How Nice That We’re ALL Gifted and Talented

27 02 2012

Can I just go outside and ride my bike?

I swear just about all kids in the public school system these days are card-carrying members of the “gifted and talented” brigade. How do I know this? Because their parents yak about it every chance they get. Ironically, for me it usually comes up at my most embarrassing moments, including, but not limited to, when I’m:

  • At the bank contesting an overdraft.
  • In line to buy tickets to an R rated movie for my teens.
  • At the liquor store stocking up for the winter, er…I mean a party.
  • Emerging from a public restroom stall after ingesting too much Mexican food.
  • Selecting feminine products at the grocery store. (OMG, get away from me!)

Why these people can’t accost me about their junior achievers when I’m volunteering at the Red Cross or teaching illiterates how to read is beyond me. It could be because I’ve never done either of those things, but that’s beside the point.

New math shows how 80% tested are gifted and talented

I’m always amazed when you casually ask people, “How’s your family?” that they think it’s an open invitation to offer up their kids’ core test scores and third grade GPA. And if that happens you KNOW the inevitable punch line will be, “AND they think our little miracle is gifted.” (Whom ever the hell they is.)

Actually, it’s not entirely the parents’ fault. In 2009 The New York Times identified an upward trend of more kids testing into GATE (that’s Gifted And Talented Education for us boneheads), which is actually reflective of what’s happening in several parts of the country. This astounds me because obviously the people doing the testing have never taken a statistics class. Everyone CAN’T be in the top 10%. And if they are, then you need to readjust your test.

But parents are reluctant to question such results, because they reaffirm what these parents already know; that as humans they ALL carry the seed of genius and have thus passed it on to their brilliant offspring.

Oh, puh-leeze.

Oh Yeah? You’re Just a Poor Loser
Now you may think I’m simply sucking on sour grapes because I have stupid kids. Not so. My kids do just fine in school. Some educators have even tried to convince me that my kids are gifted, as illustrated by an experience I had when my older son was in the fifth grade. At the end of the year his band teacher ominously asked to meet. Oh great, I thought. What’s my kid done? Not practicing enough? Using his clarinet as a light saber? Tormenting some girl with a spit rag?

“I think your son might be gifted in music,” said the band teacher when we finally rendez-voused in the hall. I looked at him stunned and then laughed. “Oh, really? Have you heard him play?” I asked. “I get better tone by stepping on my cat’s tail.”

Fast forward to now. He’s a junior in high school and yes he’s an above average musician when it comes playing reed instruments, however, he got that way because HE PRACTICES four to six hours a day (I’m not exaggerating). He’s also had some great music teachers who saw his potential and thus challenged him. Too often we forget that good teachers are a huge part of the gifted equation, as shown in this brief, comical video about two dopey parents who think their kid is the second coming of Charlie Parker:

Sure I admit my son has an affinity for music, and he does have perfect pitch (but then again so do most dogs). However, the fact remains that if you do anything a lot you get good at it. And talented or not, if you don’t practice then you won’t excel, which means you won’t be “gifted.” I promise that’s how life works.

Everyone Can Be a High-achiever
I think too often parents confuse “gifted” with “high-achieving.” If a child gets straight A’s or does something better than anyone else, nine times out of 10 it’s because the child puts forth the effort. In my case I had a weird little kid who preferred playing the clarinet (and later, sax) to skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking or doing whatever kids do who grow up in a resort town. Does that mean he’s gifted? No. It just means he’s determined and has a passion, which, trust me, will take him further in life than being gifted at anything.

A gifted high-schooler working on a cure for cancer

So parents, lighten up. Just because your kid made the Honor Roll doesn’t mean she’s going to grow up to cure cancer. And even if she does (someday cure cancer, that is) it’s not because she was born with that knowledge, but more likely because she felt compelled to crack cancer’s genetic code the same way she refused to let a Rubik’s Cube go unsolved as a kid.

A gifted and talented child is summed up by two things: Having the passion to take something further than anyone ever dreamed AND having teachers smart enough to recognized that passion. Anything beyond that is just extemporaneous chatter that we could all do without.

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Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.

For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her hilarious book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.com.


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48 responses

27 02 2012
Dee Macaluso

Both my kids actually did go to magnet schools for the ‘Gifted’. I used to tell people, in all seriousness, that I was their gift. Reading to them, exploring with them, playing guessing games and make-believe, cooking and art and music together, prompting them to figure things out and solve problems on their own, They didn’t turn out to be all that, so I think you’re right. Practice.

