A Rose by Any Other Name

Barbara Vandecreek is the author of the Math Rules! Series published by Pieces of Learning. This post was written in May of 2006 and just made it to the top of the pile again. I thought it deserved a re-post. Please share it! – Tyler Young

 

by Barbara Vandecreek

I fell for it too… disguise the name of the class. We don’t want to offend anyone, don’t want the kids to stand out from the others. People thought it was invoking elitism to call students ‘gifted.’ The first district I worked in called the pull-out, “Challenge Class.”

You know I still get a funny feeling inside when I meet someone and am asked what I do. New conversations always go to that, “So you’re a teacher.” Then predictably, “What do you teach?” Reluctantly I answer, “gifted.” I’ve been teaching gifted for over twenty years. You’d think I’d get over it. I feel like I’m trying to show off or something, a false pride in working with smart kids. Do special ed teachers get the feeling that they’re special? Coaches don’t have any problem saying they coach. They’re proud of it and expect applause. Some, not all.

A neighbor of mine once took umbrage when he overheard me tell a guest at a party that I “taught gifted.” He puffed out his chest mockingly and told me that I sounded pompous. Did I really sound pompous or was that his projection? How do I know if it’s in my mind or his? Why do people feel that way? Is it intimidating for them? After all, I do point out that I teach gifted. I’m careful not to say I’m a gifted teacher. I don’t know if they catch the distinction.

Some of the names given to cover up the identification of gifted classes include KARE (the acronym includes the name of the school district), EDGE, EL (Exceptional Learner), Endeavor, and many others. The cute names remind me how teachers used to call their reading groups: blue birds, robins, and eagles. Everyone knew that the eagles were the smart kids. No one had to tell them.

I must say that within the last few years the state organization in which I am a member has been encouraging districts to call the gifted classes gifted classes. I don’t think everyone does it yet. I know that because one question in the recent self-report each district must send to the state education department asks, “What is the local name your district uses for service, if any?” And, at a meeting of coordinators not long ago, a coordinator remarked that we need not use ‘that’ word. I sided with the coordinator who spoke up that if we called the class “Purple” everyone would know that the meaning of purple was ‘gifted’.

It hit me October 3rd, 2004 and never again will I hesitate to call my students gifted or my classes the gifted classes. I was watching the television program “Sunday Morning, CBS” and the commentator interviewed Ringo Starr. At one point Ringo said, and I quote, “I play the drums. That’s what I do. It’s God’s gift to me, so I do it the best I can.”

Now when my students and I talk about the class they are in I tell them like it is. High intelligence is a gift. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. You can’t pick it out from a set of choices. It is given to you, that’s why it’s called a gift. So, do the best you can with it. You don’t need to defend it. Don’t hide it. When someone gives you a gift you wear it, show it off, play with it, use it. Tell it like it is!

The local name my district uses for the service goes by no other name – “Gifted Class.”

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