Smarty Smart Pants

We’ve been waiting patiently — and then not-so-patiently — for George to be tested for the gifted and talented program at his Mississippi school. He’s never been a kid who loves school, but in Starkville, he’s been doubly miserable.

“Everyone talks too much.”

“We’re always in trouble because the whole class acts up.”

“We lost recess again because kids were running around in class.”

“We’re doing the same things in fourth grade that I already learned in second grade.”

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Zionsville anymore.

He likes order and discipline, that one. At least in school. Home George is an entirely different story. Home George is the official destroyer of anything ordered and/or disciplined. He’s the button-pusher, the bear-poker. School George wants to do the right thing. And by the time he gets home, he’s done with all that nonsense.

There’s a program here called PEAK. It’s a hands-on, project-based, interactive program for high-achieving kids in the school district. George has been salivating about it. Every teacher who has come into contact with him has asked if he’s been tested for the program. We signed all the permission slips, forwarded his records, followed-up ad nauseum.

It’s December and he finally got in.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled that he’s in. He’s a different kid when I pick him up from school now. He’s engaged, he’s animated, he’s not crying. Major victories.

But DECEMBER? Really?

We met with his principal and a few others in the “testing” department to learn more about the process. And here’s what we learned.

It’s broken.

The whole flawed system is a debacle. If George had been identified as a slow reader, if he’d needed help to “catch up,” he would have received immediate assistance. But because he’s on the other end of the spectrum, he languished for four months while the process and paperwork played out ever so slowly. He was miserable, we were miserable, everyone who came into contact with him was miserable.

I’ve never been “that parent.” I believe my kids’ school work is their responsibility. If they have questions, I’ll answer them, but their success at school is entirely up to them. I’ve already been to school — it’s their turn. I’m so hands-off, in fact, that I distinctly remember the mother of one of Sam’s friends calling me about a math assignment a few years ago. The conversation went something like this…

FRIEND’S MOM: “Did you see question number 8 on page 127? Do you think it was misleading?”

ME: “They have math books?”

But this time around, I needed to advocate for my kid. He was lost in the system with no way out. Like a blind little baby mole, he was stumbling from day to day trying to make his way in a foreign and unfamiliar cave. And that cave was broken.

Broken.

From the day we arrived in Starkville, we knew George needed something more. We requested he be tested immediately (because Mississippi had to have its own scores — Indiana scores didn’t suffice).

And those tests — when they were finally administered — proved what we already knew. He’s smart. His IQ is ridiculously high. So high, in fact, that I’ll probably not be able to help him with his homework much beyond fifth grade. When sperm met egg at Chuck and Marcia’s house nearly ten years ago, he got the best of both of us. He might be loud and obnoxious and annoying (all from the sperm side of the equation, no doubt), but he’s one bright little dude. We knew this. He’s been building complex Lego sets since he could walk. Nothing thrills him more than dismantling a broken appliance to see where it failed. When something isn’t working in the house, I call Chris. If Chris isn’t around, I go to George.

It’s sad to me that kids on either end of the academic spectrum get left behind. He missed out on four months of potential learning because of The Process. Would it have been so horrific to go ahead and give him the benefit of the doubt and put him in the PEAK program from the get-go? When every teacher he dealt with indicated that he most definitely should have been there? Would it have been so wrong to teach the kid first and test him second?

When paperwork and process trump real learning, something is definitely amiss. Thank goodness he’s got a Dad whose going to change the face of public education in America. It’s high time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to gather my armor and swords. We’re off to fight the same battle at the middle school.

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About Katrina Anne Willis

Professional copywriter, author, friend, lover, dreamer, drinker of red wine.
This entry was posted in Big Thinks, My Kids and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Smarty Smart Pants

  1. Andi H. says:

    I have a refrigerator with a non-working ice maker and water dispenser…send George over anytime! So glad he is happier at school!

  2. Sammi says:

    It is really sad, but the education system in America is letting down lots of children. I had a few students in my classroom this semester who GREATLY needed to be at the IPS school for Gifted and Talented students because the rest of their classmates were pulling them down. We’d assign something, they’d be done in 2.4 seconds and it would be the most thorough and thoughtful work I’d ever seen, and then they’d sit there bored for 30 minutes. Then on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have students who desperately need special help from outside sources other than myself as a teacher, and it’s taken since August to even get the paper work started. I was still working on documentation the day I left. it’s ridiculous how EVERYTHING in education is about standardized testing now. Everything we do is geared toward our children passing the ISTEP (or whatever it is that you take in Mississippi). For one part of the day my teaching partner and I got to say “F#@$ the ISTEP” and we designed and implemented a 5 week Unit of Study where our kids go to write their own How-To pieces about something they were good at and knew how to do. We researched, talked, brainstormed, held conferences, and wrote draft after draft after draft. I’ve never seen my students so engaged. Every single one of them produced high quality work and received and A or B, in comparison to the crap that’s mandated by the district to prepare them for ISTEP that more than half the class fails. America needs a change. It should be about the kids, but sadly it’s not. If Chris needs any help with that movement, i’ll be the first to volunteer.

    But congrats to George for FINALLY making it in, he’s an exceptional little boy and I hope he shows all those people just how wrong they were for holding him back.

    Miss you guys.

  3. Brook says:

    I have a snow globe that is suppose to blow the snow when turned on…but no blowing going on–GEORGE HELP!!! 🙂
    Glad to hear the good news although I agree completely that they dropped the ball and smashed it!
    BTW..I will pass on the info to Mom and Chuck that they have a “magical” house 🙂
    love and miss you guys!

  4. Dawn Pier says:

    Congrats to George!! And for you two for creating someone who will contribute to making this planet a better place. 🙂

  5. Mirv says:

    I love the way you write–the way you express yourself! And its obvious you both are fantastic and caring parents! Hurray– for your kids.

  6. Greg Clark says:

    You like wine…right? There is an old saying…the struggling vine produces the best fruit. Let him struggle a bit. Don’t give them any excuse (well George if we were in Indiana…). And take matters into you own hands and I don’t mean the school admin, I mean hook up with the Kahn Academy and create your own enrichment program. MS is not IN. Ask people what they pay in property taxes and Google the % attainment of undergrad degree in MS. Nuff said.

  7. Faber says:

    Tried some of that logic this morning but, I too, was thwarted by The Process, The Man, The System, etc…

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