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I know your kids, Dee, and I think they DID turn out to be all that; well-rounded, funny, intelligent, beautiful human beings who both dance to their own unique beats. There are many levels of success, and there will always be bumps in the road. But being “gifted” won’t get you out of them…however, hard work probably will.

27 02 2012
Rich Crete

Thanks. Love this! So true. I had a mom in the store buying her 7 year old poindexter a science experiment kit (a potato clock). She whispered to me with that pride only a mom has “They think he’s gifted”. Times have changed. When I was his age we called kids like that nerds. He’d be voted “Most likely to remain a virgin.” At least once a week some teacher would have to unstuff him from his locker. Now it’s called gifted.
I don’t know Dee or her kids but the line “I was their gift” is fantabulous.

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Rich, you would love Dee and her kids (who are now grown). They are all fantabulous, because they’re realistic, grounded, smart human beings. My kind of folks.

And you’re also right that “Gifted and Talented” has become the new “Prettiest Girl in School.” Ranks right up there with handing out trophies to all kids on a sports team, even if all they did was stand around a field and navel gaze.

28 02 2012
Bret Hughes

NAVEL GAZE!!! Love it. I constantly am reminding those around me to “Go Get the Windex!” which is a hidden message for (your head is so far up your rear end that you need windex to polish your glass belly-button so you can see where you are going).

28 02 2012
Justin Kang

Rich, I agree with you that times have changed. It’s called progress. We still have far to go. But how fortunate that now they have a better label.

27 02 2012
creatorofstuff

You have touched on something that is my PET PEEVE!!! There is nothing more off-putting than the type of parent you mention. It’s odd that you encounter them up there in Park City, because I thought they all lived in MY neighborhood. And once they are seniors in high school, it’s all about what colleges have accepted the little geniuses. (Choosing between Stanford, MIT, and Harvard is going to be a terrible burden.)

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I’m always happy to hear when a kid gets into a great college, but honestly, a one-time telling of the story is enough. I know what you mean, Amy. I know I’m in for a repeated earful when the conversation starts out with “Did I tell you my Heathcliffe got accepted into Dartmouth?” Why yes, you did. I believe it was LAST TIME we were both standing in the check-out line at Target, just like now.

6 04 2012
creatorofstuff

Or was it the time before. Oh wait. It was BOTH times.

27 02 2012
Dee Macaluso

I think it’s much easier to just be born physically gorgeous. They get a pass on everything. Rich, thanks for the comment, but ‘fantabulous’ is not a word. That was a ginormous mistake.

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Oh Dee, you have such a “superbulous” wit.

27 02 2012
Missy

When someone tells me their kid is gifted & talented I look very confused and say, “Wait. I didn’t know Johnny was adopted!”

OK. No. I don’t do that. Never have. But I might. Someday. If I get sick of all the bragging later on when my kids are old enough to qualify for GATE. Pretty pretentious acronym, gate. Like, “I’m so smart I’m behind this GATE and you have to stay there, on the other side, with the DUMB KIDS.” Whatever. My son, who is in first grade started a burping club. They meet every day on the playground. I keep looking in his backpack for a leadership award. Obviously, he has a gift.

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I think burping club is one of those academic extra curricular activities that can get your kid into Harvard. Or maybe it’s Yale. I forget which. Either way your little Einstein is obviously MILES ahead of the pack, Missy. Keep us posted.

27 02 2012
Kat

This is GOLD! Gifted? Excuse the unladylike snort. It’s about determination and then busting your butt. And I also love Dee’s fantabulous (it should be a word) line.

27 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I love Dee’s fantabulous as well, but actually it was Rich (Mr. Peace Sign, third comment down) who originally coined it. Dee just exploited it because it was such a darn good word to begin with and she only hitches her wagon to really clever ideas. 😉

At any rate, Kat, I TOTALLY agree with you. Busting your butt is a major factor to getting ahead in life. Of course, obstacles occasionally rear their ugly heads, but if you’re determined, your chances of getting around them are good. (And thanks for your kind comment, referring to my blog as GOLD. I love that!)

