the other teammates be serious mensches also helps. And oh, we sailed right through the meeting about the Toddles' allergies. (more about that some other time) But tomorrow? Tomorrow we talk about the g-word.


I hate that word. I'm almost nodding along with Malcolm Gladwell on this one: gifted? really? As in past tense, as if that's the entire, smug story? As if being smart is a prize you win, a thing of blind luck, undeserved and shining. Bullshit. The reality that I see isn't a gift, it's a painful irregularity.

In general, I think that kids are lumpy. They grow, they sprout, they soar, they forget to take in their breakfast dishes. Take a kid who has sprouted so dramatically in one area, and he's even more uneven. Jaggedly so, because he knows - the Toddles can see where his skills are mismatched, and he tells us so. Sadly, the adults aren't so clear of eye, and we've fixed our expectations based on the best that we see - which we're defining, foolishly, by accomplishment, and assuming is representative. And we push the kid to live up to that standard, waiting for him to finally get with the program, but he can't - he's too busy getting his nose smushed into our frustration. If you can do X, why can't you put your shoes on the right feet?  

And it's a funny thing about kids, but it's true: they don't want to be the bad kid. Not so fond of being the kid in trouble. Develops perfectionista habits to avoid his weak spots, glares at adults trying to lure him into the possibility of doing something that he considers to be appallingly sub-par.

Sub his par, that is. Or maybe mine. Both?

gifted? ha. gobsmacked is more like it. Codswalloped, because different is hard. Offered the Holland=difference narrative, Rob Rummel-Hudson explains: hard. Hard, especially when you are supposed to be gloriously cruising, offering a target for others - and yourself. (The nice thing about being gobsmacked is that you might be able to design a really inventive catapult for smacking yourself down from that pedestal.) At least I got to float in a relieved cloud of thank gah it's not aspergers or oh I don't know what and now he can save da world!  for all of a week, before the kid came home and wept. N says he's not my friend anymore, because I'm smart and he's dumb. N was, of course, the first friend that the kid had made at that preschool, an older kid, wise in the ways of Bakugon.

But everyone is good at different things, said the Eldest, trying to comfort a soggy Toddles.

Measure the kids, and you are defining inequalities. Creating them, even, according to Rosenthal and Jacobson's work. (see here for more)  Design a system to give them what they need, and you find gifts sprouting everywhere. Because, after all, how exactly do you define a gift?

I define it by me, said the Eldest. I am a gift.

And he's right. Ah,  says my internal cynic. But without the label, you won't be able to fund your utopia. And she's right, too. So, then, the meeting.

So, do you want to kick us off by talking about why we are here?
And I don't know what I'll say. But I know what I'd like to say:  meet my zebra. He's a funky, intuitive leaping kid - and yes you have that other word but I hate it and can we maybe use a label that won't have me spitting cat pee and sand cocktails? Zebra, zebra, zebra. With pink butterfly boots. Quirky, funky, definitely unexpected, stripily delightful zebras. Who might just arrive holding their own, lumpily gouache yardsticks. If any.***

And I don't know what we do about that. But I'm pretty sure that 'happy' should be in there, somewhere.

And then I'll do the awkward silence thing, because hey, you know what? I'm just waiting for the part that gets scary. I was hissed at by a mom at a kindergarten event at one school, and glared at by others, so yeah, my working assumption is that people hate the mom-of-gifted-kid. Her ego is taking up more than it's share of oxygen, and you just know that she's got Quadratic Equations For All bumpersticker. That she is certain that her child is better than yours, and she's got the testing to prove it. So this meeting won't be about advocacy, it's going to be struggling to persuade people that I'm there to work with them. That I'm really not there to demand that we all admire my kid's marvellousness, while handing over the keys to the academic candy store.

This isn't going to be advocacy. It'll be apologies, self-abasement, hopeful questions about what they already do, what they already know. And then, maybe some advocacy. Gently done, because I won't have any street cred here. Because, come on? What kid can do exponents at this age - really? I've just got to be making this stuff up. I am mom, therefore he is brilliant, right? In fact, yes; in a recent babycenter poll, 71% of the parents who responded said that their kids are gifted. (but not lumpy?)

Oh, crap. Past tense, gift. A kid who has gifts, stars shining down upon him, providence in a pocket. So to be effective, I have to show him to be flawed, lumpy, uneven, fragile? And that somehow, that his fragility is greater than another child's, because he's - oh. a zebra. Ha. Or not.

You've done this before, right? I'll say. Help me understand what works in the classroom and what doesn't. Tell me what to advocate for, I'll be saying. Because even after weeks of visiting schools and interviewing directors of admissions and reading and reading and yeah. That. I don't know.

Oh, and -


***Got hoofbeats? say the ER docs, look for horses.


joy said...

FWIW, I tend to like the term talented, or to have talent in X. Talent is something that can be useful, or squandered, or just be a shiny thing on your personal shelf to be taken out and played with from time to time. Talents can be natural, talents can be difficult. After all, one can be talented at theft or twisting facts just as one can be talented at exponents, or being physically flexible.

Gifts are entirely other beasts. They require thanks, demand use, scoff at waste. They like to be noticed.

I like lumpy too, though personally I tend to use bendy for mine. They're bendy beasts, in so many ways.

And maybe, just maybe, I ran into this quote this week for more than just my own piece of mind:

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
— Albert Einstein

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