Gifted and Talented

Here we go. Time for Parent/Teacher conferences, and once again I anticipate hearing the dreaded and extremely over-used words “we need to work more on focusing, and transitioning.” Ugh!! {deep breath} I have to meditate twice as long on days like this because I get so tired of trying to explain to teachers why my kids don’t fit inside their square box. “No, he/she is not like Johnny Appleseed because he/she is gifted/talented”. I get frustrated with the need to defend them and it sometimes gets exhausting trying to compensate for the enrichment that they are not getting in school because everything is so “standardized”. All of the intense focus on testing is torture for their little creative minds and it sends the message to them at an early age that the way they process information is not “normal”. Because of it, instead of teaching and it’s the teacher’s job to spend the rest of their elementary school days helping them to conform to the norm. It makes my skin crawl. But I digress…

Although I was identified gifted in middle school and the gene is reportedly transferred from the mother (though I often feel  motherhood slowly reverses my intelligence), I still did not identify the traits in my son. I was told by my pediatrician that most two-year olds, especially male, cannot count to 30, recite the alphabet, and identify all shapes and colors. Really?? It was my first child, and I knew he was ahead of the  doctor’s normal checklists, but those Baby Einstein commercials made me think all toddlers could read! Even still, after being tested, identified and accelerated, I was faced with the same comments by teachers who just didn’t get him. And it’s so frustrating for the child and the parent because we know there are so any resources out there and we don’t understand why the teachers aren’t educated about the pros and cons of being gifted and/or talented. He was in preschool reading chapter books and about to start on multiplication tables, yet the school’s director never thought to have him tested. Even more so  she received a copy of his IQ test results, and never once mentioned them. She, the founder and Director of the school – an educator – never met with me to discuss their findings and never said another word about it. So, we left.

I am so thankful for the S.E.N.G. http://www.sengifted.org/Organization’s conferences on the Gifted, and the conference I attended on the education of blacks in suburban school districts, because they both armed me with the courage and information I needed to be his advocate and get him the support, effective teaching and curriculum that he deserved and needed. It took a few years of personal and academic success before his elementary school was convinced that acceleration could be effective, even with a male student. When he was admitted into his elementary school’s gifted program, he was the only African-American male in the entire school district who was identified gifted. That’s four elementary schools. How sad and intolerant… and a whole other blog post!

So here we are again. Now my daughter Janai could care less about reading or memorizing sight words, hasn’t been given an IQ test, nor  exhibited any academically gifted tendencies (as of yet), but I do believe she has an extraordinarily creative mind and ear for music. James’ strength is visual, and hers is auditory. He has a photographic memory, and she has sensory gifts that even astound her new piano teacher. Janai has more energy than the Energizer bunny and it takes a lot of effort for her to have a full course at dinner without getting up to dance or taking a quick spin around her seat. She is constantly singing, and I am convinced that she hears music in her head most of the time. After all,my grandmother MaryBelle Bumbrey was a trained pianist, and her cousin is Grace Bumbrey http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608000604/grace-bumbry.html , a world-renowned opera singer so it is quite possible.

The other night, after practicing at home to prepare for her piano lesson, she asked if she could play her own composition for me. After she was finished, I suggested she play it for her instructor later that evening, and she did. I adore him because he sees past her age and her occasional spins around the classroom, applauds her creativity, honors her musicality and is going to work with her to fine tune her piece and put it onto paper. After only five lessons, and not quite six years old, she is already attempting to write her own melodies. I don’t know about you but at that age I was making (and eating) mud pies with not a thought about composing music!

And all this from a kid who’s teacher thinks that we need to “work on focus”. Yet when I watch her at the piano, I see nothing but.

And yes I understand the concerns of the educators, the importance of structure, transitioning, and testing, etc. – well maybe not the testing – but I also believe that it’s the role of parents and educators alike to make sure that the two worlds meet. We both need to educate ourselves, seek out the resources that these young, gifted and talented beings need to embrace their truth and ensure that the gift and or talent is experienced as a joy and a pleasure rather than a burden and a curse. These beautiful souls have so much of their world to share with ours if we just let them be perfectly themselves.

How do you support yourself and your children in recognizing and embracing your/their gift(s)?

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