28 02 2012
Phillip

Parents all want their kids to be gifted. When I was in the seventh grade I took a lot of tests to determine just what I didn’t know. I knew almost everything. The results of the tests were interpreted to show that I was “gifted”. My parents were at once thrilled and disappointed. I hadn’t been living up to “gifted” and they wanted results. When I entered the eighth grade, I was placed in all accelerated classes. I scored big when it came to consistency. I got twenty -seven Ds on my report card the year that I was in the eighth grade. It set my school career back for maybe forever. I got one A ever.

This is a cautionary tale.

Phillip

3 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Phillip,

Wow! A cautionary tale is right! As many of the following comments have revealed being gifted doesn’t necessary mean you are destined to excel in the public school system. In fact, more often than not, it appears to be the opposite. You were a square peg in a round hole ahead of your time. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Fortunately, I think things have become better for truly gifted kids, but I still think we have a long way to go.

However, you seem to come through your gifted childhood experience with your sense of humor in tact (judging by the hilarious comments you typically post on my blogs), which says a lot of good things about your character. 🙂

7 03 2012
The Oasis Projekt

Philip really is on to something there…

Oh, wait, it’s just what you stared…hard work and dedication! Terms which, essentially, produce study skills that for into habits if you mix the right amount of time, focus and energy into them. Wow!

I was like Philip. I had perfect behavioral scores in my classes, meaning I wasn’t goofing around, etc. But my grades would be anywhere from solid C’s to F’s. What confounded teachers was when I took a class with a well known history of being very difficult… And produced an A. It happened when I found classes, easy or difficult, that I enjoyed. I’m still the same way. I gravitate towards what I like, but I now try to stretch myself as well. Also, inexplicably, I played competitive team sports every semester in high scool where participation required an overall C average…and I was always eligible. “I’ll take ‘Understanding How To Beat The System’ for $500, Alex.”
http://tr4f.wordpress.com

28 02 2012
shapeheadguy

“teachers who saw his potential”
“son has an affinity for music, and he does have perfect pitch”
“I had a weird little kid who preferred playing the clarinet”
“he’s determined and has a passion”

Stacy, I have bad news. Your son is gifted!

But maybe you already knew that… the thing is, I think you are confusing achievement with giftedness. Giftedness *is* that potential, that affinity, that determination and passion, and that unusual (among humans) ability. Yes, I completely agree with you that achievement comes from practice, and that you don’t have to be gifted to achieve.

The thing gifted people have in common is the experience of being that “weird little kid” and the task of figuring out how they will relate to their potential and their passion. It’s good for us to find each other, and I think it’s possible that other parents of gifted kids may reach out to you looking for a kindred spirit.

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I appreciate your comment, Shapeheadguy (BTW, I love your handle), and see your point, however, I think too often in education we confuse talent with being gifted. Talent has little to do with being gifted because without the passion to nurture it, talent is nothing more than a wasted attribute. I think every human being has some sort of potential, and it’s up to each individual to figure out the best way to bring it forth. (Once again, this is where good teachers can help.) In the case of my son I quite often hear comments like, “Your son is lucky to be so gifted in music.” He’s not lucky at all, because if he didn’t have the drive to practice we never would’ve seen his potential in music. I know a lot of people who were not considered talented at something, yet their determination to be good at it took them to a level of expertise that is considered genius (this happens a lot in sports, for example). Are those people gifted? Only if the secret ingredient in being gifted is passion.

I still contend that my son is a high-achiever (even in music) because he works very hard to be get to where he wants to be. It doesn’t all necessarily come easy to him. To be honest his biggest talent is not music, it’s his passion *for* music. That, above all else, will be his legacy.

(P.S. Thanks for your comment, I really, really appreciate it!)

28 02 2012
shapeheadguy

Confession time: Shapeheadguy is my son’s handle, but since he’s 9, I administer his blog for his comic strip, Names Under Construction for him. And I’m not a guy… I’m his mom. 🙂

One of the myths of giftedness is that gifted people don’t have to work hard… I’m pretty sure Mozart worked incredibly hard, and I would also say that he was incredibly gifted. Yes, I think passion, or what Ellen Winner calls “the rage to master” *is* one of the main ingredients in giftedness! You might like her book, Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. She gives some very good reasons for thinking of musical and artistic talent as forms of giftedness.

Gifted people may have been lucky in the genetic draw, but that doesn’t exempt them from hard work. In fact, one of the most damaging experiences that many gifted people have shared is lack of challenge in school. When kids are not challenged, they are cheated out of the opportunity to overcome challenge through effort. They fall prey to the myth themselves, and become afraid of challenges which would threaten their self-image as a gifted person (who shouldn’t need to work hard). This can happen *whether or not* the child was identified as “gifted” because kids know they are different. They see people’s reactions to them and internalize that.

