I have debated posting about this topic. First, because it makes me potentially look bad. Second, because I’m afraid I’m going to inadvertently offend someone. But I think this topic is a THING, if you know what I mean.
Pride. This beast sure gets in the way of a lot of things. My friends probably wouldn’t describe me as a prideful person, but I certainly have my moments. Sometimes pride has a positive connotation, like in being proud of someone else like your child, parent, or spouse. Often, though, pride is something that blinds us and unnecessarily puffs us up.
I was recently slapped in the face by my own pride. Honestly, I rather shocked myself. I thought I had a better head on my shoulders.
Let me give you some background information. My son’s school has a high ability program. In first and second grade this experience is limited to one class per week. When they enter third grade one classroom is designated as the high ability classroom. Admittance to this program is technically based on a variety of factors, but standardized test scores are the main focus.
My son was tested during the spring of his kindergarten year. Part of me regrets even putting him through the experience. He had barely turned six at the time, and that’s a long time to sit still regardless of how smart a kid is at that age.
What was fascinating to me was the way the results were reported. Of course we got the numerical percentages, but then there was a paragraph explaining why his scores did not qualify him. The bottom line was that the test indicated he was not creative/inventive enough. He could remember data and regurgitate it, but he was not able to invent content on his own. While I don’t believe my son is gifted by definition, I do believe he is one incredibly creative young man. He made the above picture. He chose the colors of clothes based on our personal favorites. He even included the stuffed animal my youngest always carries. That’s creative!
My son transitions from the primary school to the intermediate school next year. They held an open house the other day for the incoming third graders. We got to roam around the classrooms to check things out. I ran into a fellow parent I went to college with. As we were talking she asked if my son was going to be in the high ability class. My whole body tensed up. I found myself making various excuses as to why he would probably not be. I should just have simply said no…end of story.
On the way home I found myself getting more agitated. Thinking of all of the reasons my son should be considered high ability. Thinking of all of his friends who are in the program. All of the people I know whose kids made it while mine didn’t. Pathetic on my part.
Then I started berating myself a bit. I shouldn’t have let him watch so much TV. I read to him a ton, but I should have read more. Maybe I should have provided richer learning opportunities. Pure silliness!
Here is what I know. Raising a truly gifted kid is hard work. They get bored easily. Finding reading materials for them can be a major challenge because books at their age level are way too easy, but books at their reading level are thematically inappropriate. They can also make really great lawyers at a young age. You don’t have to wait until the teenage years to be beating your head against the wall because your child thinks he/she is smarter than you are. Socializing a gifted kid can also be difficult because they may relate more to people much older. If you are the parent of a gifted child, you know the list goes on from here. You are the parents who wonder why anyone would wish to go through what you deal with on a daily basis.
As a parent and a former teacher, I am saddened by how schools can pigeonhole kids and praise only certain abilities. As an inclusion teacher for many years, I saw all kinds of children with varying degrees of ability. The bottom line was that regardless of their scholastic aptitude, they all had something worthwhile to contribute. I stressed this over and over to my students. We can’t all be good at everything. By our very nature we are unique. And, as the Bible teaches, we are all different parts of one body. Of course, I couldn’t tell them that last part, or I would have lost my job. But I found other creative ways to say the same thing.
My first year of teaching I had a student in my fourth grade class that functioned at about a first grade level. Two or three of the other girls in the class took her under their wing and helped her with her individualized work in their free time. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I believe they learned far more from that experience than anything else I could have taught them. Although still limited, Katie has grown up to be a happy and loving young woman.
I think I can safely say most of us would like our children to be among the best and the brightest. The reality is that these spots are reserved for a select few.
My greater concern, in moments that I am thinking clearly, is whether or not my boys are growing into quality people. Are they among the kids who will assist those less able than themselves in some areas? Are they patient and kind? Do they listen well and care for others needs before their own? These characteristics are not highly valued by our society, but I believe possessing these qualities will allow them to have a much happier and content life in the future regardless of his intellectual capacity.
I’m embarrassed to admit I fret at times about issues such as these, yet I don’t believe I am alone. Let’s just encourage one another to maintain focus on the attributes that truly matter.