Monday, January 9, 2012

The GT Dilemma

Once again, the gifted and talented program in our county has presented us with a dilemma.

Namely, that Nolie didn't get in.

She doesn't know this yet, so if you're someone who sees her, or has a kid who sees her, please don't say anything.

Her test scores weren't bad by any means, but they were pretty blah across the board.

I think I can speak for E. when I say our first reaction was, CRAP.  Not because we are so in love with GT or anything, or think our kid won't be successful without it, but because her very vocal older sister is in GT, and thinks the world of it, and CRAP will Nolie think that she's not the gifted or talented one in the family?  That she is something other that smart and lovely and a gift to everyone who meets her?


Also, it's confusing, seeing as Nolie is doing really well in school, and her teachers are having to work hard to challenge her in math and reading.  So did she just have a couple of off-days of testing?  Or does the testing not capture all kinds of giftedness (know the answers to that one)?  Is she just not ready for that kind of testing?

Biggest question of all:  what to do now?

Gather information about our options.  Get some resources on how to deal with this kind of situation.  Maybe advocate for a retest.  We don't quite know yet.

I'm not a fan of moments like this, where there is no clear path forward, and you have to be careful that your actions and attitudes aim for what's best for your kid and aren't just a reflection of your own fears and insecurities as a parent.

I think Nolie would do great in a GT classroom.  But I also know she's smart, funny, resilient, loving, and basically all-around awesome.  And I'll need to be all of those things, too, so I can always be her best parent, coach, advocate, and ally, reminding her that she is gifted and talented, no matter what any test says, or how her classroom is labeled.



  1. For what it's worth, I took the equivalent of the gifted and talented test in 4th grade and didn't test gifted either. Then I went on and got a PhD and became a sortof contributing member of society who was halfway worthwhile. My brother, who I think IS mentally gifted, floundered his way through schooling until he locked into what he wanted to do, but he did lots of interesting stuff in the meantime. A whole bunch of my students at DU probably tested gifted, and they're a bunch of coddled twerps...and some of the overlooked/underachieving ones end up shining.

    I mean, I'm sure that's not a surprise to you, but WTF? I know, I know: I don't have a kid so I don't know shit, but, it's a tragedy if a kid's "average"? What does that even mean?

    I never liked tracking. I understand it's a reality. This seems like a good example of how completely f'd up it is. Nolie is amazing, and I think she'll be brilliant no matter what track she's in. Some of us aren't standardized test takers. I hope this doesn't stay a big Crap situation for long.

    --Aunt N

  2. Um, I don't know how to respond, exactly. The point of my post was not that GT is the end-all be-all, or even that it's going to be just right for Nolie. It's that I'm a parent doing the best I can to provide my kids with the best opportunities I can, and at the same time I have all my own bullshit to deal with, and wrangling with a GT office and thinking how to best guide my kid through what could be a blow to her self-esteem is not exactly what I was looking forward to at the beginning of a very fucking busy semester.

    I'm aware this is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and I'm aware of the million critiques to be made against tracking, GT, etc. I just have a kid who is already sensitive to being the "little one" and who sometimes won't participate in activities because she worries about not being good enough, and I want to be self-reflective about how to best guide her to seeing and participating in her own strengths, and in her own life.

    That said, I was a GT kid, which clearly makes me better than you in every way, and the fact that you weren't a GT kid explains all of your problems in my eyes.


  3. I knew it! GT people lording it over the rest of us dumbasses!

    No, but seriously. Of course I understand that you're just wanting to be the best parent/advocate/supporter of the little one (who, as we all know, has the BIG personality and the BIG heart, the HUGE voice and the CRAFTY, AWESOME sense of humor, who is no way than size little, happily). You and E are amazing parents. And of course--of course!--you don't want her to feel bad about herself relative to her sister or anyone else. But, man, thinking about this stuff kept me up last night bothered--not about your and Eric's (or any of my parent friends') choices, but about what the hell we do to our kids and each other with these systems that, no matter how much we might not want them to, label them (=us all). And since you put it up there on your blog, I figured I'd enter the dialogue honestly.

    These things make an impression, for sure, so I can only imagine how you'd worry. I discovered last night that I distinctly remember the day I heard that I didn't get into "Mentally Gifted Minds," as they called it at my elementary school. I remember the whole thing, in fact: first being told I was smart enough that they wanted to test me (I'm smart!). Then the test itself (what did putting colored blocks in a particular order have to do with being smart? what did saying a long string of numbers backwards really mean about me?) Then later being told *ever so gently* by my dad (cuz, of course, we humans can smell that kid-gloves energy from a mile away) that I didn't score quite high enough to make it, and feeling bad. But also feeling mystified: the weirdest combination of kids in my class had been declared special-smart by the authorities and got to do science projects or whatever after school. I couldn't figure out what set them apart; some of them couldn't even read aloud when their turn came, others were socially awkward, others seemed just like everyone else.

