Rereading my last post, I get an electric shock in my body when I read the word gifted, which I used to describe my classroom. Dread and secrecy learned from the time I was 6 are hard to unlearn. More than 10 years after I was in my last gifted class and I'm still afraid of the stereotype that label invokes in others.
When I was a freshman in high school, it was my first time taking classes in the "general" population. One requirement I had to fulfill was American Government. We discussing civic structure one sunny fall afternoon and somehow it evolved into a debate on public education.
This teacher was tall and bald--seemingly older than dirt and only slightly better-tempered. He resented having to teach freshmen and made that clear every day. On this particular day, I swallowed the knot in my throat and made a comment that revealed my gifted background.
I don't remember the circumstances, or even what I said, but quickly I found myself the only voice advocating for gifted education. There was one guy in my class--a popular blond guy--who challenged me in particular. As we argued back and forth, I felt smaller and smaller. By the time the teacher finally bothered to interrupt his apathy, I was reminded of the important object lesson that sharing my background was foolish and something that would I should avoid unless I wanted to alienate myself from my peers.
Most people will never know that those students who are identified "gifted" are as far from the average as special education students. They won't take into consideration that being identified was something that our parents and the school district did, most likely before we were old enough to know it would mark us with a scarlet 'G'. In my experience gifted students are like "normal" kids in a lot of ways and don't consider themselves any better than anyone else. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop even other elementary school students from making those gifted students feel different and isolated.