A Day in the Life of a Gifted Child in the Regular Classroom

“Good morning everyone!  I hope everyone had a great weekend. This week, we are going to learn and discover new things in math, science and history. Fourth grade is the best grade ever—don’t you think? Before we get started, go ahead and pass your history reports about your most admired president which are due today forward so that I can collect them”


Mrs. Dunlop is going to love my history report. It was a good idea to have Mom bring my report in early for Mrs. Dunlop to read. Even though Benjamin Franklin was not a U. S. president, he should have been and he did more for the country than all the presidents. I’ll ask to make sure Mrs. Dunlop received my report and understands why I chose Benjamin Franklin.


“Yes, Helen?”


Mrs. Dunlop, did my mom bring my history report on Friday? I asked her to bring it to you early, and I wanted to make sure you received it. I chose to write about Benjamin Franklin although he was not a U. S. president, I felt he should have been. He was a founding father of our country and he did more than most presidents. Did you read where he . . .


“Helen, Helen, I have your report. Your mother brought it in on Friday when she came to pick you up, and you and I will talk about it during recess today. But don’t worry about it right now, okay?”


Yes, yes, yes! That’s right. Mom finally agreed she would bring it in for me because I knew Mrs. Dunlop needed to read about Benjamin Franklin over the weekend. There is so much information I’m sure Mrs. Dunlop didn’t know about Benjamin Franklin because she never told the other kids in class these facts. She said Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but it was really Benjamin Franklin’s ideas and thoughts. I would love to sit down and talk to Benjamin Franklin. I wonder why he let Thomas Jefferson write his words for him when he was a writer himself and probably smarter than Thomas Jefferson? Smart and funny at the same time. I think I’m like Benjamin Franklin. A lot like him. I would love to travel back in time back to meet Benjamin Franklin!


“Pass your papers forward, please.”


This is great that I get to miss recess. Nobody ever really wants to play with me during recess anyway. I hate playing chase, or hide-and-seek, or talking about Taylor Swift. Benjamin Franklin is so much more interesting than Taylor Swift. I can’t wait to talk to Mrs. Dunlop during recess. She and I can discuss Benjamin Franklin. I can tell her the facts she doesn’t know and she will be happy to know more facts about Benjamin Franklin because teachers should know everything. Mrs. Dunlop will be elated that I told her these little-known facts and she will appreciate knowing that the textbook is wrong. Then she can tell the class all of this. I love helping my teacher and classmates. I can’t wait until recess to talk about Benjamin Franklin.


“Helen, Helen!  Can you get the papers from Sam behind you to pass forward, please?”


Ben Franklin. Maybe Mom can bring me to the library to get more books on Benjamin Franklin today after school. I wish I could have been Benjamin Franklin’s neighbor, then maybe he would have written something for me. Wouldn’t that be the coolest? I’ll keep thinking about getting more books on Benjamin Franklin this afternoon. This will keep my brain happy and busy while Mrs. Dunlop teaches the other students. If I keep imagining all the new books I’ll get this afternoon, it will give me something to look forward to all day and keep my brain busy. I won’t feel bored or get that feeling like my brain is constantly itching and I can’t scratch it.




“That was the bell for recess, boys and girls. Walk out quietly and no running in the hall. Helen, we can talk quickly about your report and then you can go out to play.”


Nooo. I don’t want to talk quickly. I don’t want to go out to play.


“Helen, your mom brought your report on Benjamin Franklin in on Friday because she said you asked her to. Is that right?’


Yeah, I so admire Benjamin Franklin. He is so interesting, and I knew there were interesting facts you didn’t know about him so you probably needed to read my report over the weekend to help you teach the other kids in our class. Did you know that the Declaration of Independence is apparently the work of Benjamin Franklin, and our textbook is wrong?  Without Benjamin Franklin, America would not have been born. Seriously.


“Well, thank you for that information, Helen, that’s interesting, but Benjamin Franklin was not a U. S. president and I asked for three paragraphs on a U. S. president for this report. You wrote three pages on someone who was not a president. I love your report, but you need to follow directions. Did you do all of this report by yourself?


I used the books my mom had requested from the library and I went online and googled everything I could find on Benjamin Franklin. And we watched two documentaries about Benjamin Franklin. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was called the “first American”? He created his own alphabet, too. Benjamin Franklin was wiser than most of those men at that time. I think without Benjamin Franklin, America would not have been born. You should let the other students in our class know about these historical facts. Our textbook says Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the Declaration of Independence, but that is not exactly true.


“Helen, I love your enthusiasm and that you are interested in Benjamin Franklin, but I need to know who helped you with your report. Did your older brother write this for you?”




