torsdag 10 december 2009

Charged with the crime of being smart

This is a bitter blog entry. It will present my thoughts on how gifted children are treated in school by teachers. This will be a fat kick in the a** of my first grade teacher. But it's also a post of leaving what was, and moving along to what can be.

For some reason, perhaps because my mother is smarter than most you'd ever hear of, I got cursed with intelligence. Yes, cursed. Or so I thought for 26 years of my life. When I was a kid, younger than school age, I stood out by wanting learn and understand everything there was. My curiosity led me to learn how to read at the age of 4. I was writing and solving arithmetic problems at the age of 5, and at the age of 6 my mother taught me the negative numbers and how to calculate with them. I'd say, that was an early start for mathematic interest. And I loved it. Mom couldn't satisfy my need of new tasks to take on, even if she really tried to produce new little math books for her daughter. In daycare they let me join the school kids and I received copies of their homework assignments to do. I was so happy I could burst everytime I was called downstairs for the math homework. And I was SO MUCH looking forward to going to school. Because in school you get to LEARN things, right?

Well, that illusion burst during the first week. Most pupils go to school without knowing how to read. My teacher was certainly not happy about those of us who already had those skills. I think we were four from day one who knew how to read. The teacher, Ms T, made it clear we were a major inconvenience, who did not fit into her little narrow box. We got some boring books to glance through sometimes, but most of the time we were forced to participate in what everyone else was doing. That meant learning to colour and draw the letters, count flowers, colour 5 or 8 or 10 of the flowers in the picture, and so on. I was so bored I failed most of those tasks. And Ms T, miserably failing to recognize that I needed STIMULATING TASKS, very harshly explained, in loud voice, I was a SLOPPY kid and made me do those boring stuffs again and again til I succumbed and made the letters pretty and coloured the right number of flowers.

She was also like OFFENDED by the fact that I didn't need the coloured wooden pieces representing numbers 1-10 to calculate. I didn't need to SEE the numbers, I already understood them abstractly. And you should have seen her face when I had solved the math tasks a couple of pages ahead of our assignment. Not to mention when I questioned her decision not to allow any more of those renegade trips through the math book, ahead of the others. She resented the idea that I would somehow be allowed to go at my own pace, even if it didn't require ANYTHING from her, not one little effort. For this I never even got any explanation, except that "You must wait for the others.". Thanks... By the time I left third grade, I was completely fed up with school, I hated the place and didn't want to be there at all.

In 7-9th grades we got physics and chemistry as new topics. I started to feel like my brains were waking up again, and threw myself into understanding those subjcts. A small piece of heaven, one could say. My teacher, however, wasn't interested in me understanding, she just wanted to get what was written in the books out to us. Deeper understanding was not in her agenda, and I bet she didn't have one clue on how to provide that either. She got angry when I asked WHY there were this and this many electrones in the different shells of an atom. So I stopped asking. Again. And hated school even more.

Highschool was a little different. I had two teachers who actually tried to meet my need of challenge, and I will always remember them as the best things that happened to me during 12 years in school. My German language teacher Ulf made clear he loved having an ambitious and gifted student, and the math/physics teacher Svante tried for 3 years to gt me to work just a little to get the highest grades. I settled for what I got without lifting a finger those years, earning myself an average of 4,4 /5 in grades. Sadly, this math/physics teacher showed up too late in my life. Had I had something like him from the beginning, I might have still had some joy for learning left in high school. I didn't. I swore never to set my foot in another school again when I graduated. Now, what measures up to 8 years of full time university studies later, I know I was wrong. But back then I really meant that. I'm happy I was wrong.

Just recently I started reclaiming my brains and their full capacity again. I already wrote about Jenny, my NLP teacher, who just picked me put as smart after knowing me for two days. I could have cried of happiness. Yes, some people are happy to be acknowledged for their beauty, some for their cars. I pride in my brains. After that meeting I've worked so hard to re-awaken my little grey cells. I feel I've neglected them for so long, and they crave to be used again. Then I got to talk to a friend who shares my experience from school and we realized that being a smart kid in school is traumatizing. It should be a good thing, something that's encouraged. It's not. You get constantly beat down by those around you because nobody likes someone who's better than they are. And the teachers lack all understanding for gifted children, they think they are just in the way asking questions and not fitting in...

To really illustrate the contempt for giftedness in our country... I was actually told by an ex once that I should "keep it down" when meeting the mother and brother, so "they wouldn't think I was an academic snob"... That really shows the view on talent; HIDE IT! Or someone else can get sad for not being as good as you are. Like that's all that defines a person...

Intelligence is scary. And for the person who has it, it's a curse. Or so I thought, til very recently. I realized my brains actually are there to be used, not to be hidden and definitely nothing to be ashamed of. Whatever small people, and narrow minded jerks, on my path this far had successfully made me feel about myself, I'm over that now. I know what I can do, and that I can do even more if I try. I didn't ask for this gift. I just got it. And I intend to use it in as many ways as I can come up with. For my own development, amusement and gain. Giftedness is not a competition. It's just something you have, or not. Like some people are good at soccer, or hockey. Some of us are good at scientific subjects. That's really all there is to that. Why is it so hard to accept a gifted mind? We wouldn't rack down on a gifted craftsman, or a tennisplayer. Why can't people deal with "smart"?

2 kommentarer:

Szofia Jacobsson sa...

Jag tror vi är många som delar dina upplevelser av skolan. Just det där "du måste vänta in de andra". De som ligger efter får hjälp, de smarta förväntas klara sig själva, istället för att stimuleras ytterligare. Och i värsta fall förstör man hela upplevelsen av utbildning, särskilt som man samtidigt inser att det aldrig kommer vara smarthet som gör att man får kompisar eller cred i skolmiljön. Risken finns att så många begåvade barn trycks ner och fokuserar på att ha på sig rätt brallor istället för att bli nästa nobelpristagare. Jag hatar Sverige för det.

Callisto sa...

Amen, Szofia. Sverige är verkligen inte bra på att ta tillvara på begåvning eller talang.