Monday, August 1, 2016

A Dark Day. Social Issues in School

This month's guest blogger is Sarah Reeder.  Enjoy! 
We're in the thick of winter rains when I pick my daughter up from school. She's been crying. Something happened at school today.  

Instead of this isolated incident, her explanation is told as a lifetime of hurting. Even the children who like her often can't stand her bossiness, her rules , her sense of fairness, her inflexibility and sometimes uncontrolled crying. She is mocked for reading constantly, for reading multiple books at once, for finishing work early, for being consumed by perfection and for asking endless questions of any adult in sight. The list, of course, goes on. She doesn't hear her own self-loathing. I do. 

The digs are often subtle. Adults tell her she's too emotional but always in the nicest way. They are 'constructive' not critical. She is 'bright' but 'not a genius' and obviously needs to work on 'controlling her emotions'. I am pulled aside and informed of this by school staff, almost constantly. I'm not certain that they hear the words they are saying. They simply say them. She loves her teachers and will forgive their misunderstanding of her, as is precisely her nature. She's gladdened that, even though she hasn't learned much of anything new this year, she has the opportunity to be supportive of her classmates learning. She's trying not to cry so much when she's upset. A work in progress, she says. 

I am slain by a wave of disgust with myself for spending a single day, never mind years, pretending that my children are average

We take the long way home and I explain to both her and her little brother, a first grader,what it means to be gifted. I mention the tests they each took. I poorly define 'asynchronous'. Tell them how some of their teachers don't believe the numbers. How some believe the numbers, but think they should be taught the same as everyone else. Clumsily explain that literally ninety-nine percent of the world is different than they are. Little Brother demands the numbers. Sister wants proof. Things that they often insist upon when encountering something new.  

Just like we've talked about before, I attempt to explain different is okay. Different is interesting and a light in our lives. It's not 'better than'. It just is. The whole school knows that Johnny is great at soccer. Everyone acknowledges it and accepts as fact that he is an excellent player. It's okay for our strengths to be acknowledged, too. What's more, it's also okay that we're very good at more than one thing. It's just factual. Little Brother jokes that Sister is good at everything. They both agree that he, though younger, is better at math. 

I ask if they are ever lonely. Sister speaks of feeling like she is the only person in all of existence. She feels like none of her classmates care about her. Her teacher no longer calls on her first. Little Brother echoes her thoughts. He is not allowed to share 'his way' of doing things as it confuses his friends in class. He tries to control himself but knows that his boredom makes him angry and that his anger pushes peers away. 

At home, we plot and plan how to make friends that share our interests. How to find an environment for learning that frees them. What dream days and relationships look like. What they want more of and what they could really do without. We talk about teachers being people, too. Subject to jealousy and misunderstanding and oftentimes, a lack of knowledge. Not every adult is equipped to help them grow. No, they are not obligated to be friends with every child who is the same age as they are. It's more than fine that they have better relationships with the hall monitor than they do with their desk buddies. 'Peer' has categories beyond age. Sometimes, the teachers are wrong. 

I apologize for letting them down, as we sit in the shelter of our porch. For not giving them the tools to build up their own light. Adults can be, and frequently are, wrong. Sometimes I am one of the wrong ones. Sister is empathetic and tells me it's okay. We talk about the freedoms of adulthood. In choosing your peer group. We recognize that accommodating others has it's place... but decide that fitting in just to make others comfortable is not currently a part of our gifts. 

Unsurprisingly, they abruptly leave me to go ride their bikes in the rain. Sister says they'll be fresh when they're done -- good as new. The rain is good for that. 

Thanks Sarah, for your insights.

Check out more than a dozen other great blogs on gifted social issues in this month's Blog Hop: Gifted Social Issues. Click here and read them all...


  1. Different IS good, but it is hard to be different in the early years. Good for you for talking about it with your children in an honest, open way.

  2. Different IS good, but it is hard to be different in the early years. Good for you for talking about it with your children in an honest, open way.

  3. It is so hard to watch our children be in pain from social issues. There's a difficult balance that comes from embracing our children's unique nature and intense spirit and helping them navigate the different social settings they'll encounter in life. It's not about telling them to hide a part of themselves in order to be liked by others - but more a matter of helping them understand there's a time and a place for different aspects of our personality.

  4. I loved your explanations, and I wish there were more better training about these special needs for all teachers. Thank you for a beautiful post.

  5. Beautifully written description of the sad situation children and parents face when these children are so misunderstood. It often takes a long time - years of struggle and advocacy to feel entitled to acknowledge these abilities and speak up for our children and ourselves, given all of the resistance we encounter.