Home > advocacy, psychology, surviving school > a nice post from a fellow GT blogger

a nice post from a fellow GT blogger

I just read this post:


and I think it’s really worth reading.  So often, I think, parents have had their own educational or social traumas, or they’ve heard countless stories about the problems and pain other people have had, that they come in assuming that all teachers are dumb, hostile, clueless, nasty, evil, you name it.  In the shrink biz, we’d call this a transference phenomenon, where your prior experience creates a distorted lens through which you view your current experience.  Quite naturally, you expect that what happened before is going to happen again.  But that often leads people to behave in ways that create the very problems they are afraid of happening.  Thus, the trauma becomes re-enacted, proving, of course, that you were right to expect that sort of thing to happen, and continuing the cycle.

Are a lot of teachers clueless about giftedness?  You bet.  Are some of them hostile?  Yes.  But they’re not the norm.  The overwhelming majority of educators do it because they like kids and because they like teaching.  (After all, the pay is pretty crappy and the working conditions are terrible.)  They don’t get up in the morning thinking, “Okay, how do I ruin little Freddie’s life today?”  Build the relationship and see if you can find a different ending to the story.

  1. Lisa Conrad
    September 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for the reccommendation! As a gifted parent, gifted consultant, and paraprofessional, I have had the unique advantage of dealing with this issue on multiple fronts. Working together with your child’s teacher will always benefit your child more than making demands or being critical.
    I appreciate reading your perspective on this important issue in gifted education.

  2. Josephine
    September 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Aimee, you make some excellent points, and I agree with most of them. And…it makes me wonder, statistically speaking, if a child is gifted and in a regular classroom, what are the chances that the teacher is not gifted?

    In the shrink biz, I think we also can find a large number of teachers who have not worked out their relationship with their own parents and authority figures, and unconsciously would like to avenge themselves. I suspect that there is more than a bit of an undocumented “pink ghetto” in education–in part because it’s always been seen as acceptable for an intelligent woman to teach, rather than be a CEO or a doctor or an actuary or an engineer. When someone chooses teaching as a profession because it’s socially acceptable or a “safe” choice, rather than a true preference, I’m sure there are consequences that affect gifted students. Our society finds this pedagogical arrangement acceptable, but I don’t. I think it can be dangerous.

    I have had some good teachers. Most were clueless. And cruel. But what is worse than these individual experiences is an educational system that reinforces and rewards ignorance and mediocrity. Some of the most uneducated and closed-minded people I have ever met were teachers. The screening process makes sure that teachers are not too bright, because such teachers would see the flaws in (and want to change) such a system. The process of becoming a teacher systematically ensures that most will teach to the middle, and that most will stop learning, which is unfortunate. Isn’t anybody reflecting on the process that trains and selects teachers? Some people are, but most of them are not teachers themselves. That teachers harm the gifted is not transference–that’s the result of an institution that has its first goal its own perpetuation and survival at all costs. C.P. Snow wrote years ago that the hidden curriculum was purposely designed to create good workers, not actualized individuals and independent thinkers. And we need to change that system, conversation by conversation, because it’s not helping most gifted children–it’s not even helping most children anymore, never mind gifted children. It’s harming them. Why are so many teachers clueless about the gifted? If educators are so intelligent, why don’t they make gifted education a priority? Some of them, gifted themselves, are not willing or able to give to someone else what was not given to them. So the system is self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating. That’s not pathology, that is sociology 101. If you engage such teachers in an extended conversation as I have, they will, unconsciously, tell you as much. Educators may like kids and teaching, but that’s just not good enough. Liking something is not sufficient–imagine if everyone who “liked” something got to be paid to do it. It’s not nearly enough where the gifted are concerned. These children get caught in the wheels of the system every day. There are a few teachers who get it. But most don’t really care about Gifted Freddie. They are asleep, and they are part of a system that rewards that sleep. And even the few who do care about Gifted Freddie usually don’t have time to give Freddie anything they don’t give the rest of their students.

    I’m not suggesting that parents make demands and be critical. I’m suggesting that parents understand the limits of the individuals and the systems they are dealing with. I have heard of principals who told parents outright that their school could not provide the education that a gifted child needed. I appreciate that honesty.Most schools and teachers are just not up to the task. Parents need to be realistic about what they expect from teachers and schools. To expect more than can be provided is to miss an opportunity, and to potentially harm another gifted child. And to suggest that most teachers in the current system won’t harm Gifted Freddie is just not the truth of the matter. Chances are, Gifted Freddie will be harmed in some way. Parents need to understand that.

    • September 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      Josephine, we both know that the average schoolteacher, particularly the elementary teachers who cause much of the worst pain, was, er, perhaps not as strong a student as one might hope. The National Center for Education Statistics keeps tabs on, for example, the GRE scores of students by college major, and elementary education majors are generally significantly lower than most other fields. As in all things, there is a broad distribution, and I know some extremely smart elementary school teachers, but it’s not the way to bet. Sigh.

      And I agree with you that many of the problems that GT kids and parents experience in the school system can be attributed to unacknowledged and unprocessed feelings about giftedness and gifted individuals on the part of the school folk, even or perhaps especially from those who are themselves above average in intelligence. And yes, the system exists to perpetuate itself (I wrote a long paper in grad school on narcissism and giftedness (at some point will rewrite it for general consumption), and these were among my major points.) Can some of the harm be prevented? Yes. Is some of the harm accidental? Yes. Is there actual nastiness at some points? You bet.

      But even in those situations… no, especially in those situations, if the parents or kids or advocates react to what comes across from the other side, then they aren’t going to solve anything. You can’t control what the school folks say or do, but you can control what you do. You can understand them empathically and respond in a way that might start to provide some of the healing of their pain. It might work for you, it might not work for you, but even if it doesn’t work for you, it might start the process of helping them change so that the next family down the line gets less push-back. If you come in swinging, not only will it generally not help, but it’s likely to encourage the very nasty attitudes you’re upset by — you’re acting just like they expect you to, which leaves them feeling safe and justified in treating you and your kid, and the next kid down the line, worse and worse.

      I encourage any parent or advocate who is going to work with schools to read three short-and-excellent books from the Harvard Negotiation Project: Getting to Yes, Getting Past No, and Beyond Reason. These books describe an approach to negotiation that is really worth understanding.

      • justme
        September 16, 2010 at 12:31 pm

        Would you be willing to share that paper by email? Narcissism and giftedness are both particular interests of mine.

  3. September 12, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I just want to say that I totally agree with both Lisa and Yourself… I have found that the best Teacher/Parent/student experiences I have had have been when the dynamic has been one of openness and willing to learn from each other and try new things, a bit of mutual respect for/by all concerned, and enthusasim for the years journey can go a long long way… I really like your Blog.. and Lisa’s too!! Les

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