Yes, everyone has potential, and everyone can improve their performance with practice and hard work. But human beings are born with real neurological differences which affect their intellectual abilities (and other abilities, of course!) A kid who teaches himself to read at two-and-a-half needs different challenges from 99.9% of the population when he starts school. Most two-year-olds will not learn to read no matter how hard they work at it (in fact most of them are not interested in working at it: see Rage To Master.) This is a real human difference, and it does need to be addressed by schools. Whether they are addressing it adequately is a separate question.

Mom of Shapeheadguy

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Mom of Shapeheadguy,

I’m grinning to myself as I write this at your confession to come clean with your identity during this great discussion. Honestly, when I saw that handle I thought to myself, “That name is too cool for an adult to have thought up. I bet he got it from his kid.” Turns out I was right! (In a roundabout way; I never dreamed it was a kid’s cartoon blog. Plus, you’re not a guy.)

Without belaboring the point (or maybe I already have) my post was a “smart alec” way to make the point that too many kids are being labeled as gifted, when they’re really high-achievers (and I used my son as an example because he’s all I know). If nearly 100% of kids tested are classified as gifted that dilutes the classification to the point that gifted becomes average, and then the truly gifted (which I believe is a small percentage) do not get the services they need. (Which became a problem to some degree in our school district when I served on school site council.)

I guess it all comes down to what is the definition of gifted? Too often we generalize someone who is good at something as gifted. In the comments that follow there is some great discussion on what makes a child clinically gifted by people who are obviously more qualified than I am to make that call. My point is that if tests are showing that most kids are gifted then the educational system needs to change.

That and I’m sick of braggart parents who think their kids are gifted just because, for example, a kid masters scissors by age two, even though using the potty remains a mystery until kindergarten. Seriously, they need to shut up.

I never would’ve guessed that my post this week would elicit such great discourse. By trade I’m a comedian and comedy writer, so this is a humorous mommy blog. How fun that I got to chat with knowledgeable people like you, on a topic that I’m passionate about, which is public education. Thanks so much for taking the time to post not once, but twice! I really appreciate your time and expertise! 🙂

28 02 2012
shapeheadguy

Yeah, there’s an inherent problem with gifted programs: Being highly selective makes them unpopular (and unfunded). Being less selective brings in the funding but waters down the program until it’s no longer suitable for the highly gifted.

Then we’ve got NCLB forcing standards downward, and even the kids who are bright but not gifted are unchallenged by the regular curriculum. Add to that parental anxiety about increasing competition for college placement, and you’ve got people desperate to get their kids into the gifted programs. I don’t blame them really. Public education, especially here in California, is a disaster.

28 02 2012
Joan

I hate labels.. really. And yet, I was a gifted child (classic underachiever, smacked the IQ tests and even placement tests out of the park, but hated school so desperately that I literally was sick most of the time). We have a bunch-o-gifted-kiddos who are variously high or low achievers. Most of them have figured out that they are smart or gifted on their own, but we aren’t into labeling since both my husband and I hated being that “gifted” kid. “Nerd” would have been a nice name to be called.

Parents who run their mouths about their high-achieving but not gifted children aren’t doing them any favors. Parents who run their mouths about their gifted children aren’t doing them any favors either. In short.. encourage kids to succeed but stay out of their way, help them learn to be human, and stop labeling everybody like it’s some kind of achievement to be different. For that matter, it’s just as bad to hear about Johnny’s extreme skills in sports, or dance, or whatever. If your kid is really that awesome, it will be eventually be evident to the rest of us.

In the meantime, my gifted children and every other child (no matter what their “label” might be) will either succeed or not based on their motivation levels. Nothing else really matters.

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Joan,

I think you’ve hit the heart of the issue, which is we get too caught up in labels when it comes to our kids. Of course, everyone wants their children to be tagged as “smart,” but in the case of GATE, I think it’s getting out of hand. I do believe that there are truly gifted children out there, however, until we can figure out a way to identify them properly (and consistently) then they’re never going to get the services they need.

Thanks so much for your insightful input! I really appreciate that you took the time to read my blog and post. It means a lot to me.

