Okay, this is a little dramatic, but hey, I'm a little dramatic.
The rest of this post is just a snapshot of my thoughts on the subject of Gifted Education and may not be particularly useful, but I still wanted to put it out there.
When I was in 3rd grade, I remember being isolated from the rest of my class so I could work on different assignments. In 4th grade, I began our district's Gifted Education program (G.A.T.E.). I was taken out of my classroom 2 days a week to practice critical thinking skills and spend time with other kids who qualified. I don't remember having any of this explained to me. It just became a part of my school life.
I loved my G.A.T.E. classes and wanted to share what I was learning with my friends...it turns out that they did not want to know. In fact, my closest friends made fun of me, hid from me at recess, and I remember crying almost every day at school. I started to feel like standing out was a bad thing because it made other people uncomfortable - it made you lose friends, a currency worth more than gold in the school world. I began to slack off by rushing through my homework, quitting my favorite clubs or groups if my friends didn't make the cut, and pretending like I knew less than I did. By 8th grade, I decided to quit G.A.T.E. and take other lower level classes instead. Since my junior high grades were good (straight A's), no one said anything to me. No one asked why I was doing what I was doing. All I wanted was to fight my urge to push myself and stand out, but felt forced into a little box.
It took me years to overcome the little voice in my head saying, "Don't make other people uncomfortable." I wish I was able to have the confidence to be my authentic self back in elementary school when the pressure to conform was strongest. I wish someone would have noticed that my tears and my subtle withdrawal was more than just me being a sensitive kid. It was me feeling like I could never fit in no matter what group I was in. I felt like I wasn't smart enough for the G.A.T.E. kids and wasn't cool enough for the rest of my class. I was a misfit, just finding ways to cover up who I really was with different clothes, different hobbies, and a different personality.
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This past November, I attended a conference about Gifted Ed that brought all of these memories to the surface. As our keynote speaker, Dr. Jim Delisle, explained research on students who are gifted and support strategies to use, I felt myself tearing up. I thought back to recess, when a student kicked a ball at me, causing me to fall into a puddle of mud. I thought back to 7th grade G.A.T.E. when I felt like I didn't even fit in socially with my fellow gifted students and began to withdraw further. I thought back to college classes, counting how many times I raised my hand so I wouldn't be annoying to the rest of the class.
As school counselors, we can help our gifted students (a population typically pushed to the side because they are "easier") find the confidence they need to achieve great things. We can teach them social skills, organization, goal-setting, and stress management. We can be their safe place to vent. We can remind them that even if they feel alone now, it gets better. The world is a big place with big possibilities. They will find lasting friendships with those who will appreciate and challenge them. We can remind them to never give up.
I hope my story feels more educational than self-indulgent. Of course, it DOES feel good to express the feelings I bottled up for so long, so maybe it was a little self-indulgent. I just want school counselors to remember this population of students because it's easy to leave them behind.
Thanks for listening. :)
Jim Delisle www.creativelearningconsultants.com/jimdelisle.html
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