    I was resilient and moved on with a shrug. Lots of kids I *knew* were smart weren't in MGM either. (In fact, I always kind of thought of the MGM kids as smart-retarded.) But that experience did seed the idea in me that I was mediocre, nothing "special" in any observable, measurable way. My mom remembers a day in junior high when I came sobbing to her that I had no special talents, that I was just mediocre--unlike my brother, the artist, and this person and whoever. I was only in one Honors class: English. I would probably be a failure!

    (end of pt 1)

  4. Sure, kids will compare themselves and go through normal agony. And in the end maybe it actually helped me to have that fear, because it made me work hard and apply myself and try to not be mediocre.

    I'm sure I could (and maybe should) write my own long blog post about all this, as the topic feels infinite. But I guess the thing I keep winding back to is wondering if we don't buy into something really dangerous when we do this dividing of people, our own kids, into gifted/talented and, by plain deduction, NOT gifted/talented. And then there's "special needs" and all the rest, which, in my experience with college students, ends up translating as another version of the gifted and talented label ("I need more time on my test because I have anxiety," etc. Of course you have anxiety; people've been testing you ruthlessly since you were 3!) Nolie wasn't screwed when she didn't score high enough, it seems to me; she was screwed that her sister had *already* been getting public acknowledgement for being "gifted and talented", so that if N. weren't so labeled she'd feel bad. And I guess if we believe that words and ideas create reality, that "thoughts are things," as you and I do, none of this is about anyone's inherent assets or deficits; it's about words we hope will expand people that also end up hemming others in, potentially. Also it's about an individualist-oriented educational system that I so wish were more cooperativist, where advanced kids could really help struggling kids and vice versa, so we'd all see our growth as connected. Pipe dream, I realize.

    I don't know how to resolve it. I don't envy you guys these moments you're experiencing, or the stress. I just wonder if it might be a good time to try to break the spell of these labels and categories that shrink rather than expand our sense of our own amazing giftedness, all of us.



  5. Agreed, on everything you've said. And I talk frequently with parents of kids in GT and not, and there is general consensus that GT definitely attracts "gifted-retarded" kids (or whatever you called them). And that not getting into GT does not doom you to any sort of sad future.

    But it saved our bacon with Addie, who as I've written about before, had plenty of oddities about her, who was flailing and being failed in her regular kindergarten classroom, and who has totally flourished with the other oddballs in her GT class since we moved her (and you know how we agonized over that decision. I have never opened up discussions about GT as a way about bragging about my kids' "smarts"). Other than that, the only thing with GT is that kids are working a grade above their level. There's not much else linking those kids that I can see, on some sort of "nature" level.

    So we have this sweet, sensitive, hilarious Nolie, who has been getting stomach aches from being bored in her kindergarten class because, though she's really immature in a lot of ways, she's academically ahead in some areas. And her teacher, who is awesome, is totally maxed out with 35 students, and her teachers will always be that way because of the fucked-upness of the system, and so we are just supposed to hope that she gets challenged in some way and doesn't tune out of school altogether. Not saying that will happen, but the chances are reduced in GT.

    Or not. I have no crystal ball. All I know is 1) I have to find out what our possibilities are and 2) it's not my particular path to reform the k-12 education system, though I'm happy to write letters, vote, and do whatever else is within my sphere of influence to change it. But my sphere of influence in this case, and given my other obligations, needs, and desires, is small, and mostly just extends to my kid.

    So, bottom line: I don't know what we're going to do yet. I don't have any awesome script to talk my kids through this. If I did have an awesome script, good chance they'd tune me out (because kids tune our awesome speeches out a lot). I'm not the best or most visionary parent in the world. I worry a lot. And I'm probably more bothered by this than Nolie will be, but that's my job as her mom.

  6. Totally makes sense. And I totally hear you about not being able to take on public ed atop all the rest.

    Both girls are gonna be ok and more than ok, I know. Because they have you guys and tons of other people who love and support them, plus all the socioeconomic privileges that come with their demographic, plus a sense of humor. And Nolie's gonna smoke Addie in other categories and she's gonna feel bad about it, and that's just the joy of being a sibling. And I will love and squeeze them in all their kooky wonderfulness, and love and squeeze you in all of yours.

    Love you.

  7. GT just turns kids into snarkly little assholes like you and me anyway sis! Hope you get it all worked ya - JB