28 02 2012
shapeheadguy

I see your point, Joan, that labels can be used in destructive ways, and that what matters most is bringing up kids who can become adults in charge of their own lives. Identification of gifted kids is more than a label, though… at least it should be. It’s information about how they process the world, how they struggle, and how where they excel. Parents and teachers should definitely be mindful of how labels are used, though. Praising kids for being smart usually backfires because they become too invested in that aspect of their identity and too defensive of it to risk trying something when they might not succeed.

For the sake of equity, I think it’s important that all kids be screened in school to see if they’re eligible for services–not just the ones whom the teachers and parents refer for testing.

28 02 2012
anais

Stacy,

Although there might be a surge of pushy parents who want their progeny to excel and be the brightest bulb in the room, I think that youre missing the point about ‘gifted’. When a child is labelled “gifted” it really means higher IQ, which incidentally does not automatically equate to higher academic achievement. These are children with special needs (just like children found at the other end of the bell curve). However it seems that many – might I dare say ‘insecure’ – parents seem to scathe each time they hear someone dare utter the word ‘gifted’. How come it seems as though more parents are more receptive to someone say that their child is autistic or mentally retarded but not gifted? Do you even have any inkling about how difficult it is to parent a gifted child? Often times gifted children have sensory systems in overdrive so that crowded places, tags, crumbly socks, food textures, tastes and smells are overwhelming to them. Many times gifted children become bored in class and become disruptive and non compliant. Ever see a 4 year old depressed because of global warming? The list of differences go on. These kids NEED special education as do kids who do not fall within the norm. Yes there might be more kids getting accepted into GATE but that phenomena can be explained by many things including: 1 – awareness of parents on different needs, and 2 – the general upward trend of IQ in the past 50 years.

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I totally agree with you. I do believe there are truly gifted kids out there, but if the system becomes one where nearly 100% of kids tested are labeled as gifted, then the classification becomes diluted (which was the point of my blog, albeit in a “smart alec” way). Unfortunately, the result of that is that the truly gifted will not get the services they need.

Also, I think it’s interesting that you say parents are more receptive to someone saying their kids are autistic or mentally retarded than gifted. That’s not the case in our school district. Parents clammer to get their kids tested so they can say their kids are gifted. Around here it’s like trying to get your kid into an exclusive club. But I think they really don’t understand what it means to have a truly gifted child, as you point out in your post above. Personally, I don’t have an inkling as to what it’s like to parent a gifted kid (that also was my point in my post), and neither do most people. Gifted kids are on one end of the bell curve, just like low-IQ kids are on the other end. If we flatten out the bell curve, nobody wins.

Thanks for your insight. I appreciate you taking the time to write such a heartfelt and knowledgeable post. You obviously know more about this topic than I do and I’m honored to have your expertise on my blog!

28 02 2012
hannahfromtheheart

Schools are actually very bad at identifying and helping those that really should have the “gifted” label. This is because there really aren’t that many gifted kids in any group – the trait is pretty rare – so they end up padding the special programs with kids who are maybe just a little bit gifted instead of kids who really do need help. The end result is that gifted (especially the highly gifted) students do not get the true help they need, and lots of parents have really skewed views of giftedness. Considering how schools handle giftedness, it is not surprising that most people see “gifted” meaning the same as “honor roll”. Of course, part of the problem is also the name – “gifted” – if there was every a label more likely to cause controversy I haven’t seen it.

True giftedness is not marked by straight A’s but by a set of characteristics that have been studied and defined by specialists. It includes things like high energy levels, constantly chattering, an overactive imagination, intense emotional reactions (which leads many gifted individuals to be labeled as emotionally immature), a great need for justice, and of course being able to learn things far ahead of your age peers. The word that best describes the gifted is not “smart” but “intense.” Their brains don’t just learn more, they do more of everything, which often leads to socially awkward, emotional, lonely people if they are not given the tools to deal with it by teachers and parents who understand what makes them different.

It is because hard work is what truly brings success that gifted kids do need special help in school. A child who is years ahead of his classmates in school does not learn how to work hard. Instead, they learn how to deal with boredom. It is very common for such children to be completely overwhelmed when they finally hit a point – either in high school or in college – that they actually have to put forth effort to learn something. A lot of kids like this drop out and get depressed and give up. It is important that a child is challenged their whole lives in school, which is why it is so important for gifted kids (the really gifted kids, not just the honor roll kids who are doing good because they know how to work hard) to get special help in school. With help these kids can do amazing things, but without help they also have a good chance of failing in life.

