Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gifted and Talented at WHAT?

So we're back from Austin....although the spaceship, robot, and monkey ears are still in my car and will probably remain there until hell freezes over or the next Odyssey meeting happens, whichever comes first. The next Odyssey meeting is next week - so I'm betting on next week.

The Regional Tournament was great! And Jasper didn't throw up one time even though he threatened to constantly.....because of course, he got sick as soon as we hit Austin. Kept it all under control, though. Jeff kind of took care of him and kept him busy while I ran around trying to watch 4 of our kids in 3 different competitions and get my own team set up and in one place and sort of making eye contact with me on occasion as I tried to get them to focus on their props, costumes, vehicle, etc. A bolt flew off as they wheeled their vehicle through the door and into the gym and I was like, "crap." But it didn't slow them down. They were missing one team member who'd suffered a seizure the night before....and Ellie....who is all heart....said, "Oh great! Now I have to be the monkey!!" So she was the monkey :). She also knocked their parrot off the tree at one point and the beak fell off....maybe she hit it with her BIG MONKEY TAIL. Anyway - they did awesome and wowed the judges with their human-powered vehicle.

As far as I know, we were the only homeschoolers. Our elementary team was A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E. They did not place, however. Their long term scores were pretty dang high so I'm thinking they tanked in the spontaneous portion (for those of you who don't know what the heck I'm talking about....don't sweat it.....I promise this post doesn't just relate to Odyssey of the mind).

Anyway - I was so freaking proud of them. They were a hodge-podge little group (as are all of our homeschool teams) - meaning they were all ages. Odyssey has the teams compete at the grade level of the oldest kid on the team - so we had an elementary team that also had itty bitties on it....one of them was my own little itty bitty - up there doin' the baby talk business that she is so fond of, and acting her little heart out.

I am a talker and I do a lot of socializing at these events (even though I am a homeschooler) and I have learned that many of the schools that participate in our region are sending students from their Gifted and Talented Programs - or at least giving those programs first dibs. This is unfortunate. Because according to the Odyssey of the Mind program guide:

"It's important to recognize that all students can benefit from participation in Odyssey of the Mind, and that performance in the classroom does not directly correlate with success in the program."

Our elementary team had a little one with spina bifida - she has challenges in all areas of her life - and would never be in a "GT" class. And she was the creative leader of our team! She made her own strawberry costume....out of straws. In her words, "Because it is a STRAWberry - get it? Get it?" Big Humongous Grin. Yes, we get it. You are freaking awesome. If that wasn't enough, she also added bears...cause of the "berry"....get it? Get it?

Our middle school team had two boys with Asperger's (one of them mine) who would never be in GT, either - even though they're both ridiculously smart - they would be pretty big nuisances in the classroom. Thank God Jules's classroom is a big ranch :). Anyway - they were one kid short of a full team - still participated - came in first (out of ahem...1 team) and were exceptionally happy. They did an amazing job - had to build a human-powered vehicle. Since they placed ahem...FIRST out of exactly 1 team...they will be going on to the State Tournament in Houston so I can't tell you anything about their skit except that Jules was a fantastic Mr. Spock. This is a boy-dream-team (1 girl on the team - poor thing) and they had elements of both Lord of the Rings AND Star Trek. Superman makes an appearance, too.....yeah....a homeschooled boys' team for sure. At least it wasn't my kid wearing his underwear on the outside of his clothes this year....it was someone else's kid. Jules already did his underwear time; wearing Thomas the Tank briefs over his jeans as "Hades, God of the Underwear."

The high school team (the one I coached) came in 1st out of ahem....2 teams :). It seems that in our region it is mostly elementary teams competing - the bigger the kids the more "stuff" they have to do and the less time they have for this sort of thing. Anyway - they are aiming for the World Tournament - some of them have gone, before. So they are a fairly serious team. My son - the one with Language Processing Disorder and Other Stuff We Haven't Officially Diagnosed - drives their vehicle and plays Arnold Schwarzenegger. Also not a GT kid.

