Monday, December 04, 2006

G/T

So I lied about the signing off for the night part.

I mentioned that Carmen is a G/T child, one of our few. She knows she's "G/T," but wasn't really sure what that meant. I gave it my best shot of explaining it to her. I told her that everybody has their own gifts and talents, that we are all good at different things. I said that she just happened to be very, very good at school. We talked about what the word academic meant (it was a vocabulary word for my class). I told her that since she is academically gifted, that it meant we needed to do things together so that she could be have more academic challenges and use her gift to the fullest.

I was a G/T child. I have incredibly mixed feelings about the entire thing. Growing up working class, female, and Appalachian doesn't mix easily with being academically gifted. Despite the differences in our race and culture, I know a lot of what Carmen will face as she grows, especially after elementary school. It hurts very much to have the mixed love and loathing for your family, your community, to know that the only way you can be successful is to eventually leave them behind. And the people around you are as painfully aware of that as you are. They hate you, they fear you, and they are so damned proud of you, all at the same time. I see it happening to her already.

The elementary school I attended, as a child in the 1980s, had a significant class divide. The presence of the wealthy children ensured that there was a gifted program. My IQ made me one of the few non-wealthy children in the program. The program was fucking awesome. With the exception of my college Spanish classes, I learned more from the elementary school gifted program than I learned from anything else at any time during my education. The set up was that once a week we were bused to another campus along with gifted children from every other elementary school in the district. It was rather collegiate in a way, we had some required core classes to take and then we could sign up for numerous electives. Core classes were one unit of research skills, one unit of foreign language, and one independent study per year. Electives were things like ancient Egypt, impressionist art, chemistry, technology and computer programming, logic and problem solving, sketching, advanced mathematics, and typing. Through the gifted program, I discovered that I had a talent for language. I never would have had that exposure otherwise. It was like that with a lot of students, we all discovered abilities that we never might have found, otherwise.

It is getting late (for me, at least), so I guess I should wrap this up. Something I have learned as an educator is that there are so many ways of being intelligent. There are so many gifts a student can have. It wasn't fair that, just because I tested above the IQ cut-off, I got opportunities that kids with an IQ under 132 didn't get. Fast forward to the present day, to my classroom. It's not fair that Carmen isn't getting all those opportunities that I had as a gifted child. And it's not fair that all the other kids aren't getting to explore their talents, either. I keep finding myself daydreaming about what I would do if I came into a huge sum of money. Most of what I daydream about includes taking my kids on trips and paying for them to take the $125 per session art classes at the place down the street from my house. How sad is that?

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