Today, FedUp Mom answers a question she posed three weeks ago in her guest post where she suggested that people read Such, Such Were the Joys by George Orwell. Read her answers to the first and second questions she posed here and here. And, of course, don’t forget to chime in with your own answer.
Such, Such Thursdays
by FedUp Mom
(from Such, Such Were the Joys)
3.) “Looking back, I realize that I then worked harder than I have ever done since, and yet at the time it never seemed possible to make quite the effort that was demanded of one…All through my boyhood I had a profound conviction that I was no good, that I was wasting my time, wrecking my talents, behaving with monstrous folly and wickedness and ingratitude — and all this, it seemed, was inescapable, because I lived among laws which were absolute, like the law of gravity, but which it was not possible for me to keep…The conviction that it was not possible for me to be a success went deep enough to influence my actions till far into adult life.”
Would Orwell have fared better or worse in your local “gifted” program? Explain.
FedUp Mom’s ANSWER:
I see echos of Orwell when I look at my daughter’s experience at our nominally high-performing public school. My daughter was singled out as bright because of her performance on various exams. Once the school figured out she was bright, they figured they could squeeze a lot of achievement out of her that would make the school look good. When I complained that she was becoming anxious and depressed, it made no difference.
For a sensitive child, as many gifted children are, the experience of constantly being judged “not good enough” is devastating. This is why I can’t agree with those who think that what gifted children need is harder classes, and that the experience of failure will somehow be good for them.
It is true that some gifted children don’t learn study skills, because everything the school hands them is so far below their actual level. This happened to me, actually. When I got to college, I took an intro Biology course that I enjoyed a lot. I attended every lecture with great interest. When our first test came back, I was astonished to discover that I had flunked it, big time (less than 20/100, I think.) I had the following conversation with the teacher:
Me: I don’t understand what happened! I was here for every lecture!
Teacher: Well, you need to take notes during the lecture, and read the chapter in the textbook. Then, the night before the test, you look back through your notes and review the chapter in the textbook.
Me: Really? Wow!
I honestly had no idea. I followed the teacher’s advice and got As from then on.
So it is true that letting a gifted child drift along, passing classes with no effort, is not doing them a favor. But the opposite strategy, putting gifted kids in “rigorous” classes so they are constantly struggling, does them no favors either.
A gifted child who works hard and does her best should be allowed to feel successful. School should be a pleasure for all children, but a gifted child in particular should experience real joy in learning. A school where the brightest kids are anxious, stressed out, sleep deprived, and terrified of failure is a school that has put its own reputation ahead of the students’ health.