Sometimes the kid that is getting the top score in the school is working hard, but sometimes he (or she) is not. I wasn’t. I consinstently tested the highest in my school, while only doing about 2/3 of my homework and being seriously depressed because of a miserable, abusive home life. What I really needed was different parents and maybe a visit from child services, but I definitely could have also benefitted from someone explaining to me why I was so different from everyone else and actually teaching me how to learn, instead of just assuming I had everything together because I had good test scores. Now things are a lot better for me, but they’re better because I did learn to work hard and overcome difficulty, NOT because of what I was born with.

Don’t assume that just because someone excels at something they worked hard to get there. Some people are just born with a natural talent. But, true success and happiness in the long term comes from learning to work hard and being able to take the reigns of your own life. Probably nobody needs that lesson more than that person who excels naturally and is never challenged.

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Yours by far is the best definition I’ve seen for “gifted.” I especially like the idea that the word that best describes a gifted child is not necessarily “smart,” but “intense.”That absolutely hits the nail on the head. I think the reason “gifted and talented” sparks such debate is that we don’t have a common definition of the term from which to start, and as such people (i.e. parents) make assumptions about the label that aren’t necessarily true. And it all just diverges from there.

In addition, I appreciate your insight on that not everyone who is good at something has to work at it. That’s also a pet peeve when it comes to my son. He’s a great musician, but he works hard at it. However, most people think it comes naturally to him. To a degree it does, but his level of musicianship is only because he practices several hours a day. If he’s gifted in anything, it’s his passion for music (not music itself), because without that he would not play like he does.

I also appreciate you sharing such sincere life experiences that have obviously helped you understand this topic way more than I (or most people) do. This is usually a humorous mommy blog, so it’s an atypical treat for me to be able to discuss one of my passions (public education) with knowledge people like you. So thank you!

1 03 2012
hannahfromtheheart

I wish I could take credit for the “intense” description, but it is one I have read from many places. (For example, there’s a great book with a series of essays on being gifted called “Living with Intensity.” 🙂 Thanks for being so gracious about all of the comments on your post. It’s really hard trying to raise gifted kids (they get it from me AND my husband – we have a really intense home) and it’s also hard not being able to talk about it to anyone because most people assume you are a pushy helicopter parent the moment you mention the word “gifted.” I know better than anyone that gifted does not equal “better” or “destined for success” but few people stop to listen to me explain that. So, I just keep it all to myself and the emotions and frustrations gets bottled up and… I usually don’t comment on blog posts, but I felt like you were actually making a really good point and you didn’t seem as hostile as most people who blog about gifted kids so I just wanted to point out that I agree with you on the need to learn hard work and add my experience in the mix. Thanks, again.

28 02 2012
Wyldkat

I agree 100% with everything Mom of Shapeheadguy said. Both my sons are wired to learn differently than other children. Trust me, I know the difference since I’ve worked in daycare, teaching and teen support. What most other kids struggle with they simply absorb. All of my older son’s teachers have mentioned they’ve never known a kid like him. This is VERY different from being a high achieving kid, a musical kid, an artistic kid, and so on.

I really think the term “gifted” does a disservice to kids like mine. It makes it sound like something everyone should want and have. It ISN’T. Most kids would flat out fail with the type of schooling my son thrives on: only 1-2 repetitions of new subject matter, exposure to concepts from middle and high school (he’s 7), books from the adult non-fiction section of the library, etc.. This isn’t what makes a good education for most children, but he is intellectually different so it is what works for him. It’s not a gift. It’s simply a different way of being.

P.S. My computer is all wonky, sorry if this posts twice.

28 02 2012
Stacy Dymalski

You make an excellent point in that if most parents knew what it meant to have a truly gifted child, they wouldn’t want that at all. I think the problem is that most parents don’t know the real definition of “gifted child.” They think that if a child is good at something, then they must be gifted, which was the point of my post. It’s become a tag that parents seeks for their children like a badge of honor. My worry is that if nearly every child tested is label gifted, then gifted become average and we’re right back where we started (with gifted kids falling through the cracks).

Thanks for sharing your insight on how kids are wired differently. I totally agree with you on that. Regardless of if a child is gifted or not, they each have their own unique way of learning, and if it doesn’t fit in with the education system, then quite often that kid ends up struggling. I appreciate you sharing your experience with your son. It is a different world parenting a gifted child (not that I would know).

