I was not sure where I wanted to put this post but decided it is broader than my teaching experiences so I decided to put in in my collection of thoughts.
When my sons were young and first started learning their alphabet and all of those new things kids learn I was so excited because they picked things up quickly. My two year old could count to ten, he knew all of his color words, short words like cat, dog etc by the time he was three years old. He did not just know them, he could spell and write them too. My oldest was reading while in kindergarten. Both of my boys were extremely intelligent and speaking huge words by the time they were in second grade.
I had high expectations for my sons when they started elementary school. I just knew they would both graduate high school with honors and move on to college with ease. Both of them loved elementary school. They were excited and eager to learn. They were both problem solvers and had strong critical thinking skills at very young ages.
Elementary school was great for them. When kids are in elementary school there is still a lot of new information to learn. It is enchanting and fun. But then they entered middle school. This is where I saw the decline in my oldest son academically. He did good in 6th grade but by 7th he hated school and was not turning his work in. His teachers told me that he knew the content and could discuss it in class but just would not turn things in. So I had him tested for giftedness but he did not pass because he is a perfectionist and did not work fast enough to pass the tests.
I watched my son lose interest in school, I watched him turn from a child eager to learn to one who just did not want to get out of bed in the morning to go to that boring place. Finally when he was old enough he left school. He dropped out and decided to get his diploma online. The school in which he got his diploma ended up being a hoax but that is for another blog.
So on to my second son who is not the perfectionist and did pass the gifted test. He was identified as gifted in 2nd grade. He did great in grade school. He was bright eyed and eager to learn. He was like a sponge and just soaked up any new knowledge. My oldest, smart as he was, was not as excited about learning as his younger brother. This child read all of the time and was always excited to learn. I just knew he would graduate high school with honors and move on to college, I actually figured he would start college around 16 or 17 years old. He loved learning that much. He learned that quickly and retained it with ease.
Then he went into middle school, his love for new knowledge remained but his love of school started to diminish. In our school district the accommodations they had for gifted students were advance placement classes. My son told me these were the same classes his brother was in but there was more work. It 6th and 7th grade he was learning new things but by 8th grade the new knowledge was coming to an end. By 9th grade he was no longer a sponge, they have totally squashed his love for school. He did not feel challenged at all and he lost interest in school. He tried online school but that was disappointing too. Eventually he dropped school and is going to take his GED.
Watching my sons and how the schools lack proper accommodations for gifted students is why I decided I wanted to go into gifted education. I want to someday make a difference in the field of gifted education. I have watched how the education system is letting gifted students down. Many gifted learners in the United states are not succeeding in high school. These are the kids who find learning easy and fun but yet the drop out rate for these individuals is high even though many of them are more knowledgeable than those who graduate.
My son told me one time that he loves to learn, he hated school as he got older because he was no longer learning. It was painfully boring and such a waste of time. I find that sad because it comes so easy to him.
Then there is me, as a new teacher all bright eyed and eager to teach gifted ed. I was so excited to do things for my students no one did for my own kids. I wanted to be the teacher who helps their minds expand, who provides them the class in which to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills. The class that focuses on the whole child, not the testing robot.
Administration however is killing teachers passion and making it all about the pay and duty, not the kids because administration takes away the "kid" in kids for test scores. They make it so mind numbing that teachers can't focus on the kids so it becomes about the pay because that is the only way to stick it out. It seems like administrators do not want teachers to focus on the whole child. They only want the teachers to focus on the part of the child who can pass the standardized test. Forget problem solving, critical thinking and well creativity is out the window. These are the things that drive gifted students and lack of the ability to do these things is what prompt those students to leave school out of sheer boredom.
I went into teaching gifted education with the hopes that I could be the cure for the problem, to find way to fight for the gifted kids and I will still fight for what the gifted kids need but it is sure not an easy fight. So much emphasis is based on the test, the results of the test and how well the school did as a whole on the test. Emphasis is not placed on what we see at the end of the day. The emphasis is not on whether or not the kids learn, it is not based on what those kids who will be our rocket scientists, creators and future inventors take out of their time in school. It is again, all about the test.
So what does the test do for us? What does it do for the future of the kids, these gifted kids who well, score high on these tests because it is easy for them. Does it help their lives at all? In ten years no one will care that Johnny scored high on the standardized test. No one will care that the school scored high as a whole because Johnny did so well on the test. What will matter is how well he succeeds in life and it will be his ability to problem solve and think critically which will drive his future. If he is just a testing robot he might miss out on what he can become and that will be harmful to society as a whole.