Doesn’t Mrs. Dunlop want to know all the facts about Benjamin Franklin? Why does she want to know if James did my report for me? James is always too busy programming for his robotics team. He would hate Benjamin Franklin because Mr. Franklin was a writer, not a programmer. I am going to be a writer like Benjamin Franklin. And I want to tell Mrs. Dunlop about Benjamin Franklin, all about him. He did more for America than any president!


“This is a very good report, Helen, but you didn’t follow the assignment I gave, and I think you may have had too much help at home with this report. I would like for you to redo this report, by yourself, and write just three paragraphs about a U. S. president.  Benjamin Franklin was not a U. S. president. Part of being a good student is learning to follow the directions and you need to make sure this is only your work and nobody else’s, okay Helen?      Stop crying, it’s okay.   I won’t give you a bad grade and you are not in trouble.    There is still five minutes left of recess. Why don’t you go out and play and then you will feel better.”


Noooo, I don’t want to go out for recess. If Jake and Ava see me crying, they will tease me and tell everyone that I am a baby. They always do that when I’m sad, and the duty teacher never cares when I tell her the teasing hurts me. Nobody cares about me or Benjamin Franklin. Why do I have to write a report about a president who did not do nearly as much for America as Benjamin Franklin? Why would Mrs. Dunlop ever think James did my report and what is wrong with writing more about someone as great as Benjamin Franklin? There are BOOKS written about him. Everyone needs to know what Benjamin Franklin really contributed to American history. Now, I have to do another report on a dumb president this afternoon, and I won’t be able to go and get more books about Benjamin Franklin at the library this afternoon. And I can’t stop crying. I wish Ava and Jake would leave me alone.




“Did everyone get a drink of water after recess? Are we all ready for learning?”


No. Benjamin Franklin is probably just dumb anyway. Nobody cares about how significant Benjamin Franklin is. Mrs. Dunlop doesn’t care about Benjamin Franklin. School is dumb. I hate learning things I already know and it all makes my brain itch, and it takes so long to get to something new that I don’t already know.  And now Jake and Ava are giggling, and still teasing me and calling me names for staying in with Mrs. Dunlop. Why can’t they stop calling me names? I’m not a nerd. I hate Jake and Ava. I wish I could sit somewhere else. I wish I could sit up front by Mrs. Dunlop and be closer to all the information. But Mrs. Dunlop let’s Tim sit up front. I hate Mrs. Dunlop. I hate learning. I hate school. I never want to come back.


Helen is a highly gifted 4th grader who, like many gifted students, struggle in the regular classroom, being taught information they already know, and kept from delving deeper into the complexities of a specific topic not touched on in a regular classroom. When their atypical emotional and social behaviors come into play at school, these issues are usually not recognized as a characteristic of giftedness—these behaviors are usually wrongly labeled behavior problems, displays of disrespect or arrogance. When gifted children like Helen have their unbridled enthusiasm for learning and their innate intellectual drive crushed by regular, grade-level criteria, they learn to hate school and then fail to thrive. Many gifted children in the regular classroom, starved for a befitting education, begin to fail, experience emotional repercussions and lose all hope in school and in learning.

Homeschooling is an excellent educational option for gifted students. This is why anecdotal evidence is showing that gifted students are likely the largest student population turning to homeschooling recently. Homeschooling provides for the unique learning needs of our gifted children that most traditional schools can’t or won’t provide. Gifted children have the freedom to delve deeper into subjects they are passionate about or master subjects they excel in at an accelerated rate—traditional school with its time constraints and curriculum limitations can’t provide this needed educational freedom gifted children need.

If you are considering homeschooling your gifted child, take a look at the other blogs in this Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s blog hop, “A Day in the Life of a Gifted Homeschooler” to get a real-life glimpse into the homeschooling lives of gifted children. Then you will be able to see how homeschooling allows gifted children to learn in the way they need to learn, to fulfill their potential without unnecessary constraints.


A Day in the Life of a Gifted Homeschooler img

55 Comments on “A Day in the Life of a Gifted Child in the Regular Classroom

  1. Hi Anonymous;

    Unfortuantely, in your initial posting, you didn’t clarify yourself. It sure sounded as though you were taking the teacher’s side, although now we see that you weren’t, you were saying that it would have been better for that fictional little girl to go along with the crowd, because you knew from your own experience how punitively some teachers can be when students exceed the intellectual or cognitive limits of the teacher, especially if the teacher isn’t that smart to begin with -and worse yet, as you point out, how going outside expectations of the curriculum can backfire on the gifted student (or any student — and probably worse so for the non-gifted student).