28 02 2012
irishmaggie

To Hannahfromtheheart

I have tears in my eyes because everything you wrote is what I’m afraid of for my son. He’s six and “intense” is the perfect word to describe him. We always knew he was bright but never ever knew anything about being gifted till he got tested through school. His scores put him into a very exclusive program in our area. I went to the open house for the program and liked what I saw, but the other parents scared the crap out of me. I still couldn’t tell you for sure what exact test he took without checking and can’t quote his score in any of the sub-categories. These parents had it down and were talking about the private testing and things I’d never even heard of before that all explained why their kids belonged in the program. I waited to ask the director my question as I heard the parents firing off questions like prosecuting attorneys. After a while she had a quiet moment between parents. I told her I heard her use the word “intense” to describe the kids in her program, I said that described my son very well. Then I asked her if he would be happy? Would his emotional needs be met? Could they give him a place where he wasn’t “that weird kid”? She patted my hand and said “we’ll see you in the fall and I’m sure we’ll get to know each other very well”. He hadn’t even completed the testing, but I felt like she understood how challenging he’s been to parent.

We’re going to try the gifted program for a year. If he’s happy we’ll stick with it, if not he’s back to the same wonderful school that has worked so hard to deal with his intensity during kindergarten. At the end of the day his grades matter much less to me than him growing up to be a happy.

1 03 2012
hannahfromtheheart

I would highly encourage you to check out some of the online communities for parents of gifted kids. There’s http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/ and http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/ and http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/ to get you started. You’re not alone! I find it incredibly comforting to connect in these groups, if only to have someone who I can talk to openly about the challenges of raising gifted kids.

Obviously, though, you are a mom who cares deeply and is aware and involved with your son’s life. That is powerful stuff. I’m sure things will work out as long as you’re working with him to see he gets what he needs.

29 02 2012
Linda

There is a difference between gifted and high achieving. There is also overlap – but not all gifted are high achieving. (There can be too man possible reasons for that to go into.) Kudos to any high achieving person who got there by busting their butt off with hours of practice. I think we can celebrate that effort. And we should.

However, most parents I know with exceptionally gifted kids tend to test the waters before being open about that giftedness. They have been smacked down in various ways so many times, they are hesitant to be forthright. They’ve been asked “how did you do that” or accused of pushing their child (even though they do these things without the struggle that many children go through to, say, read) – and these kids, often, don’t learn HOW to grapple with a tough problem. They haven’t had that experience until, years later, wham! They hit a wall. And they don’t have the skills that other children learned from very young to work through it.

There’s more than one side, more even than two, to this.

3 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Linda,

You are so right in that there are many sides to this discussion. I encountered this when I was on our school site council, and what I found is that just about every (legitimately) gifted child learns differently. Add to that dilemma parents who insist their kids be in gifted programs, when in reality they shouldn’t be, and gifted kids whose parents don’t want them singled out, and you’ve got a fine mess. I’m not sure what the answer is, however, I’m glad it’s at least now being addressed in many public school districts.

And I also agree that not all gifted kids are high-achieving, but on the flip side of that not all high-achievers are gifted. In fact, it’s been my experience that the latter is more often true than not.

Thank you so much for your comment. I truly appreciate your insight in weighing in on this “gifted” topic. This is usually a humorous mommy blog, so I’m thrilled to have such a frank discussion on such an important topic with knowledgable people. 🙂

7 03 2012
The Oasis Projekt

I was gifted and talented once, in 5th grade! I soon realized I really disliked being so gifted and talented, because they separated us from the other non-MENSA kids in school. This kept me from my friends, many of whom have gone on to become quite successful in life, despite being total stupid retards. I eventually (rather quickly) flunked my way out of the GATE classes and back into normal retard society, where I’ve continued challenging myself and being moderately successful at life. 🙂
http://tr4f.wordpress.com

7 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

As you can see from the other comments above your story is not uncommon. I think high-achievers rule the world, but truly gifted kids quite often have a tougher time finding their way. Glad to see you finally found your path and that has lead to success!

9 03 2012
Teryl

I was one of “those” kids, and it was hell. I lived through it though and promised myself that I would never make one of my own kids live trough being the “gifted” kid. But, there I was with my daughter in second grade, her teacher telling me that she was going to have to be put in the remedial class for reading. At first I was wondering what the hell, I know this kid can read, she’d been reading since before she was in kindergarten. Then it hit me, she was bored stiff. The story is long, but her Grandma intervened and saved the day at this juncture.

