How Public Education Fails Smart Kids.

When I was in fifth grade classes were not leveled yet. I was frustrated with lessons. We learned the lesson in the first five minutes. The next thirty were spent re-explaining it. I would frequently go ahead in the lesson and finish our worksheets before we were supposed to.

Throughout elementary and middle school I frequently got into trouble by teachers for “going ahead” “not staying with the class” and one time when I asked why we had to do what seemed like an extra step to me my fifth grade teacher responded rather condescendingly, “Well I guess you don’t because you’re advanced. But the rest of the class does.”

I learned then to shut my mouth and keep my head down.

Then I got in trouble for reading chapter books that were far ahead of my grade level and age during lessons. I was bored out of my freaking mind. So I brought books to school. My teacher stopped pointing it out though because every time she asked me a question about the lesson I was reading through…I knew the answer. I irritated her by consistently getting 100’s on quizzes and tests even though it appeared I never paid attention.

I did. For five minutes. Then I zoned out and read.

I remained bored out of my ever-loving mind until high school when all the classes were finally leveled. Middle school english and math were leveled. I was challenged in math. That was it. I actually looked forward to those forty minutes of my day. They were the only forty minutes I wasn’t guaranteed an A.

I have vague memories of a gifted program in fifth and maybe sixth grade. Where we went on a couple trips to random places. I don’t remember how that impacted my boredom in class daily. I don’t think it did.

The two rubik’s cube in the picture…a child under the age of eleven put those together in my office recently in under two minutes. Both of them. In under two minutes. While casually chatting with me and listening to me and their mom talk. Then they explained why it took two minutes because one had been severely out of place so it took longer to straighten out. They asked if I wouldn’t mind keeping them away from other children who may mess them up again until our next visit.

I asked what the IQ was and if it had ever been tested. Rough estimate 142.

But there they were in my office. Overmedicated and misdiagnosed. Because they were bored out of their freaking mind in school.

I have a handful of these kids on my caseload. Behavioral issues at school, maybe at home too, labeled and medicated as ADHD. But upon further investigation their grades are generally A’s or their in school quizzes and tests are 100’s but they don’t do homework so they have C’s.

I’ve consistently asked parents what services the school is providing for their gifted child; to be told nothing. The school is providing no services in terms of providing more academically challenging materials or specialized lessons for the child. They recommended a medication evaluation and behavioral modification.

Schools are not equipped for smart kids. Not until high school. And by then we’ve been through nine years of boring school. The spark may have gone out. The love of learning and being labeled difficult because we are bored may be too much to overcome.

The potential of these children is remarkable and it’s being horribly wasted.

Sometimes they need medication. Not usually for ADHD. Schools don’t love calls from me. Because I will not medicate a child because they are smart. I challenge our education system to educate them because they are smart. Make an online individualized learning plan with harder and more advanced academics. Purchase one. They are out there. I’ve looked.

Invest money in intelligence not just in learning disabled children. These kids are our future and we stifle intelligence into a box of mainstream classes. We shame them in front of their peers for being smart. We would rather ship them off to a psychiatrist for medication than meet them where they are at with their IQs of 142. Or we would rather them quietly sit reading in the back so as not to disrupt the rest of the class.

We are putting out their lights instead of igniting them. The public school system in America should be ashamed at their lack of investment in intelligence. There should be as much invested in smart kids as there is invested in those with disabilities.

I was accepted early into NYU for my undergrad. I ended up transferring out because of the cost and I wanted to switch my major. But I left there with a 4.0. I went to Yale for my graduate degree. I graduated Yale with a 3.7. I didn’t let that fifth grade teacher shame me out of advancing myself. But I remember that moment of being shamed for being smart.

How many other moments are there of teachers shaming intelligence? How many of them don’t recover? How many of them don’t make it through? Even one is too many and that is the shame of our education system.

I get it. Twenty-five kids. All different levels of learning. You have to make sure every kid gets it. Teachers in un-leveled classes don’t have time to individualize learning plans for the one or two gifted student in their class. That’s where there should be a standardized program for kids who perform beyond. Something that can be done with minimal instruction, an online program.

This would foster independence, it wouldn’t disrupt the class and wouldn’t require excessive extra teacher time.

Just as the special education program is designed for students who need extra support there should be a special education for intelligent kids who perform beyond their grade level.

I hope one day this can be a reality. Because until then….schools still aren’t going to like hearing from me.