    But I don’t think the problem is with my filters; it’s with how you expressed your ideas, and with all due respect, it wasn’t clear that you meant at all what you now tell us you meant. In fact, in re-reading your original post, there’s no reason to believe anything OTHER than the way Celi (and then I) took the meaning. Unfortunately you just weren’t that clear, first time out. I don’t mean to offend you, but what you initially wrote came off as the total OPPOSITE of what you meant.

    • That’s okay, no offense taken.

      Unfortunately, school’s school– it’s most admired president, not someone who should’ve been president or nor even one’s favorite breed of dog and why, as the topic– that’s the whole point. (There wasn’t an overriding intent that the most admired person who should’ve been president would’ve met better, so that’s pretty much it. Talk about conformity or not, whether the topic’s arbitrary or not, things are cut and dried there.) After that, however, the teacher’s got no argument to be the aggravation she is… even though she will just “because” (while believing that legitimate) of course.

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  3. My daughter is in an excellent highly capable (gifted) program and her teacher probably wouldn’t be as forgiving of her not following the assignment as this teacher. If she had done the above, she would have likely gotten a good grade on the quality of writing the report, but a very poor grade on comprehension (following the directions).

    In a structured school environment (whether gifted or not) sometimes you get to work on stuff that you’re passionate about, sometimes you work on stuff that isn’t as interesting. Can you imagine if this girl were in medical school and when asked to write a paper about the liver decided to write about the pancreas instead because it’s so much more interesting?

    Also, in the example above the teacher seems fairly clueless about the abilities of the girl if she’s questioning who helped her. I would think most teachers would know their students well enough from in-class work to know if the work was her own or someone else’s. I know that my daughter’s teachers (both from general education and in the highly capable program) have always been clued into her abilities.

    • The teacher’s suspicion about a parent helping too much is very plausible, especially for children of color. I have gifted friends who spent their childhoods proving themselves each time they had a new teacher because they were underestimated. If Helen were twice-exceptional, this would be classic for some students. I’m sure that many people with ADHD would relate to being unable to stop fixating on a topic that doesn’t fit.

      By medical school, this girl will have learned to follow directions. I had great educational experiences because my teachers understood that in 4th grade, there’s no reason to fight a child’s excitement about something only slightly off-topic. Sadly, this is the experience of many gifted children. The ending is realistic, too. It doesn’t take long for a misunderstood child to give up, or dread school. By the time we pulled my son out of traditional school in 2nd grade, it was because of the despair he felt at being misunderstood and forced to fit into a system that wasn’t right for him. 

      I wish that we hadn’t waited until he asked his grandma how badly he’d have to hurt himself to stop going to school. A broken leg? Would he have to die to get out of school? It was heartbreaking. He ran away, at 7, from home and then during the school day. Because we didn’t understand how much he felt like a freak in class, or how badly he’d been harmed by bullying. And as a social worker and psychology doctoral student, I was on it with my son. We tried everything to make things work in school. What’s it like for the child with parents who can’t relate or don’t know how to handle this type of situation?

      • Great comment Chris. Good point about children of color. I’m sure they have additional challenges that I wouldn’t be able to imagine.

        It’s funny that you mention ADHD. My daughter has ADHD (as do many of her peers, it’s a thing with many gifted kids), and the reason that this article touched a little bit of a nerve for me is that she got many poor comprehension grades in her first year of the gifted program for not “answering the question” even though her answers were intelligent. Now, in the 3rd grade, she’s gotten much better at paying attention to the questions. 🙂

        Your son is lucky that you’re a great advocate for him. I hope that you found a situation that works for him. (I know how he feels, I once had a job that inspired me to get my wisdom teeth removed. Because even though they were not impacted, I would rather be getting them removed than go to work.)

        I guess my point was that even if you’re in a gifted program, you don’t always get to do whatever you want. The scenario in the article seems to be more of an argument for homeschooling than gifted education.

        Also, I want to do a “shout out” for all the teachers (like my daughter’s who lets her read her poetry to the class at the end of the day) who make the effort to encourage their kid’s special interests…. AND to the teachers who are too overwhelmed to be able to do as much. It’s a tough, tough job that I do not envy, but totally respect.

    • Pro tip for kids: The whole point of the assignment is to write about a president and don’t have your mother bring it– either/both make it look like you can’t do things for yourself (either sticking to the point or doing your own work.)

      • Anonymous, I’m pretty sure you missed the whole point of the article.

        As a society, if we want our children to be enthusiastic learners while valuing creative thinkers who think outside the box, how can we keep squashing their enthusiasm although it has taken a different path and then penalize them for going outside the box? Yes, students need to follow the rules and do as they are told, but by not respecting creativity or an unbridled love of learning, are we raising independent, creative thinkers, or students who are conditioned to only do what they are told?

