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Talking to T-E-A-C-H-E-R-S...

Mrs. Scoggin? This is David's Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Fitz.

Yes, is David OK?

Oh, he's fine, it's just...

Is there a problem?

Well, no, but I wanted to talk to you.

Oh?

Did you know he can read?

Yes.

Oh. Did you teach him?

No, he taught himself. He got tired of badgering the rest of us to read to him, so he learned on his own. I found out when he was three.

HE'S BEEN READING SINCE HE WAS THREE?

Well, yes, He probably would have started earlier, but his sister wouldn't give up the Disney books on tape.

What? (hyperventilation sounds)

He's pretty good in math and mechanical engineering, too, but fluid dynamics are still under investigation. It gets pretty messy in the bathroom sometimes. Do you have any suggestions?"

Oh, God. (whimpering noises)

Are you OK?

Oh, God. (long pause) Does he have any brothers or sisters?

Yes, but they're both older.

Thank you, Jesus!

Er, is there something you want me to do about his reading?


Gifted kids are known for thinking outside the box when they have problems to solve. Not all problems involve the space-time continuum, curing cancer, or physics. Sometimes, they're just regular kid problems...

Mrs. Scoggin, we've asked you to this meeting today here with Jeffrey's teachers, the social worker, and the school psychologist to discuss a problem.

Yes?

Jeffrey thinks he's a dog.

How do you know?

He barks.

During class?

Well, um (pause) yes.

Is there something that prompts this behavior?

It's usually after some other student has annoyed him.

(pause while I ponder) Does he do anything else to lead you to believe he thinks he's a dog?

Well, no, but Mrs. Whittle is worried about the barking.

Does it happen in other classes?

Sometimes he growls.

Also when someone annoys him?

Yes.

Does he do anything else dog-like? Chew rawhide, walk on all fours, wag?

No, just barking and growling.

Does he answer questions and participate in classes normally otherwise?

Oh, yes, he's incredibly bright, in fact, he's probably bored in class most of the time.

Perhaps barking is entertaining.

Well, we think it's a problem.

Have you asked him why he barks?

Well, no, we wanted to discuss it with you.

(I ponder, then remember something) Have you read your own rules of conduct?

WHAT?

Well, your handbook states that students may not make physical contact with another student, regardless of provocation, that they may not speak in an unsuitable manner to other students, regardless of provocation, and that they must remain in their seats, not interrupting the teacher even if another student provokes them.

Well, what relevance does that have?

When Jeffrey barks or growls, does it make the annoying student stop doing whatever annoying thing they're doing?

Well, yes.

And it's not a violation of your rules, is it? He's not poking them, calling them names, or interrupting the teacher...

Well, no, not specifically.

Then what's the problem? He's solving his immediate problem and remaining entirely within your rules of conduct. He does not bark or growl or act like a dog at home, so I have to conclude that this is his way of staying within the rules here at school and still managing to solve the problem.

Well, uh, we want to know why he thinks he's a dog. It's not good for his self-image.

He doesn't think he's a dog. He just barks. That's different.

(gaping mouths)

Well, I will ask him this afternoon at home why he barks and get back to you.

All right.

[later...]

Mrs. Whittle says you're barking in Math. Got an explanation?

Yeah, Frank keeps stealing my gel pens, so I bark at him, and he gives them back.

Is he in any of your other classes?

Lit.

Do you bark at him in Lit?

No, I growl because we're closer to the front, and I don't want to interrupt the teacher.

Might want to think up another strategy. Your teachers seem to think you believe you're a dog.

Can I be an Irish Setter?

Not unless you want a flea dip. I think you should be a puffer fish.

What do puffer fish do when someone steals their gel pens?

They wave their fins in the air and tell the teacher.

I'll get in trouble for interrupting!

I don't think so, Sweetie.


Just because you offer a gifted program doesn't mean they have to like it...

Mrs. Scoggin, I'm Marion Binkiehopper, the gifted coordinator at Emily's school.

Oh, hello, what can I do for you?

Well, we gave a test last week for children who were designated by the teachers as probably being gifted in order to select a few for an after-school gifted program.

Yes?

Emily answered every single question wrong.

That doesn't sound like Emily.

No, it doesn't. Mrs. Scoggin, I've looked at her records, and she scores off the charts. I don't understand how she could miss every question on the test.

Well, maybe it was on purpose.

WHAT?

Maybe she doesn't want to be in the afterschool program. What's the program going to consist of?

We'll be working on Powerpoint presentations on the computer... I, uh, most.

Did you tell the students why you were testing them and what the program was going to be?

Oh, well, yes, but I don't see why.

Well, that's probably it then. Emily's been doing Powerpoint in computer class and she hates it. She thinks it's a lot of dinking around for no good reason.

What?

Well, I don't mean to be insulting, and I'm sure lots of kids enjoy your program, but Emily has no interest in doing anything with Powerpoint.

You think she flunked this test on purpose?

I'm sure of it. If the program were going to be math or science or literature, particularly something she finds interesting, I'll bet her results would have been much more in tune with her abilities.

Well, she shouldn't...

I understand, and I hope you don't take it personally. It's probably for the best because now a child who is interested in Powerpoint can have her space.

Oh, well, thank you.

No problem.


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