Sticks and Stones: words can break gifted education

When I sense a massive discussion coming on with strong voices on both sides, I tend to back away slowly, climb the nearest tree, sigh with introverted relief, and do the most helpful thing I know to do: watch it go down. It is from up on my perch that I respond to the buzz regarding who is and who isn’t truly gifted.

I can appreciate everyone’s perspective regarding the definition and application of the word gifted and I do mean everyone’s view. If one blogger believes all children are gifted and the other believes that it only applies to a specific percentage of people, or if a third blogger believes the word doesn’t apply to them and so it doesn’t matter one way or the other, I can see the merit in each perspective. Each person’s reasoning has to be considered accurate and correct at some level because words are dependent upon perspective and each of us views things differently.

The word gifted is just a word and words are fickle friends indeed. For now, however, the word gifted is all we have.  Instead of fighting over the exclusivity of the word, instead of countering with a defense or apathetic position, and rather than igniting a revolution, I choose to work within the current framework and embrace the word as a means towards an end.

First, gifted is not metaphorical and it’s not symbolic, it is a mission and a purpose. We have to shout out that we believe in giftedness as a clinical diagnosis for children who test three or more deviations above the norm and require specialized resources to meet their educational needs.  Secondly, the word gifted needs to lead discussions regarding the creation and implementation of educational options and resources, it needs to be a catalyst towards the proper training of teachers and administrators, and the signature behind the necessary policies and funding to ensure all of these are successfully carried out in every school for every child. Third, the kids who the word gifted represents need to be properly identified, and their social, emotional, and educational needs must be served and we must produce well-rounded and productive members of society.

I believe that the mission that is gifted crosses borders and language barriers. It speaks to that which can’t be spoken to any other way. It allows us to speak for the kids who, for any number of reasons, are unable to speak for themselves. They sit alone, day in and day out, in a classroom not capable of fulfilling their minds. Without the support system at home or the know-how to fix it, they fill that empty space in other ways. They are self-destructive, suicidal, beautiful, and capable, and they want nothing more than to be exactly like every other kid around them.

You see, they know more than we do that not all kids have what they have, that not all kids are gifted in the way that they are; and I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more humiliating and soul-damaging than feeling at a very young age, and on a very deep and very accurate level, that every little thing is wrong with you.

As I’ve written before, a gift implies something given to another without any exertion and my experience is that everything around our kids is absorbed, every shade, every idiosyncrasy, every variance, every success, and every single failure, and it takes such an amazing and resilient effort from the receiver that it insults the outcome to say it was just a gift.  My children are not just gifted; they are stretching out into the sky and growing in a world where they can’t help but absorb it in its entirety while trying desperately to self-regulate their responses to appear more normal within it.

Still, the word gifted is all we have right now, so let’s remove the loving, magical, and sparkly nature of the word gifts.  Let’s take away the definition of Christmas morning, better than others, without exertion, without trying, and we will find that what we are left with is its irrefutable utilitarian form.

As for me, my word is PRESENT. That is my gift, that is my position, that is what I do, and that is who I am.  It is all about perspective.

So, what’s your word?  I’d love to hear it!