        The teacher in this story was a great teacher but unknowingly dampened the enthusiasm of a gifted learner. Gifted children are cognitively different which is why parents of gifted children know gifted programs are essential for their child’s education, and having teachers who understand and consider the cognitive differences in gifted children is critical.

        Even Einstein had trouble following school rules and doing his assignments.

        Thank you for leaving your thoughts, Anonymous!

        • Celi, You are too kind to Anonymous. Gifted people and their advocates and loved ones battle such people all the time; they (the ones like Anonymous) have such a narrow and restricted view of the world, they often dismiss or marginalize gifted people as “freaks” and “weirdos” when dealing with gifted adults; but children get “diagnosed” as lazy, disobedient, insubordinate, disrespectful of their teachers, etc. If they aren’t mistaking moral for medical diagnoses, they find labels like “ADHD”, personality-disordered (fill-in-the-blank as to specifics), oppositional disorder, etc., etc., etc. with which to cudgel such children into simpering obedience.
          People like Anonymous are often the enemy of innovative thinking, ingenuity, and inventiveness, even as they insist that “the old ways work, why do you have to change it?”

          It’s really hard to read your blog and NOT realize that the problem is NOT the gifted children or adults, but rather, school attitudes towards mass-education aimed right up the middle; and that also helps the disabled, but shunts aside the gifted. And Heaven help you if (like me) you are twice “exceptional”. How this person could read your writings and not see this is incomprehensible to me; but people have amazing filters, and often see only what they want to see (confirmation bias). So Anonymous read your piece with the clear intent to assume that if a child is having problems in the classroom, it MUST be the child’s fault (mind you, sometimes, obviously, severely disruptive or violent children ARE the problem; other times the school isn’t doing what it should to properly teach its students). But Anonymous took a very narrow view, and looked for the one piece of evidence that would support Anonymous’s conviction that the student was — as always — the problem.

          How frustrating to deal with such narrow-mindedness and ignorance. And good on you that you are able to be so pleasant to someone as such. Were it me, I’d have ripped slices of hide off that person, for their ignorance and foolishness.

          Annoyed at Anonymous, JJW

          • Thank you, John, for your support. I try to reach out to those who do not understand giftedness, especially in our children, in the hopes that they will try to see that there is more to a gifted child than just a smart kid who should be doing everything he is told and to do it all exceptionally well.

            Maybe I have lofty dreams, but I want to believe that one day most in society could understand giftedness to the point that we educate gifted students appropriately, give them what they need to succeed and watch them grow to be successful contributing members of society. As it is right now, there is too much societal misunderstanding, resentment and envy, so we watch as unusually large percentages of our gifted children are misdiagnosed with mental or learning disabilities, drop out of school, turn to drugs, end up in jail or commit suicide. I’ll keep working towards that universal understanding.

            John, I always so appreciate your comments!

          • No, John, personal experience… many teachers aren’t the brightest and presume kids are worse by default. Not picking a president opens the door to be called “potentially learning disabled” by a dummy whose word counts. Letting Mom bring your work does too– monkey see, monkey think. (Asked a Kindergarten teacher, who had better manual dexterity and lots more practice tying shoes, to tie my shoe… and got 15 minutes of tying and retying my shoe to “rabbit goes around the tree and through the hole” in baby talk, when my hand was already sore from coloring, and then “U – Does not know how to tie!” on my report card later.) EG-range gifted who lived through stuff like in this article, BTW. How’s your filter?

  4. I remember a lot of staring at the wall. (Other people remember me staring at the wall too.) Hours and hours of staring at the wall in elementary school. I was an early finisher. The boredom was literally excruciating.

    I spent the afternoons helping in the pre-school in grade school and doing filing in the principal’s office for middle school and high school. I was actually kicked out of two high school classes for being “too smart” and finishing too early.

    I think the internet is a wonderful outlet for academically precocious kids these days.

    I do wish the gifted forums didn’t always characterize gifted kids as kids who don’t like sports. Sports (and art) were lifesavers for me. I am 100% certain that I would have just dropped out without them well that and a healthy fear of disappointing my parents. (Obviously I was barely in class anyway even though I had a full-load of AP classes.) I was lucky enough to make a best friend in middle school (Her IQ was 155) who went on to compete in States in track & field and played three sports in college.

