Gifted and Geeky

In our local school system all kids are tested for the “gifted” program between first and second grade. It’s an IQ test combined with a few others that test thinking style then a one-on-one interview.

Both of my sons were placed in the gifted program based on these tests but believe me I am not bragging when I say that. Read on.

We have a standing joke in our house. The school calls. They say, “Mrs. Gordon?” I debate whether to pretend they have a wrong number. I eventually cop to being Mrs. Gordon. Their next question is always, “How are you today?” These are never just friendly calls so I always reply, “I don’t know, you tell me.” Then I get to find out what one of my gifted sons has done now.

Another word for gifted could be divergent, or odd-man-out, or 5%. The gifted program could also be called round pegs in square holes. It’s for the kids who think fast (and that’s usually good) and who process information differently than most of the general population. Which is often not a good thing at school, a system designed to accommodate the majority.

The biggest misconception about gifted kids (adults too) is that life will be easy for them. They will cruise through school, wowing their teachers, then maybe finish college early to begin a prestigious career a la Doogie Howser.

Some do have an easy time in school. They often don’t have to study much so they take the tests, get the grades and leave with little gained but a sterling GPA. But many don’t have such an easy time. Imagine as an adult repeating 5th grade. You would grasp the concepts quickly (because you probably forgot most of them) then you would be ready to move on, quickly. But the lessons on each idea would be scheduled to last for the next few weeks. Those would be l-o-n-g weeks for you. That is what school feels like for a lot of gifted kids.

I had to stop by school once to drop off something for my kid when he was in 3rd grade. I watched him through the door for a minute before knocking. His head was thrown back and he had a marker in his teeth. He was using it to mentally count ceiling tiles during math class. The good news about this class was that this teacher let him do that. She knew he would ace the test and as long as he was quiet he needed to distract himself and not the other kids. School is more of a compromise than a challenge for the gifted.

So why send them, you might ask. Social skills would be the number one reason. I could home school (shudders) and some families of gifted kids do. We don’t because I believe the social skills they have to learn at school are vital in life, maybe more vital than theorems and grammatical rules. When you think differently than 90 – 95% of other people it can be hard to relate to others. Yes, these are the Dungeons and Dragons kids, who can wrap their brains around complex games with a litany of rules. The problem is they often can’t understand why the other kids can’t do the same. That social deficit is hard when you are in school and can mean being unemployed after you graduate. Lessons like “it’s not nice to correct your teacher’s (boss’s) grammar (math, etc.)” are the ones that keep gifted kids from living in their parent’s basements when they’re 30.

I’ve hesitated writing this blog post. The misconceptions about being gifted make articles about it seem like whining about being rich. But I’m not whining. There are so many great benefits to being part of this family. I have the most fascinating conversations with my kids. We discuss world religious philosophies, politics, the structure of literature. But we also discuss sportsmanship (as applied to math contests) and how counter revolutionary ideals should not be applied to defeating the school dress code. Because when that happens, I get a call … Mrs. Gordon …

One thought on “Gifted and Geeky

  1. I must admit there are some things which I can't relate with in this post–though I believe them to be more down to the school system in the US and UK than anything else.

    The UK system is pretty segregated. I haven't mentioned this much, I think, because I don't realise it isn't obvious to those on the outside.

    And I don't mean segregated as in race (never happened, probably never will). Sometimes it's segregated in terms of sex; we still have boys-only or girls-only schools, though those are dying out due to studies showing it isn't a good idea, and bad press.

    But the UK system is very segregated in terms of *ability*. We have comprehensive schools–those who have to take everyone–and grammar schools, with their own selective entry tests.

    And even in comprehensive schools–one which I attended before moving–they still have *sets*. Six of them, in the case of my school.

    It's a little controversial in politics. Point is, kids don't have to go over stuff they already know because a few other kids haven't been paying attention and don't get it. (Although this does still sometimes happen, even in my grammar.)

    Downside is: you don't get to experience what other people are like…

    Going into more detail would take too long. In any case, your post was insight into a different system: and funny, too.



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