So what is it with the G/T Business? Gifted and Talented at...........what, exactly? Gifted with art? Talented at acting? Gifted with flexible joints? What? What does it freaking MEAN to be gifted and talented? And more so - what does it freaking mean to NOT be gifted and talented? Because if there is a Gifted and Talented program and you're not in it....the assumption is that you're not gifted or talented. Now the schools will say, "No! That's not we mean! Every child is gifted and every child is talented blah blah blah....." Ok - well then - people?? You need to call your little program something else. Call it the Good Test-Takers Club - or the Smart Kids Club - or the Exclusive We Get To Go On The Best Field Trips Club....or I don't really know....just STOP calling if Gifted and Talented and then not letting everyone in after saying everyone is gifted and talented. That's like saying, "We're all created equal only some of us are more equal than others."

Now I know that these programs vary from school to school - so I am only commenting on my own personal experience with G/T programs.....so if you feel that your school's G/T program is the cat's meow - good for you - but it is not my experience that G/T programs offer anything that wouldn't benefit ANY kid.

Before you think I'm just cranky due to the fact that I have dumb kids who couldn't get into the G/T program...let me just say that I have had a kid in the G/T program. And it didn't serve her. The G/T teacher in primary was awesome fun. She did great things with the kids. And Ellie hated every bit of it. (Ellie went to school thru 3rd grade.) Ellie did not want to make puppets, talk endlessly about cultural stories from around the world, or learn group participation skills. She wanted to stop going so slow. She is a fast learner. All she wanted was to "do the next thing" - whatever that happened to be - and not have to do it, again. She never missed a spelling word...so she didn't want to write them all out five times each. She learned her multiplication tables in about five minutes.....so she didn't want to write them all out every morning and then do a timed test (where she never missed one). She didn't want to sit and listen to other kids read aloud a book she had completed while she was waiting for the other kids to get their books opened to the right page. She didn't want to read for 15 minutes and write a paragraph about The Boxcar Kids when she could have been finishing up Little Women. She was surly and bored out of her mind and her twice a week trip to the G/T classroom to work on puppets did nothing to address her boredom.

Now my son who went to school thru 1st grade? Was not even tested for the G/T program. In first grade, he still wasn't reading, he couldn't count to 100, and his alphabet recitation included H,I,J,K, jalapeno cheese....because he just didn't "get it" that those letters represented sounds. In fact, he didn't get that for a very long time. He was the class clown, the class troublemaker, the kid who went for extra help every day. And the funny part is that he would have LOVED the G/T activities. Puppet-making? Right up his alley. Story-telling? Even better - (that is what he wants to do when he grows up). Group participation? He is the most cooperative kid on the planet. He is fifteen, now. When we left the school he had very low self-esteem and the teachers, quite frankly, saw him as a difficult kid because he just couldn't learn. He basically sat in the classroom bored and doing things bored little boys do. Which, understandably, irritated his teachers. And now? He is amazing. He's creative beyond belief, smart, accomplished, and a motivated worker. That is how pretty much anyone would describe him. But he would never be in a Gifted and Talented program. He and many many many others who are just like him. And in some schools, those kids are not participating on Odyssey teams because those teams are reserved for the kids who will do well at the tournaments...based on how well they do at school. Unfortunately, that is not what Odyssey is about.

We know a Down Syndrome boy who has been to the Odyssey of the Mind World Tournament twice. He was not placed on an Odyssey team through his school - but through a Boys and Girls Club. My son - won an Odyssey Ranatra Fusca Award for Extreme Creativity last year. And he would never have been on his school's Odyssey team. Which would have been a shame, obviously. So those schools who are sending their good test-takers? Are missing out on some fabulous opportunities to really show off at the tournament. But that is not really the unfortunate part of it. The unfortunate part of it is that there are some really amazing kids who are missing out on opportunities to show off at the tournament.

So if you are wanting something to do....something creative that involves children....I encourage you to look into Odyssey of the Mind. Gather the class clowns you know, the quiet little thinkers, the kid who tends to sit back and watch, the one who bounces off the walls, the angry one and the happy one.....throw them all together with lots of encouragement and glue sticks and paint....take them to an Odyssey tournament - and watch some magic happen. Seriously, do it. You'll be glad you did. Want to read something inspirational from my Cheesy Chick friend in regards to HER non-G/T teams? Go HERE. And if you want to see the elementary team being all adorably adorable you can go HERE.

So what is your G/T experience?

Signing Off as the both amazingly Gifted AND Talented Sardine Mama


  1. As the mom of the STRAWBERRY - who just happens to have spina bifida and some learning problems that we have not bothered to label - I say kudos to you, Sardine Mama, for this great post. This was a fantastic experience for my little one, one she never would have been able to take part in if she had been in public school. She was so disappointed that the team did not place, but is already looking forward to next year. By they way, don't you just love her bow at the end of the performance?! She was so into it!