    I also want to do a plug for more gifted people choosing teaching as a career. I am now a stay-at-home mom but when I worked, I was a teacher and therefore could save gifted kids from what would otherwise be maddening for them. The fact is, most non-gifted teachers can’t get it because they simply don’t understand what it is like to be gifted. (Plus a ton of gifted kids do really crappy work. Just sayin’. If a kid is gifted but won’t work independently, extending more than about 1 year ahead is a pretty tall order in a room full of other kids.) Just imagine, you are a third grade teacher reading about Benjamin Franklin to write a lesson to support this kid and he goes off and moves on to some other (totally unpredictable subject) STILL never having written 3 paragraphs on his own.

    Anyway, I can assure you there are not too many “gifted” people teaching in elementary classrooms. Particularly not gifted in math/science although there are many people who are gifted at teaching. We need more teachers who were “gifted” children.

    • Lib, I love all of your insights, ideas and the glimpse into your school life.

      I like your idea about more gifted individuals going into teaching–having “been there, done that” can go a long way with understanding and compassion for gifted children. Sadly though, I think we are having trouble attracting anyone into teaching right now with the issues facing public education right now 🙁 This video of a teacher interviewed on CNN even tells smart students not to go into teaching:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas, Lib!

    • I knew it was time to homeschool my daughter when she came home and told me ” Our classroom ceiling has exactly 37, 266 holes in it. This is how I figured it out…first I figured out that there are 4 kinds of tiles used. Then I figured out how many holes each of the tiles had, and how many times each tile was used. Multiplied those and then added all four different tile totals together.
      yeah… great… and this was in a classroom that was supposed to be giving her “differentiated teaching”.

      • Oh my, Alex, counting the holes in ceiling tiles! Makes you wonder what the teacher was doing while your daughter had her eyes trained on the ceiling! On the other hand, your daughter is clearly clever, resourceful and highly intelligent!

        Thank you for sharing your story, Alex!

        • She was talking about her “nights out” with the teacher’s aide, and showing off her tramp stamp. Truly. So sad.
          I shower my daughter this story and even though she is heading to college next year, it made her burst into tears. “Mom, why can’t they find teachers who love to learn? How can they inspire anyone to love learning if they don’t?”
          So true.

          • I know there are many very good teachers out there, but there are enough bad ones who can cause children to learn to hate learning, and that is too many!

  5. Thank you! Thank you! A year ago I toured local preschools because that is what is expected of good moms, right? I went on a scheduled group tour on a Saturday of a somewhat non traditional preschool that is well liked by my community. We toured their rooms and their stuff. Teachers were not even present. Later, I requested a private tour and was told I had to Get permission from a director first. She wanted to know what my concerns were that led to my request to see a room in progress, so I asked how her school would meet the needs of my son who learned to read chapter books with no instruction at age 3. Her reponse: well with talk to text and all that reading is just not that important anymore. I now recognize this as a huge blessing (this conclusion was not overnight by any stretch) because itadd me pay attention to the homeschool itch I had pushed off for awhile. I never never thought I wpuld call myself a homeschooling mama. So ironic. Thanks for this amazing perspective! Your writing style blows me over. I plan to read more of your blog now.

    • Tracy, you have got to be kidding–“reading is just not that important anymore”–that is ridiculous! So, would she think we could do away with writing, too? Okay, let me stop right there, lol!

      Good for you, homeschooling mama! You will look back on homeschooling in ten+ years from now and see how wonderful and fun and enjoyable it was! That was one of the regrets I talk about in my book, how I wished I would have homeschooled all three of my sons all along!

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts and sharing a bit of your story, Tracy!

  6. Another brilliant post, Celi. Such a very clear description of a gifted child’s experience in the classroom. It would be very useful in a teacher training setting because it doesn’t just list what goes wrong, it explains it in a way teachers might grasp because of the format. I could imagine you writing a set of experiences this way and then including them in some sort of manual for teachers. Maybe that’s your next book!

    • Thank you so much, Paula!

      I agree this could be useful in a teacher training setting and would give teachers example of why they should stop and think about their responses to gifted students like Helen. But then I think about the state of education right now with the strict grade-level standards, Common Core and standardized testing–teachers really don’t have the freedom or time to attend to the divergent thinkers, non-standard learning or much of anything that veers from what they are required to cover in the classroom.

      It’s tough, but having teachers truly understand the needs and traits of gifted children could go a long way to helping them survive in the regular classroom when there is no gifted programming available. Being understood and treated with respect can go a long way!

      I always appreciate your thoughts and ideas, Paula!

  7. This was a fantastic post. I can’t say I’ve ever read anything that captures the experience so well. I was lucky to have amazing teachers, and this post evoked an interesting mix of emotions. For someone who works as hard as I do to try and learn from my lived experiences, you’d think I would have figured out before now WHY I liked to talk to teachers. Because I could talk to them about grown up things! I never even thought about it that way – it never really occurred to me that it was unusual to want to talk to teachers so much.

