Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scary Smart

This afternoon I had a Parent/Teacher conference with EG's teacher. Normally, these meetings don't happen until after the first grading period is over, but in EG's case, we had to act with a little more urgency. You see, EG is more advanced than your average 3nd grader (actually, she is more advanced than some 5th graders, but that is beside the point.) From the beginning, I knew there would be issues, but I didn't think it would happen as severely or as soon as it did.

On the first day, everything seemed to be fine when EG came home from school, but by the end of the first week, things had started to go sour. EG was very frustrated because (in her words) the teacher did nothing but yell at everyone and insist that all work was done neatly or she made you do it over again. Some kids were apparently resistant to this idea because there were a few who had to re-do their class work 3 or 4 times. This is a concern for me, considering EG is only in 2nd grade. Also, her teacher is very liberal with the red pen and EG was completely distraught by all the red marks all over her papers. She became so nervous about doing her home work that she would daily go to pieces because she felt it had to be "perfect." The simplest questions became stumbling blocks because she just didn't want to make any mistakes.

The straw that broke the camel's back happened last week when another student in the class rolled a pencil across the desk and caused a disruption in the class. The teacher didn't see it, she just heard it and when no one admitted to actually doing it, she kept the ENTIRE CLASS in from recess and then the next day refused to let them line up for lunch until the very last minute. (The kids got the impression that they missed part of lunch, but the teacher has assured me that they really were not late, just not as early as they usually are.) Allie was just plain angry about this and didn't even want to go back to school.

I admit, my Momma Bear complex came out when I heard from EG that they missed "half" their lunch. I was ready to have that woman's job. I could have pushed for it too, because it is against the law to withhold food as a form of punishment. I still think it was completely uncalled for to punish the entire class that way, but I was not there, so I can not say if it was really an extreme situation. I can say, that I disagree no matter what, though.

Even aside from "she yells all the time" and "I don't like getting punished for someone else messing up," it was clear to me that the curriculum for EG's class was not up to the level she is used to. For the last four weeks, she has had almost the same sheet for homework, every single day - What time does the clock say? Identify the shape. What are the sums? (all under 18.) The poor child was bored to tears at home doing it. I can only imagine what the school day much be like for her. In her free time, she reads Harry Potter books, works multiplication problems, and practices cursive handwriting. The work she was doing was equal to what she was given two years ago in kindergarten.

When I sat down with the teacher, I made sure that DH could be there and the counselor joined us, too, just to make sure everything was documented. The teacher managed to explain off the punishments pretty well, so I let that slide (having been in charge of a group of 7 year old kids before, I understand that sometimes you just lose it.) What we focused on, instead, was the daily work and how EG is not being challenged or even particularly interested in it. It was obvious that the school is more used to dealing with children who need help catching up, not with kids who are super far ahead. Both the teacher and the counselor seemed a little at loss with what to do. EG hasn't actually caused any trouble IN class, but she has been very quiet and doesn't seem to play well with others, and even appears to linger over her work just so she won't be the first kid done. Her grades are excellent but she still seems overly stressed out about school in general.

The final decision is that EG will be given extra things to do to keep her engaged during the day. Not just more of the same assignments, but creative and challenging "extra credit" work like high level math or "finish the story and draw a picture." In another four weeks, we will revisit the situation and see how she is doing. If the extra work seems to make her happy, we will continue on. If it doesn't seem to be working, or she is still not challenged, we will look into other options, like changing classes or even moving up a grade. I can't say I am particularly comforted by the teacher not having anything on hand to address this. She seemed to be bothered and a little panicked that she would have to "dig up something" that she hadn't visited since she was in college. I kind of got the idea that she was perfectly happy to move a child up because it seemed easier than having to come up with extra "special" work for her to do.

This is a pretty big deal. Skipping a grade is nothing to take lightly. I would not even consider it if I wasn't completely sure that it was the right decision for EG. Academically and socially, skipping a grade makes a huge difference in the long run. She is especially young for her own grade already, since her birthday is right before school starts. She is already in class with kids who are several months, if not almost a year, older than her. Being especially small for her age would only make it more obvious to everyone else that she is far more advanced than "normal." The last thing I want to do is give my girl the impression that she is freakish or weird.

While none of my kids are even close to average, EG seems to actually be so far advanced and so quick to learn, adapt, and create, that something clearly has to be done to make sure that she doesn't lose the gift she already has. Now, I don't believe (at this point) that we have a super genius on our hands (who will graduate from college before she's 12.) However, I do feel that not addressing the intellect would be a disservice to her, as well as pitifully wasteful of her talent.

There are only 20 kids in the district labeled as "Gifted" so it really isn't a surprise that they don't really know what to do with a child like EG. It might just be the fact that the curriculum out here in the country is much slower than it is in the "big city." If that were truly the case, though, I would see similar issues with my other two girls. But, both of them seem to be doing fine with their school work and homework. I really feel that this is something that we would have had to deal with whether we moved out here or not.

EG is just a little MORE than other kids her age and if she has been gifted with the ability to do and think and BE more, then I want her to BE as much as she can.

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