Since then, the school and her teachers have done a fair job of working with us and her to make sure she has a challenge in the class room and for the most part it’s worked out pretty well. She’s one of those kids that can simply read or listen to a lesson and it just clicks and sticks, thus making school a joke at any level, but they try and she plays along.

Our challenges, to many, will sound silly. They are things like, being aware of your surroundings, managing depth perception, properly interpreting emotion from written word, understanding how to modulate the throttle/brakes of a car. These are things that my other three kids, and I would guess most kids, pick up rather quickly. Not so for her, anything we would consider common sense or “so easy anyone can do it” ends up a challenge for her.

Raising a kid like her is beyond a challenge and no parent can really succeed at it. These kids make their own path and all we can do is help them along, where we can and close our eyes and pray for them when we can’t.

Any parent that brags about how “gifted” their kid is, I would suspect doesn’t really have one. It’s just another thing like, “My Johnny is the star soccer player.” while failing to mention that you were having him professionally coached since he was able to walk on his own.

I would give anything for my daughter to be able to trade some of those IQ points for common knowledge points. Luckily, she enjoys school and will probably end up in academia somewhere, teaching or researching. Unfortunately, she will probably always scare me when trying to drive a car. She needs to live somewhere with great public transportation.

14 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

I think the best thing you said is “Any parent that brags how ‘gifted’ their kid is, I would suspect doesn’t really have one.” I totally agree, and that’s my point exactly. (My son is not gifted in music, he’s a high-achiever in music.) When I was on school site council I got a glimpse of what truly gifted children are like (because our school was shopping around for gifted programs, so we did the research) and what I found out is that there are really not that many gifted kids out there, but of those that are gifted FOR REAL, they are a unique breed, difficult to educate in today’s paradigm. I can only imagine your challenges.

I think the problem lies in our outdated, factory-style public education system. Take a look at this great video by Sir Ken Robinson. He has some out-of-the-box ideas on how we should change public education so that it benefits a wider cross section of kids, and not just the ones in the middle of the bell curve: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Good luck with your daughter. She’s lucky to have you as a parent. 🙂

14 03 2012
mykidzmomnow

Reblogged this on South of the Fork and commented:
Please share this. It’s very funny. But more than it is funny…. It is true.

14 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Thanks for your kind words about my post! I’m so glad you liked it. And thanks for the reblog. I really appreciate the support!

14 03 2012
Quinn Graves

Hi Stacy,
I cannot express to you how much I love this post. I am actually laughing aloud at the moment because all of what you said is spot on. The whole Gifted and Talented program is kind of a joke. I mean, they gave us a test in fourth grade to see if we could do a puzzle. Is it just me, or is that extremely ridiculous? Anyway, I loved this post and thanks again for coming to school and speaking to us. You have really inspired me to keep writing and doing what I love!
Quinn G.

14 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

Hi Quinn,
I’m so glad your enjoyed my post and that you took the time to comment. That means a lot to me.

In terms of the gifted thing, I believe there are truly gifted kids in the world, just not as many as people think. Today everyone wants their kid to be labeled as gifted, when in reality I think we should be encouraging them to find and nurture their passions instead. You’re lucky in that you already know you’re good at writing. Whether you’re gifted at it or not is irrelevant as long as you love what you’re doing…and that you write everyday so you don’t lose your “gift.”

Also, what’s the link to your blog? I’d love to read it! You can email me your link at stacydymalski@gmail.com or post it as a comment back here. Whichever is easiest for you.

Thanks again for reading my blog. I really appreciate it!

25 03 2012
Patrick

I think this post hits the issue right on the nose. There’s a huge difference between being proud of your child and being easily impressed. As a rule I hate gushing when you don’t have a clear understanding of the activity at hand (“Oh, you kicked a goal? How WONDERFUL!”). As parents we should be interested/knowledgeable enough in our child’s pastimes to know they’re REALLY doing. False praise is more damaging to them than honest (and diplomatic) feedback.

26 03 2012
Stacy Dymalski

You are so right! False praise is the worst. And I’m convinced that children truly know the difference deep down. Soon enough they figure out that you’re not sincere, and then you’re screwed from then, because they won’t believe you on other (more important) things as well!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. I appreciate you taking the time to leave such a great comment!

27 03 2012
Patrick

You’re very much welcome Stacy! Your blog is a great read. 🙂

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