Friday, March 6, 2009


One of my "jobs" at work is to check and sort the mail. The other day, we recieved a new magazine and like usual I set it aside to look at it when I had a calm moment. After sorting through the trash mail, invoices, and medical record requests, I decided to take a sec and read the new Raising Arizona Kids magazine. It had peaked my curiosity because one of the tags on the cover was: "How to tell a child, "You aren't gifted."
My first reaction was, "WHAT??? Are you F-ING kidding me?" Not surprisingly, my opinion did NOT change after reading the article.
Now, let me preface this by saying. I was not a "gifted" child. I was told I was not a "gifted" child in the second or third grade after testing just a few points shy of getting into the ELP class. (extensory learning program, aka the smart kids group) So my perspective may be a bit skewed as I am bitter. I grew up in Mesa, the "gifted" child MECCA. Surrounded by the overacheving, fast track, wonder children of the area. I was well rounded, participating in music lessons and regular kid/teenage activities, but I was pretty average. Even my 4.023 GPA at graduation did not qualify me for anything more than a scholarship to the the local community college. I was ranked 52 out of over 700 in my graduating class. So I wasn't by any means stupid, just not "gifted". But I digress.
The article proceeded to explain how to highlight your childs strengths to help them cope with the news that they weren't good enough for the special "gifted" programs that schools sometimes offer. While, I could see what the article was trying to do, I wanted to scream. See, in all my "average" schooling I found a love and a natural talent for psychology. (The natural talent was not my observation, but a professor of mine's.) All I could think of is, why are we labeling kids. Kids don't need to know they are "gifted". It is my opinion that a big part of the problem with todays men my age and just younger is that they were told they are "gifted" and learned that the rules don't apply to them and that they don't have to work for anything, it should just be handed to them because they are special. I also believe that there are a ton of moms out there that need to be reminded that "gifted" and "obnoxious" are not the same thing.
Now, Im all about boosting up a kids self esteem with specific and truthful observations about their own personal strengths, but why are we trying to put them into little catagories. Smart kids, dumb kids, problem children, etc. It does no one any good in the long run. One of the most telling lessons of this for me was when I was helping with a reading program in Montana. Every week we worked with kids that needed one on one help. One of the kids was especially difficult to work with. After talking to him a while, he told me he was stupid and he didn't like leaving class to come read with me cause then everyone knew he was stupid. After relaying this to the teacher, she quickly called one of the smartest kids in the class to come read with me. We read for a while, and then I sent him back to class. He read with me for the next few weeks. That way, it was no longer the "dumb kids" that came to read with us. It was smart kids too. The "difficult" child had a lot better attitude and started to consider himself special for getting to leave class to read with us.
One of the psyc classes I took looked at alternative learning methods. Many of these are commonly used in ELP programs like the one I wasn't smart enough for. The funny thing is, many of the "dumb kids" would have really benefitted from the nontraditional ways of learning and maybe, just maybe they would have been able to earn a "smart kid" label instead of the "dumb kid" one they were stuck with.
Just food for thought....

1 comment:

sarabowles said...

I loved your view on labeling kids! I agree, why the labels anyway? One of my twins was put in a "slower" first grade class and it was so awesome. All the kids were at the same level. They all felt smart because they all were the same and thus they succeeded. My other twin was put in a "normal" class and he was a little bit slower and he fell further behind. Anyway, I don't remember the point I was making by saying this......I was ranked 40 out of 700 and all I got was a MCC scholarship too.......