    I never realized how fortunate I was to have so many great teachers. But my heart sunk, while reading this, when I thought of my son’s experience at school before we started homeschooling. It’s like Jen Merrill described in her book, when she wrote that it felt like her son was the Most Complex Kid ever. Jack’s 2nd grade teacher kept telling me over and over again that she didn’t *get* him. It wasn’t just her, everyone was so perplexed – like he was from another planet. While reading this post, I pictured him like Helen – sitting in class, thinking of what he’s interested in, and being utterly misunderstood. Dreading lunch and recess because of a bully. Seriously, you’ve done a good job with a post when I cry while reading it. 🙂

    But I have hope for gifted kids because so many people are fighting for them. And I love reading these comments and discovering how many people can relate – it’s comforting and inspiring. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Chris!

      I understand how it feels to have your child spoken about “like he was from another planet”. My youngest son’s principal at our last traditional school called my son an “anomaly” and said she would be curious to know how he is doing a few years down the road. No, not an anomaly, just gifted, which makes perfect sense when one understands giftedness.

      Yes, there are many passionate gifted advocates getting the word out about our gifted children!

      Thank you for your thoughts, Chris! <3

      • It’s interesting to see how little people seem to pay attention to language when they speak with parents about their children. Anomaly is not a great choice, ever.

        I meant to ask – this might be a good place because other people might be interested as well – can I purchase a signed book from you? Through Paypal, maybe? I collect books that are signed by authors that I know whenever I can. 🙂

        • Ooo, I never thought about that, Chris. I’ll have to get back to you on that!

          And yeah, “anomaly” was not an endearing term for a principal to use.

          • The fact that it was a principal makes it even more appalling! Also, you’ve made me give some thought to the language I’m guilty of using – I might make people feel uncomfortable by letting them know I’d love to hear about their children’s outcomes. It’s very natural for me to use researcher talk, and I’m going to take care not to phrase it in a way that makes parents feel like I’m objectifying their child. Still, I’m not a principal or teacher and I’d like to think I’d know better in those situations.

            I’m glad that I mentioned the signed book thing – I’ll bet I’m not the only one who’d be interested! 🙂

          • Chris, I am sure you demonstrate sincerity and compassion when you tell parents you would love to know their children’s outcomes! I am pretty certain this principal was curious how my son would turn out because she was convinced he was atypical in a negative way.

  8. This is just perfect, Celi, thank you.

    My own experience was a little different, largely because other kids learned early that something was “wrong” with me – grade 3 was the last one I had any real friends or any sense of self-confidence, and that was in large part due to the teacher I had. I have memories of K and 3, and the only thing in between was being kept in from recess once to write threes, because I kept making them backward. By that time, I’d learned that sticking my neck out quite often led to people taking a whack at it, and even by as young as 8 or 9, I’d learned to only do the bare minimum to meet expectations. Anything more than that inevitably had points marked off for one thing or another, so why bother?

    That sense of “why bother” and “nobody cares anyway” is precisely why we’re homeschooling. I’ll never forget Miss Walters, even thirty years later, I wonder what became of her, but the vast bulk of my time in public school was spent doing the bare minimum and doing my best to keep my head down and not attract the bullies’ attention. I didn’t go to school to learn. I went to school because I had to – and I learned pretty quickly that learning was boring, useless, and just made people hate me, and was something to be tolerated. All the things I wanted to be as a child? I had the capacity to be them, but the prospect of another 8+ years of school after I left high school? It wasn’t worth it to me.

    • It really saddens me to hear how many stories were just like yours–too many! Why is it that teachers could not expect that some children can achieve at higher levels?

      Thanks for sharing your story, Care!

    • Your experience of doing just the bare minimums to get by — and conversely, sticking your neck out got it whacked — reminded me of so much of my own experiences in school. Nearly every time I went beyond the established point in the assigned curriculum, either (most, not all) teachers would deliberately discourage me from exploring further, saying that they didn’t have the time to give me “special attention”.

      This in turn gave the bullies in class the opportunity to complain that I was demanding extra time and thus being “selfish” and a “show-off”. Then the teachers would respond to my detractors by publicly lecturing me about how the class had to learn as a “unit”, and I was demanding time that other children needed to have to keep up to the average. I was often called “selfish” for wanting to go well past — or having already gone well past — the curriculum goals. That left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed of myself, so I grew to resent the teachers and the bullies but couldn’t do anything about it. Everyone “knew” that I was the problem, not the school system.

