I was a “gifted child”

I was a clever child.

I think I was less gifted and more a precocious shit, which meant that I sassed adults more than I sassed other children, and was deemed as gifted because I was entertaining and moderately clever. I am not sure how much of my “gifted” status came from testing well, and how much came from playing the game.

I am not sure that my “gifted” status came from actually being smarter than the average child. I was terrible at math, refused to learn my times table and performed poorly when I was bored. Perhaps I was labelled as “gifted” because I needed effort being entertained. Maybe, gifted is a term teachers use to identify children who are disruptive, sad, troubled or have a need to be watched without the poor schooling results to account for it.

I don’t know how or why I was gifted, but in school I was bored until I was separated. A part of that boredom, I think, was having no tangible results from my work. In junior school, the same girl received all of the awards every year. I later learned this trend continued through to high school. I was placed into a private school with a gifted program when I was eight, and someone else got to live in her shadow. Facebook tells me she’s now a nurse. I hope she recovered from school.

I think the problematic thing about gifted streams and classes is that aside from customising learning plans to accommodate their stretching minds is that with the exception of the students with a passion, the students with obsession, this practise is largely pointless, because they remain without goals. For “normal” students, the goal is to learn the content of the curriculum and demonstrate social growth and integration to the point where they are suitable for secondary education. For gifted students, we often remove the need for socialisation, mark them as different, and fail to give them tangible goals.

A lack of a tangible goal meant a lack of tangible feedback or reward. What does it mean to do something well if “it” hasn’t been defined and neither is the purpose of completing “it”? In grades five and six this meant that I was bullied, I was a bully to others, and while some of the work was challenging, the question “what exactly do you want from me?” lingered. I do not believe that children thrive in a situation where their place and purpose are not clearly defined. The students we had been separated from seemed to have a point – to do the work and make friends. Some others had goals, the schools they wanted to go to, the subject they especially love, the area that fascinates them.

I took up music to fill this gap. I loved music, and I still do. I am a formerly “gifted child”. Maybe I always tended toward anxiety and depression, but I found the absence of a “point” and the lack of expectation troublesome.

To be a clever child is like being a good child. It is a meaningless statement with goal posts that always change. This is not a good thing to call a child. What is clever? What is it that I’ve done or said that make me clever? Am I not clever when I am not demonstrating my cleverness?

These things don’t teach initiative, kindness, tenacity, determination. The need to be clever, like the need to be good invokes anxiety. I associated cleverness with being outgoing and entertaining. I went to a high school for the performing arts to temper that. When my true introverted self was forming, this created a schism between what it meant to be clever and what it meant to be me. I was not clever. Like many gifted children, we look back on the people we were. Words like “potential” are thrown around. We wonder what the hell happened.

I was a gifted child.

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