Friday, June 03, 2005

Scarlet 'G'

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.

7 Comments:

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mixed bag, Angie.
They even weeded us out and sectioned us off, which made you ripe for being pelted with something the minute that you left class. On some levels, it was good. I can't imagine sitting in class and being bored out of my skull 95% of the time, instead I was bored only about 50% of the time. Some times, I got to do cool creative stuff with people who became very close friends, because we were all treated like lepers or as 'different.' This wasn't bad in grade school where it was a bit more 'come as you are', but in junior high school it was terrible. Of course, where I went, we were practically in Gangland and advertising you're an enormous dork the moment you walk through the door by where your sectioned doesn't really help. But I got pretty good at dodging people trying to kill me. (I can't imagine why....) In high school it was fun again. Honors and AP classes were great. And when you had to take general ed requirements like Health and Consumer Education, you knew not only what sheer boredom was you also figure out just how those people on Jay Leno get on television that can't locate Florida on a map or tell you who is the President of the US. So yeah, it was always strange, and if you were like one of three at a school of like 300 it must've been a bit like having a third arm.

When you mention the blonde guy I keep thinking of people from Fasttimes at Ridgemont High...why is that exactly?

M

 
At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So much for being 'gifted'. By where YOU'RE sectioned......Sorry 'bout that.

 
At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

When I was in first grade, before the gifted program was evolved, I was sent across the hall to the second grade classroom for part of each day. This continued my entire elementary school career...up a class for English, Math, Science, Social Studies...back to my own class for art, and music, and gym. When I hit the sixth grade, the 'system' wanted to double promote me past my class and into Junior High. My parents, concerned because I was already the youngest in my current class, put their foot down and said 'no'. So I spent most of the day at a big table in the back, doing work from Junior High texts, getting perceived "special" treatment, and being marked for life as the 'Smart One'.

It may be why I was so wild and crazy in high school. But what my peers during the teen years never knew was that my grades were still among the top 3%.

In the state.

Why I felt the need to hide that, I will never understand.

 
At 10:32 AM, Blogger Laura said...

Middle school was the worst for this. Mostly I took band as an elective, but I hated the times I had to take general electives. Ugh.

I guess I went back into the cocoon in the IB program in high school. We were separated off there to an amazing extent. The only non-IB people I knew were from orchestra, and honestly there weren't that many non-IB people in that.

Although I will never forget gym. That's where I really felt like a freak. Not only was I not athletic, the gym teacher seemed to go out of her way to point this out. She also took to calling all of the white girls "Sally." Which I make fun of a lot now, but sucked at the time.

 
At 3:06 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

I too have been reluctant to share my background as I am afraid people will think I'm stuck up because I was in gifted programs all through school. But really, I much preferred self-contained gifted classes to the alternative, teasing and all. I was bored out of my mind when I had classes with the general population.

I think gifted kids in general will not develop their gifts as much if placed with a general population, because they will learn to hide them in order to seem "normal." This is not just me, it has been shown by research in the field as well.

When I was in kindergarten, I was put in a "normal" kindergarten class in the morning, gifted program in the afternoon. It took the "normal" teacher months to figure out that I already knew how to read. I must have played along enough until then, or otherwise she was very imperceptive. After she knew, I spent much of the time reading to other children. Afternoon class saved me, and I remember loving it after being bored all morning. I don't remember much of that class, but I do remember knowing that I didn't fit in with the other kids and wanted to be in Mrs. Z's class across the hall, with many of my peers from gifted afternoon kindergarten. As much as we hated being made fun of for being "smart," I think it sure as hell beats the alternative.

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

To clarify:
"it" meaning separating gifted kids from the other kids...

and "the alternative" meaning putting gifted kids in regular classrooms.

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Easy said...

I was never in a 'gifted' program as my district did not have them. I used to really frustrate the hell out of my teachers because I'd ace exams, but I never felt any need to do homework that I thought of as 'busy' work. In classroom discussions people always thought I was some kind of geek who spent all of his time studying, but the truth is that I was mostly bored and mystified at the lack of comprehension by the other kids.

Both of my kids attend a 'gifted' school. They had to score in the 95th percentile in at least one area to get in. They started doing book reports and 2 column math problems in kindergarten. In this environment, they are both average kids, and will hopefully avoid the pitfalls that you found

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.