10 February 2016

Allow me a moment...

Y'all remember when we were elated to have Hobbit's third grade teacher recognize her as a candidate for Gifted testing? Y'all remember how she blew it out of the water and did an amazing job on the assessment? Y'all remember how much she loved school and couldn't wait to be in classroom full of kids "just like her"? Yeah, those days are long gone.

In the past two years, our county school system has managed to completely skip teaching her fourth grade math so that she has a huge deficit now in fifth grade after she was placed in a combined classroom of mostly fifth graders and only three fourth grades who were simply treated as fifth graders the year prior.

The two teachers we have had to deal with over the past two years have been a disorganized, chaotic mess. The first being one who would send home scathing letters but the minute you sat down for a conference everything was sunshine and roses. The second being one who doesn't send anything, claims she does in emails where she has copied the principal and assistant principal, and request conference after conference only to have nothing come from the meetings. So much talking, very little doing... and it has left my little family very frustrated.

Hobbit reads - and comprehends - books on a high school reading level and yet they won't allow her to read anything in that bracket, forcing her to read things that she calls "baby books" and devours in a day. She has been doing extra math work to fill the holes created by the fourth grade gifted experience and will then have to play catch up with the fifth grade level math halfway through the year. She excels at science, public speaking, creative writing, engineering, art, music, and physical education and yet she isn't being challenged in those areas either. She created a solar powered car out of a soda can for the mandatory STEM fair this year and she loved it. She has extraordinary powers of deduction and reasoning and yet they are not being utilized or encouraged.

This year, the teacher has decided to allow the kids to work at whatever pace they wish on whatever subject they wish but gets upset that they aren't spending equal time on all subjects, and yet she doesn't take control of the classroom and actually teach them. Granted, it is another combined classroom from third through fifth grade but it only has 15 students... and she still can't keep it organized and functioning efficiently.

Now, they've added a new student with severe behavioral problems - throws chairs, spits on students, throws chewed up food at students, has temper tantrums, and is generally disruptive all day long. The reason he is in that classroom is because he apparently tested Gifted but they are not addressing his mental/emotional deficiencies so the other kids in the class have to suffer.

When did school get this way? When we went, we all sat in our chairs and the teacher led the day. She scheduled what time we did what activity. She instructed us at the front of the room and we did our work accordingly. We had homework nightly. We had reading and spelling tests and timed math tests because repetition and rote memory were the key to learning. There was no temper tantrums in the class and goodness knows, no one ever got physically violent. If you did get out of line, you were reprimanded by the teacher or even the principal. Heaven help you if they had to call your parents! Mostly because you knew your parents would punish you for your actions - and it was well deserved. There was no mollycoddling. You were expected to straighten up and fly right or else you would not be welcome in the classroom.

Somewhere over the years, we've lost focus on how to properly raise up and educate children. We've entered and created a society where everyone gets a trophy and that has created a feeling of entitlement and lack of respect for others - be it peer or elder. The idea that hard work, dedication, and effort will earn you that which you seek is a thing of the past. The notion that a teacher actually teach, discipline, and hold the child accountable is apparently laughable... not to me but to them. Don't reprimand the child, you'll hurt their self esteem. Don't schedule the child, you'll stifle their creativity.


What happens when you go out in the real world and get a job? What happens when you go on to college to earn your degree? Do you really think either of these will not reprimand you for not doing your work? Do you honestly believe that if you don't adhere to the work or school schedule that you won't be fired or expelled? How will these kids ever learn the value of hard work and putting their all into something, anything - that feeling of pride for completing a job well done - if we don't reward the good and punish the bad? If the teachers aren't teaching the kids, and then simply blame the kids for not doing what was expected of them when they weren't given instruction on what was expected of them - what are we teaching them? That's okay to pass the buck and not own your actions and errors?

The National Association for Gifted Children describes self-contained Gifted classrooms as "full-time homogeneous classrooms, usually one homogeneous classroom distinct from several general classrooms at each grade level in the school in which all curriculum areas are appropriately challenging and complex ". It involves a"systematic, comprehensive, and articulated differentiation in all academic domains full-time and on a daily basis". This is to be outlined, delivered, and maintained by an educational professional who has specialized in Gifted learning.

The reality is a far cry from the described model. It doesn't have to be, but it is. The curriculum areas are not appropriately challenging or complex - they are whatever is the least amount of effort to carry over to all three grade levels. There is no outline for what is expected of the student, or even the teacher. The instruction is not delivered or maintained by the educational professional - they stand at the front of the classroom and say "You have blocks of time - 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 50 minutes, and one hour - to complete whatever work you wish to work on" and then go sit at their desk. It is left up to the kids to decide the whats and the hows of their day. What elementary school child is not going to have difficulty staying on task for an entire school day without direction or leadership? Shoot, I know very few adults that have that level of time management skills so I certainly can't expect my 10-year-old to have mastered it.

Sick as a dog, dedicated to doing better... too bad her teacher
doesn't have the same drive and desires as her student.
So here I sit, frustrated and disappointed - in the school system who recommended placing her in a program that is so obviously flawed and in myself for allowing this to continue for the last two years of her educational career, believing that it will get better. I sit here frustrated for my daughter, who is currently very sick with an ear infection in both ears and a severe sinus infection but is working on her math on the computer because she's trying to fill those holes that have been created by a previous "educator".

I don't know how we got here but I do know we aren't going to stay. If something doesn't work, it is up to those responsible to fix it. If those responsible do nothing, then nothing will improve. I have given ample opportunity for the teacher, the principal, and the school system to fix it. They have done absolutely nothing. Now it's up to her father and I to fix it - and we have every intention of doing so because unlike the teacher, the principal, and the school system, we actually care about our daughter's education.

I miss my carefree, exuberant, vivacious, silly little girl who loved going to school and learning things. It is my responsibility to find her, bring her back from the abyss, and set her back on the proper path. To encourage her to challenge herself, to hold her accountable for her quality of work, and to complete the tasks at hand. I can and will do these things. She can and will do these things. The school system should and could have done it but chose to give excuses and refuse to do anything more. Fine. I have always championed for my kids and I have no intention of stopping now.

She will always be Gifted - and we are going to make sure she doesn't lose sight of her gifts. What does that mean, it's easy. We simply remove ourselves from the toxic environment of this particular Gifted program and settling back in the calm, steady, guided waters of the mainstream. We find ourselves where we last lost ourselves and we move forward from there.

G.I.F.T.E.D - Girl, I Found The Exit Door... let's go.

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