Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid — Albert Einstein

Image for post
Image for post

Long time, no talk, dudemesticated ! How’s it going?

I’m not exactly sure why I started with that quote, it doesn’t really have anything to do with your post. I just like it a lot. :)

My son is gifted with both a visionary’s foresight and a mean ass case of the ADHDs. Sometimes they cancel each other out. And I’ve no doubt your son is gifted, as well. The thoughtful, sensitive ones often are. Jay has one like this too. I don’t know if you’re acquainted but his little guy is beyond hilarious, but also so very thoughtful and sweet.

These kids think. A LOT. I don’t dare even pretend to know what goes on in my son’s head, but he has solved some global problems up there. He thinks. About everything. It’s exhausting; I know it has to be. Also, he talks non stop about what he thinks. I can’t always listen or I’ll lose my mind. I do the best I can. :)

Anyway, the reason I started this response was to tell you about what being gifted has meant for my son, because lots of gifted kids go through similar challenges once they hit the stride in school. Kindergarten is sometimes just fine, followed by first-grade and talks with the teacher about behavior and laziness and chattiness…and you’re confused, because the kid you know at home is polite and respectful and curious and engaged and sensitive. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??? My ex and I went through some rough patches with my son, because we couldn’t get the teachers to change their approach, and he was too little to be able to change his. He was such a sweet kid, and so smart. I couldn’t figure out why he was having so much trouble. So, in case you find yourself in my shoes, here’s some invaluable ammunition.

This is an updated version of an article I found back when my son was in Kindergarten (he didn’t have the reprieve year…he started right away hating school. So sad.). This article is brilliant. It focuses on why this seemingly negative behavior can actually be a very positive thing if acknowledged and taken into account going forward. And it does a damned fine job of explaining, in language most parents can grasp, why my uniquely intelligent boy is not living up to his potential in the classroom. And it helped me see his actions in terms of his learning style and preferred motivations. It makes sense that a disconnect exists for these kids in a traditional classroom. I hadn’t considered a lot of this information before, so it was really eye-opening for me.

My son (as we’ve talked about before) gets anxious easily. He was in a constant state of anxiety in regards to school. Additionally, he wasn’t turning his schoolwork in and I couldn’t figure out why. I knew he could do the work because he was completing his homework at night and that was just a summary of what he was assigned at school. When I read the section on temperament, a light bulb may have LITERALLY materialized above my head (but probably not):

Redding also found verbally gifted underachievers tend to be high-strung and anxious. Most people might find it hard to understand why a child would resist completing easy work, but when the work is not challenging and a child is not motivated to do it, they can become anxious about it. In fact, they can become so anxious when trying to complete what they feel is tedious work that they will just avoid doing it altogether. Unfortunately, teachers may see that avoidance as a sign that the child doesn’t understand the material or is too lazy or disorganized to do it.

It doesn’t help that young children might not be able to correctly express the reason for their anxiety. For example, a young child might tell his parents or teacher that the work is just too hard. But the child and the adults aren’t using the word “hard” in the same way. For the adults, “hard” means that the work is beyond the child’s abilities or that the child hasn’t yet mastered the concepts needed to do the work. What the child actually means, though, is that having to continue working on a too-easy task is causing them a great deal of anxiety.

HUH. Get out of my head!!! That’s my kid up there!

Anyhoo, these kids will also sometimes fail tests. Not because they don’t know the answers, but because they will change the questions (internally) to make them more challenging and solve THOSE instead. Mine was doing this on his math tests. He had been looking at his sister’s Algebra and so he started adding x’s and y’s and solving as if his addition and multiplication problems were quadratic equations. Lol. It was 3rd grade.

So anyway, both of these activities may lead to lower grades, and it’s frustrating for parents. It may seem as though the child doesn’t even care about grades. THE HORROR!!!

and he may not. Because these kids don’t always feel rewarded by a letter grade if they know down deep that they didn’t learn anything. And they won’t always feel punished by one if they know they did.

This all comes back around to motivation. Most classroom management plans are built to reinforce kids who are externally motivated. Class rules; grades; reward charts, names on the board/check marks for repeat offenses, etc.

A lot of verbally gifted kids are intrinsically motivated. They want to make themselves proud, and better, and figure out all the intricacies of the Universe. And they don’t need to be pushed to learn. But they will have to be pushed to do the things that to them don’t feel like learning. Like practicing multiplication facts in pairs for extended periods of time. When they learned their multiplication facts three years ago.

A verbally gifted kid is going to be frustrated, as this constitutes for him a waste of time that could be spent learning something new and intriguing and exciting.

And wouldn’t he be right?

But schools here aren’t set up to nurture individual students’ passions. They’re set up to push kids from year to year like so many cattle. Like the output from factories producing identical drones.

So, if you get to a spot with your guy where you’re concerned, remember this article and remember that it’s NOT HIM, it’s the system. We just work within it the best we can, preserving as much of the part of them that the education system is trying to suppress as we can, because it’s that part; that underachieving part; that is going to lead this country into a future filled with possibility instead of doom.

Anyway, you didn’t really ask, and this may not ever come up for your son, but it did for mine and I would have NEVER predicted that in a million years.

and it’s just damned good information, in my opinion. :)

Disclaimer — Sometimes, my son can be just a regular old brat, too. No, I’m not one of those parents who thinks that every time he’s in trouble, it’s something that happened to him. Believe me, he gets in plenty of trouble here at home. He’s a kid! And no matter how I feel about our educational system, the teachers aren’t to blame; they are just as tethered to the bureaucracy as the kids are. And I NEVER disagree with a teacher’s decision in front of my son. He knows that the school and I are on the same page, no matter what. That doesn’t mean that I don’t advocate for him in situations where he’s falling through the cracks. Because that’s what these kids do, if we’re not careful. They coast through school on a sea of C’s, looking like bored, distracted, makers of mild to moderate trouble…they don’t PROFILE as crazy smart. We have to be their voice here, until enough momentum builds to carry them solo. We finally got there in third grade. He no longer tests below his abilities; he gets along with the class and the teachers and does his best work, most of the time. He went from testing at grade level (and he was reading Rick Riordan novels in Kindergarten and discussing them with me in detail, TESTING AT GRADE LEVEL IN K, 1, and 2 for reading) to testing off the charts once he was able to relax. I finally got to say, SEE?!?! I TOLD YOU!!! Quietly. When he was not around. LOL. Some things they don’t need to know.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store