      In effect, I had to be retarded intentionally for the greater good of the whole class, and essentially, I could go to hell as long as the class was an proceeding in the curriculum in an orderly, synchronized fashion. This left me bored and I too found myself calculating the total number of tiles in the ceiling, on the floor, on the walls, and trying to figure out how many holes there were in the ceiling tiles.

      Ah, yes, those were the “best days of my life” — yeah, right.

  9. Beautifully written and heart breaking at the same time. This reminds me of having to write a report on a hero. My hero at that time was Dian Fossey. While other students were writing about superman and batman, I had to meet privately with the teacher and defend WHY I thought Dian was a hero before she would let me write about her. My husband and I are keeping a close eye on our son’s school journey for any signs that it’s not working out. He’s in a Montessori preschool that has done a fantastic job with him thus far.

    • Ugh! What is it with teachers who do not expect students to go beyond expectations? Sad that there are so many of these same stories.

      Your son sounds like he is in a good place right now. Montessori is a great approach to learning because it allows kids to go at their own pace in multi-age classrooms. Thanks for sharing your own story, Michaela!

  10. So very well written, thank you. My thought and feelings are not syncing with my words, so just thank you so much.

  11. This is an amazing post that relays exactly how a child can feel and wonderfully written. My daughter had a similar experience and now we homeschool. I cried when I read this because it brought back a lot of memories. I am grateful for the freedom of learning and happiness we have now. I hope this reaches others and helps them understand through the eyes of an innocent child. Well done!

    • Thank you so much, Teresa. I’ve never written a piece like this before, but somehow I felt if others were to truly understand, then maybe through the eyes of a child, they could see how it feels to be gifted in the regular classroom.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12. So heartbreaking – and something so many kids experience. You did an amazing job of portraying a well-meaning but clueless teacher, and a passionate, eager gifted child, full of excitement about learning and anxiety about social relationships. Such a touching and sad portrayal of how these children are misunderstood and held back in so many schools.

    • Thank you, Gail! Someone asked me if this was the actual experience of one of my own children, but it was actually a composite of many children I have been told stories about–so many stories that my portrayal was unfortunately too easy to write. And although it is fiction, it happens just like this all the time.

  13. Oh, so heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing. As far as the classroom teacher’s unasked for writing feedback, I’d rather see three paragraphs about why the turkey should be the national bird, but I wouldn’t dictate that.

  14. What a WONDERFUL post Celi! And YES to this! “Homeschooling provides for the unique learning needs of our gifted children that most traditional schools can’t or won’t provide. Gifted children have the freedom to delve deeper into subjects they are passionate about or master subjects they excel in at an accelerated rate—traditional school with its time constraints and curriculum limitations can’t provide this needed educational freedom gifted children need.”

  15. Pingback: A Day in the Life of a Gifted Homeschooler GHF

  16. You SO nailed this story! That could easily have been me, 30-odd years ago! I often read a book (chapter book) a day and still kept up with the work. Occasionally, a teacher would call Mom and complain about me reading during class. Mom would ask what grade I was getting (an A, or I wouldn’t have been reading–but I read the textbooks by the end of the first week or two of school). Mom would then say, “She is getting a A, so why are you calling me? Let her read.”. The school had tested me as gifted, skipped me a grade for reading class during elementary school, but didn’t have any sort of GATE program in place.
    My experience, and hubs’ similar one, has much to do with why we homeschool. We can’t see wasting our children’s time so egregiously.
    (Separately, over the years, both of my parents have actually apologized to me about my school experience, and said they wished they’d known homeschooling was possible)

    • Heather, your mom has got to be the neatest mother ever! Saying, “She is getting a A, so why are you calling me? Let her read.”–that is just choice. Go, Mom!

      Thanks for telling us your story, Heather! Loved it!

      • Thank you. Mom passed on 6 years ago, but, yes, she was a very cool person, with a heart for all kids. In addition to raising my brother and I, my mom ran a home day care for many years and did nature presentations on butterflies for the schools and the state forest. My parents also occasionally took in informal foster kids and did a great deal of parent counseling.
        To the school’s credit, dealing with me made them aware of the need for a GATE program, and the district did institute one….but they started from the lower grades up, and it was never available at my grade level. Mom and Dad knew the schools weren’t meeting my needs. The school knew it wasn’t set up to meet my needs. So Mom had no problem reminding them that I wasn’t the average kid, as needed. I had to deal with the teasing and such (this was before anti-bullying policies, and I was the class “early bloomer”, and had glasses, too), but Mom could and did run interference with the adults.

