“I don’t think school should teach a person to become smaller and smaller, and more withdrawn, until she forgets she loves to learn, and she forgets who she is.”
That is a comment from one of Celi Trépanier‘s readers named Erin. She tells her story of growing up gifted, but not being recognized as gifted. She tells of her various experiences in school, starting in first grade, how they made her feel: embarrassed, crushed, not very smart, misunderstood. She learned to keep her head down, ignore details, to avoid thinking outside the box, to dumb down. Her story resonated with me because it is my story … and the story of my son.
Erin’s story, like that of so many other gifted children and adults, shows us that gifted children most certainly do not turn out “just fine” without any special accommodations. The myth that gifted children turn out just fine is supported by logic fallacies, primarily circular reasoning. If a gifted child turns out okay, as some do, it’s proof that gifted children all turn out fine. If a gifted child does not turn out fine, well, then it’s because the child wasn’t really gifted after all. Because gifted children turn out just fine.
And yet we continue to hear stories like Erin’s. Too many gifted children start out strong, loving…no, needing…to learn. But after facing one negative experience after another, they withdraw more and more until they all but disappear. Like Erin, I can look back on my experiences in school, from kindergarten through college, and remember how the excitement over learning anything died a little more every year, until like Erin, I felt I must not be very smart.
It took me more than 40 years to truly understand myself. I didn’t understand until my son, who was born when I was 41, started school, and began facing some of the same problems I had faced. Fortunately, his preschool teacher — the wonderful Janet Marovich — had told me my son was gifted. I didn’t believe it at the time, but when the problems started, I found myself reading about gifted children and the problems they encounter. To my great surprise, I found I was reading about myself as much as I was reading about my son.
Did I turn out fine? Well, I’m here and I’m happy. But where might I be had I been challenged and understood in school and not left to wither and all but disappear?
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