  2. Thanks for sharing.

    I admittedly facilitate on my views towards GT programs. I understand the idea behind GT programs. The idea of helping kids who are perfectionists deal with perfectionism. Of reminding those who get it the first time that just because those around them need to see or hear something 3-(gasp)7 times..it does not make their peers stupid. That is normal.
    I have had good luck in specific GT programs with Cody at the Camino Gifted Institute..where they immediately showed him the wiring diagram and ventilation system of the entire building before putting him in a computer building class..because they understood kids who think in systems.
    I appreciate the gift of TAMS for our son Brian..because no one else knew what to do with him.

    However..I know that my sister and I personally opted out of gt when I was in school because in my school? GT was just more work.

    We were already bored with the school work. Why would we want more? When Brian was in GT at the local p.s..they had him roll dice for "enrichment". Then they wondered why he began running a numbers game at the school.

    I truly understand the concept for the need for GT, just as I understood the intent for No Child Left Behind.

    Unfortunately, the reality of these ideas..don't quite pan out.

    Open to solutions...

  3. I loved this whole post. You said it so well. It sounds like everyone had a good time, learned some stuff, and felt good about the whole process.

    Where else can you get that? Certainly not in GT program.

    When I called to find out about our local TAG program, I learned that it was just... more school work.

    Why would we want that?

  4. Sounds like a particularly proud mom has good reason to be! Congrats to all!

  5. Yes - Cheesey - I like the IDEA of G/T (although I do think they should call it something else...especially the "gifted" part...which actually sounds religious to me) - but the reality of it often falls short. Ellie really did need something...and she had a few teachers who worked hard to get it for her...but she didn't fit in well with the G/T program that really did stuff that would benefit ANY AND EVERY kid. It seemed it was almost a reward of sorts. On Monday lots of little kids wore their Odyssey t-shirts to school - another reminder to the non-GT kids of something they missed; a specific "something" that was invented to serve ALL kids but seems to mostly be taken advantage of by GT programs. Ellie gets what she needs through lots of different friends and family - on the level she needs - and Joel gets what he need from the same people doing different things. Funny - when I pulled them from school I was told I was doing Ellie a disservice because she was so "smart" and Joel a disservice becaue he "needed so much extra help." Hmmmmm....what they needed was individualized attention - the one thing a school cannot give.

  6. My own daughter was recommended every year by her teachers for the G/T program in elementary school and every year tested and was disappointed because she didn't fit into their mold of Gifted and Talented. At the time it was hard for her (and me) to understand why that was. In 2008, she graduated in the top 2% of her class of 475 and started at the University of Texas with 33 credit hours before she had ever set foot in a college classroom. All of this without appartently being either gifted OR talented! Wonder how that happened??? And accomplished this while being confined to a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy. Many of the kids who were in that coveted program grew up to be 'less than ideal' students/citizens and lost their way. The G/T program in the public school system has good intentions, I think, they just don't deliver....

    Once again, LOVE this post. You're truly relevant and tell it like it is (which I wildly appreciate). I'm so glad there are moms like you who realize their kids' potential despite what the public school system tells them. You go!!!

  7. Dee - that is CRAZY. What a kid!! I bet you're just a tad bit proud :).

  8. Agreed. Often falls short and name could use a change;)
    Thanks again, for a great post.

  9. The La Vernia Odyssey program is open to all students now (used to be GT only). Floresville no longer participates in Odyssey. I think they didn't get enough parental support, and teachers do too much as it is.

    By the way, we have many awesome, caring teachers who are trying to take up the slack for parents who aren't there for their kids. Public schools try to do everything and just can't. A very basic part of the success of homeschooling is having parents who care. No amount of teaching effort can make up for that.

    When I substitute taught, I saw many things that were disheartening, in the way many kids behave and act out these days. It cannot be pinned on the schools or the teachers, though I know both are far from perfect.

  10. Julie - I wasn't blaming anything on schools or teachers - just saying that Gifted and Talented doesn't serve its purpose. And it really shouldn't be called what it is called - as it measures neither gifts nor talents. Also, the vast majority of the OM participants were from these programs. OM says this is a national problem they have with the schools only sending their best and brightest - so it isn't necessarily regional.

  11. I agree that program and lots like that are stupid. :)