Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the curse of gifted children

In the Seattle Public schools there is an option for parents to have their children tested as early as kindergarten to see if they are "gifted" and therefore qualified to be in the advanced learning program for gifted children. Initially, I wasn't going to have our daughter take the test because I didn't want her to deal with the madness that is "gifted children programs" but then I realized if she does end up being a genius like her dad, then I want her to be challenged so she won't get bored at school. So, a few months ago we tromped down to the school cafeteria on a Saturday morning so she could take a test that (as we explained it to her) "would determine which first grade class she would like the best." I figured that was a nicer way to put it than "you're going to take a test to see if you're smart so you'd better try really hard because if you don't pass we'll be disappointed!" which I'm learning appears to be the norm in our neighborhood.

Well, last Friday we all got our results. And apparently all hell has broken loose. Last night I helped lead tours for parents of incoming students next fall and during our little "tour guide orientation" the PTA president said, "DON'T answer any questions about the gifted student program! That is a question for the principal. Just have that be your mantra "That is a question for the principal". Believe me - you don't want to get into the mess that is talking to parents about the gifted student program."

After the tour (which was kinda hard on me because I really don't like public speaking and I had this group of parents trailing behind me expecting to talk to them like ... a tour guide or something ... the only reason I agreed to do it is because I'm a little bit smitten with the PTA treasurer and when she asked me I didn't have the presence of mind to say no ... anyway ...) So, after the tour I went in to my daughter's classroom to debrief with her teacher. Her teacher said that all week she has been dealing with a couple parents getting angry with her because their child didn't pass the test and demanding to know why her curriculum had failed to prepare their children for the test. Then the other kindergarten teacher came in and agreed. "It's relentless," she said, "Parents begging me to write appeal letters to get their children in when it is by far not the right program for their child but the parents don't want to hear that from me."

What is really comes down to in my opinion is that attitude is awful for the child. How would anyone feel being 6 years old and being told that you are a normal kid doing your best and that is not special or good enough? Of course, nobody is going to listen to me on that subject because then they'll say "did your daughter pass" and I'd have to say "Yes, but it's not a big deal," and then I'd hear, "It's not a big deal to you because she passed!" My husband was a child prodigy and we've talked a lot about not doing that to our daughter and it's something we both feel strongly about so I guess we come from a different perspective. What I want more than anything is for my daughter to find a path in life doing something she loves and to be a kind and caring person and that can be done no matter what IQ she has. She could have enormous learning disabilities and still find a path to do what she loves and be a kind, caring person. I don't know why in our "upper-middle-class uber-liberal" neighborhood where everyone is so damned politically correct they can't see that and treat their kids like show dogs.

The other day I couldn't help it, I burst out to one of my co-workers, "Aaagh! I'm ready to just move to the woods and homeschool at this point" to which she said "Amen to that, Sister."

I know, I need to learn to be more tolerant of my fellow humans, but it is not my strong point when I see them being unkind to their own children and these women who are paid way too little to teach all of our kids and put their whole lives and heart into the task.

Meanwhile, it is good I am in therapy again because yesterday I stopped at Fred Meyer in Bothell to get a sandwich to take up the stable and I was hit by a feeling of overwhelming sadness and almost started *crying* in the middle of the store because I thought to myself, "I wish I could live in the country" and the sadness I felt was so strong I almost started crying. I really don't understand why after three years of wanting to move out of the city and it not being an option for our family I can't convince myself emotionally to be happy where I am.


  1. How interesting! I have so many mixed emotions on the idea of a "gifted" school program. At Iris's K the kids just all do their thing.

    Do they re-test all of the kids each year to make sure that the ones in the program should stay in and that any new kids can get in?

  2. Yes, they retest every year for the gradeschool program. I'm not sure how the A.P. program in middle school and high school does it - if you test in once and are in the whole time or if you have to test in every year?