Friday, September 26, 2008

Walking the rail

This morning, after school drop off, an unofficial meeting of parents of gifted second graders was called to order. The mothers of two of AJ's friends, O. and N., and I stood around chatting after the lines had disappeared into the school. These are two of my favorite parents. Both are smart and have done interesting work but are taking time off to be home with their young children. O's mom is an engineer. N's mom is a former middle school science teacher. This year, as last year, O and AJ are in the same class and N is in a different class. We were talking this morning about how O and AJ have challenging spelling lists. N's class isn't getting a challenge list and N is bored. I was urging N's mom to ask for it and told her what we did with AJ last year. O's mom told her how the challenge lists work this year (any kid who gets 100% on the pretest on Monday gets the week's challenge words instead of the regular words. The first week it was just AJ. But this week, as the kids are settling in, there were 6).

We also talked about the ways classroom boredom can lead to errors or slacking off and can often give a teacher the impression that the kid is either lazy or not very bright. We talked about the way our kids have a tendency to take the easy way out if given the opportunity and how having other kids to be competitive with can either spur them on or shut them down, about how their tendencies toward perfectionism can yield them to be unbelievably hard on themselves, and about how this latter tendency is something we all live with too.

It was a nice conversation of commonalities. It's nice to feel that you're kid is not alone, that you're kid is not alone. And yet, whenever I have a talk like this, afterwards I walk away worried that I've said something I shouldn't. Do I sound like I'm bragging about my kid? I don't mean to. I want to help other people get what they need and I feel like I know a little more about working the system at this point. But do they think I'm an insufferable bore who needs her kid to be better than everybody else? Or am I actually an insufferable bore who needs her kid to be better than everybody else? I don't think so. But if I were totally innocent, I doubt I'd be so anxiety-ridden after these encounters. I wish it weren't so hard. I'd love to have a more united front. Next year, when there's a formal gifted program, it will, I think, be easier.

It should be easier for AJ too, I think, as long as the classroom teacher doesn't think that the gifted program absolves her of responsibility for giving him appropriate work. I'll be interested to see who shows up there. All the kids I know who would seem to meet the criteria are boys. This flies in the face of my own experience of gifted programs, which were heavily female, even as the high level academic awards were mostly given to boys. Interesting.


Jeanne said...

I'd worry less. The people who get it about what gifted kids need are going to get it. If any of the parents you're talking to are the kind that have kids who want (or worse, kids whose parents want for them) the gifted program, then they're not the kind of people I'd worry too much about offending.

But then, I put a sign in my front yard urging people not to vote for a gay marriage ban in my state because "It's evil, pure and simple," so I'm not any kind of authority on social anxiety.

I get tired of people so earnest that they don't have a sense of perspective.

Jeanne said...

Maybe I should think about writing an entire piece on the distinction between "need" and "want" as it applies to gifted education, especially after elementary school.

my kids mom said...

Oh, I'm just as insecure. I just learned that my friend's son has been diagnosed with a reading disability and, as classmates, they each know what level the other reads on. I want to avoid talking about the class with her. I'm wanting things more challenging, she thinks the teacher is too hard on the kids. How does one discuss it without feeling like they're bragging?

Our spelling is like yours this year. Much better. Conferences are next week and I'm going to ask if math could be done similarly. It is just too boring as it is now and Pook is getting sloppy with his homework. The only items he missed in all of last week's homework were due to carelessness.