This child had given up on learning at creche. From as young as two he desperately wanted to be taught to read. As a preschooler he sought to delve into maths that six and seven year olds might be learning. He was busting to be able to share his interests with others his age and have deep and meaningful conversations with the teachers. When this was not forthcoming, he initially wished for school, but this soon faded to a loss of hope that he would ever get to learn from teachers. Sadly, his beliefs were all too accurate and school was a further disappointment, with colouring in, walls covered in ABCs and sight words which he was well beyond by then, and worksheets with activities for numbers 1-10.
At creche they got the kids to flick the switch to make the rotor fly up into the air. He had already been making circuits independantly a year earlier.
He was disappointed, alienated, bored and frightened. He had to do activities he could do years earlier, suck up waiting while others learned, and wait for opportunities to be stretched appropriately, which were few and far between. He was expected to look forward to school, be content there, grateful for the opportunities he was being provided, and blend in with his peers. Value was shown to be in fitting in and doing as his peers did. Not only was there a lack of respect for him as an individual, but also his identity as a gifted learner. There was no interest in parental perspectives or opportunities to develops understanding about the unique characteristics and needs of gifted learners.
Because the learning in his areas of interests and strengths was not accessible, he was failing to be engaged and failing to learn how to learn. When the challenges did come, they were in areas he struggled with - writing and drawing all those ideas of his down on paper how he wanted them to be. His focus quickly shifted from what he could do to what he couldn't do. He began to very quickly see himself as a failure.
The result, a very stressed out, highly anxious child who sat permanently on the edge of his survival instincts. A child who tripped over to fight/flight and had melt-downs at school when he just couldn't cope any more.
The desperate bid to survive in a hostile environment
A child who the school wanted to be kept home while the Education Review Office was visiting, a child that the school wanted kept home any day the principal was away from school...A child who was shamed, punished and abused by educators for his lack of ability to cope. It is therefore no surprise that he began to own the labels of 'naughty' and 'bad' and began to feel he was simply not good enough.
Where are our children's human rights? Where is the change that is so desperately needed to keep all our children safe, content, and learning? Where is the accountability when it all goes so terribly wrong?!
Our children deserve more.
Children of all abilities, with varying personal qualities and needs, are screaming out for help, some getting in serious trouble for their attempts at communicating that the provisions being offered are simply not a match for their needs. Just how many of these children who are deemed to 'be' (experience) behavioural challenges are actually misunderstood, under supported gifted learners who have great potential to fair so much better?
What frightens me is it that I have personal knowledge of three children who have been excluded from school recently who fall within the 5-9 year old group shown in the statistics for my region, and all these children are gifted. Furthermore, these three have been excluded at either age 5 or 6 years old!! What happened to "change the environment, not the child"? Why are so many children, so young, being excluded from school?
It seems that the children and their families' get the blame and are left picking up the pieces while schools get to walk away from their responsibilities. I challenge the Ministry of Education to have students at risk of exclusion screened and assessed for giftedness by an external specialist (for a non-bias view) in identifying giftedness and talent, and have a process of true accountability that requires schools to step up and meet the unique needs of gifted learners.
Where is gifted education in our schools I ask? Where are the provisions that build the self belief and confidence in our children so that they may be content and progressing? Kudos to those teachers, early childhood centres and schools which are doing this well. If only this was the case everywhere!
Walk a mile in these children's shoes...walk a mile in their families' shoes...unlike many seem to believe, the educational journey for gifted, twice and multi-exceptional learners is not a kind one.
Gifted children should be able to belong and be supported appropriately in schools
feel like they belong and are appropriately supported in schools
so we don't end up with children who are broken by the system and the people working within it.