Growing Up “Gifted”

Angelina Garcia, Staff Writer

As someone who took gifted classes from kindergarten through eighth grade, I can see both sides: the negative and the positive.

I went to a Montessori preschool. Not only was I bringing in my most recent obsession for show and tell, but I was also taking addition, subtraction, and even multiplication quizzes. I can still distinctly remember sitting there at one of the round tables, wearing a pink shirt with Disney princesses on it, and stressing myself out because I didn’t know what three times four was. Learning my times tables at such a young age wasn’t really a bad experience, though. I was always excited when it came getting stickers and bookmarks for doing so well on them.

Elementary school was great. However, it was always as though we had to be better than all of the other classes. This isn’t to say that being held up to high expectations is a bad thing, it’s just that at such a young age, that’s not easy to understand.

Fifth grade is the year that was a turning point for me. I got my first C that year, and it was in math. No matter how confident I was in my answers, when we would get our tests back, almost everyone would hold up their 20 out of 20 scores, and I would sink into my seat with my 16 out of 20.

There were only a few of my classmates that were in a similar situation. While the rest of the class would go off and be awarded on honor roll days, we’d sit back with our teacher in our classroom, reading Calvin and Hobbes comic books while we waited for the others to get back. This continued on through middle school for me, with the exception of myself attending a couple of honor roll ceremonies.

To the rest of the school, my class and I were the “weird gifted kids.”

The “weird” title being attached to being in gifted classes only became more widely used when I got into middle school. My class had our own area in the courtyard, we sat by the gifted kids a grade older than us in the cafeteria, and not too many of us associated with kids in other classes. We weren’t known as just another class. We were the gifted class, or the weird class. “Gifted” began to carry a more negative connotation. Anyone looking in from the outside would probably be surprised at how separated we were from the other classes. We were all just used to and comfortable around each other.

In sixth grade, my pre-algebra teacher told us that half of the class would move on to Algebra 1 in the seventh grade. Only three didn’t, and I was one of those people. This is the reason I was in regular classes for math through the rest of middle school. I was almost afraid to go into them because I had been told so many awful things about the “regular kids.” Really, it wasn’t that bad. I couldn’t understand why I had heard so many people speak so poorly about them.

The gifted program isn’t an awful thing, so long as teachers and parents don’t use the “S” word.

It’s psychologically proven that by calling a child “smart,” they’re possibly causing the child to be less likely to challenge themselves. They don’t want to seem unintelligent after making a mistake or two. However, by referring to them as “hardworking,” it’s giving them the motivation to do well and push themselves. In psychological terms, this is the difference between a fixed and growth mindset; you’re either smart or not smart, or you’ve gained knowledge and become more intelligent through practice.

Would I go back and change anything about my schooling? No, I wouldn’t. I think a lot of the great teachers I had helped set me up for who I am today. I had plenty of positive experiences, and I was happy. These are just things that looking back on, I find to be interesting now that I’m older.