  17. Okay, maybe I am having one of my extra sensitive days, but I started to tear up reading this post. I could very much relate to it and the current issues my son is facing. I get completely and utterly sad when a child begins to dislike learning and / or no longer glows with enthusiasm for knowledge. This applies to all children – gifted or not.

    My son is part time kindergarten (two days a week) and while that has helped, recently he started to go backwards in his way of thinking. But, when he has “mama school” he begins to open up his mind again and we begin researching about the electromagnetic spectrum – because HE wants to. This week he wants to delve into learning about the differences between fresh water and salt water. There is no way he could do this in kindergarten.They seem to think in first grade he will be more challenged. Ummm…no. Hence, why I have started the path to homeschooling.

    Thank you for a thought provoking and eye opening post. 🙂

    • Aww, Julie, I’m so sad to hear about your little guy. But you will be homeschooling soon so he will be able to delve into each and every little and big idea or concept he wants, and you will be the lucky one to be taken along for that wonderful ride of learning and discovery!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Julie!

  18. I know that that is supposed to be fiction, but it isn’t, not for me.

    Especially in elementary school, I got into so many problems because I wanted to talk about stuff that was new, or to take the topic of teaching that day or week to a deeper level, and was constantly, and consistently shut down. Then I’d be bullied for being a “brainiac” or (thanks to the TV show “Happy Days” [harrumph, not happy for ME!) I was called a “nerd”.

    I once did a project in grade 5 for a teacher on Black Holes. Initially, I failed, because I could not produce any rough notes, a rough copy, or a good copy. Instead I had dictated it to my father, who typed it up for me, no rough draft at all. My teacher accused me of cheating, of having my dad write the paper. My father came to school and remonstrated with Mr. A. that he had not written the paper; he did type it, but the whole thing came from me. So Mr. A. gave me a C-. My father appealed it to the principal, who said that because of the lack of any rough notes, a rough copy, or a good copy, he could not give it anything higher than a B-, though he said that in terms of actual content, it deserved an A+. The principal had Mr. A. re-evaluate my project, and Mr. A. finally gave it an A-, again, because of the lack of any rough notes, a rough copy, or a good copy. The bullies in my class accused me of either having my Dad write it, or having stolen it from a science textbook.

    Anything I did in elementary school or early high school that was different or unorthodox, anything that I spoke about that wasn’t at grade-appropriate-level was a source for some very serious and heavy-duty bullying, about 80% of which came from students, and the remaining 20% of it coming from insecure teachers.

    I had a grade 10 science teacher, also a Mr. A. (not same last name), and when we got to the atomic model section, I pointed out that the model we were using, developed by Ernest Rutherford was out-of-date, at that time, by nearly 100 years, and that Mr. A. should be teaching Quantum Mechanics Theory, to which he said “Most of these kids are too dumb to understand Quantum Mechanics Theory”.

    From that point forward, Mr. A. had it out for me and did everything he could to catch me in errors and mistakes. Unfortunately for him, my Father is one of the very best scientists in his field in the WORLD (what they call a “Nobel-class” scientist — not a winner of the NP, but certainly equivalent to an NPW). So as a result I was easily able to fend off Mr. A.’s bullying attempts to destroy my (still ongoing) love of science (I am planning on going back to school to do my M.Sc. and Ph.D. in computer science. I took the Christian Science Monitor Science Literacy test they have online, and scored in the top 5%; not bad for a guy with B.A.’s in psychology and anthropology!).

    School is far too bureaucratic, trying to make all these individuals into gingerbread cut-outs, all one and the same — an industrial model not much changed since the 1850’s; the goal then, and the goal now, is to turn out literate, but compliant, worker-bees for the greater business and work world.

    So what to do with an odd-duck like me? Shove me aside, label me (wrongly) as ADHD, or mentally ill, or Aspberger’s? (All wrong, I was just bored and acted out because of it). The system did not work for Gifted students then, especially extremely gifted students (not blowing my own horn; it’s not a gift to be this smart, it’s more of a curse with some upsides) like me.

    I could go on, but won’t. It’s enough to say that school did me little favour, and by my own estimation, I learned more OUTSIDE of school on my own, than I ever did in school — except for information technology, where the split is 50/50.

    Thanks for allowing me to vent my $.02 worth


    • John, you know you are always welcome to vent–so many here have, and it helps all of us to at least feel we are not alone, or weird, just gifted!

      It still amazes me just how many stories there are of teachers who did not give a gifted student full credit because their work was at a higher level than expected. Simply unacceptable and gives the student the clear message that performing above grade-level is risky. And then we end up with underachieving gifted students who have learned to just dumb down to get along and conform.

      As always, John, thank you so much for your thoughtful contribution!

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