Thursday, August 7, 2014

Final Plea for Support

My friend shared this clip on Facebook today, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. (I like it better on mute--more powerful, I think.)
It's so scary to step out of your comfort zone--to put your heart and soul into something--because there's always the possibility you'll fail.

Tomorrow I will take the biggest leap I've ever taken: presenting my ideas for Mesa Public Schools to revamp how the district addresses the needs of its gifted students. Here is my final plea for your support on this issue, and a little more information about what it's like to be a gifted student.

I know how threatening or elitist or condescending the word gifted can come across. If it were up to me, I would love to use some other word to identify these kids with their unique needs: divergent thinker, accelerated thinker, atypical thinker, anything that isn't so loaded as the word gifted.

The problem is--gifted is the term used by the education community, and my hands are tied to the community's terminology. One educator tried to erase the divisive and elitist attitude associated with the term gifted, returning it to "the root of the meaning of the word--that which is given." When you think about it that way, it seems more definitive than exclusive. Explaining to people that gifted kids don't do anything to be gifted--they were born that way--can help further everyone's understanding of the term. 

I wish I could communicate to you how different and difficult it is to be a gifted child in the world. Few kids in your class think like you. Few kids like what you like. Most kids don't understand your perspective or your quirkiness. School work never approaches your ability level. For example, I was in Evie's kindergarten classroom yesterday--first day of school--and one little girl, A, read aloud the words "Level of Learning" written on the board. How are her needs going to be met while the teacher explains to my daughter and the other kindergartners that the letter D says, "Duh"? How is she expected to sit still and pay attention?

Have you ever had an experience like this--sitting in a room where you already know everything that is being said or taught? How hard is it for you to concentrate (without making rude comments to your friend under your breath or pulling out your phone to play a game or check Facebook or text someone)? Kids do that same thing. They begin to read other books or doodle on a page or (for many) act out for a little attention--and this behavior unfairly becomes their fault somehow, because they're never really taught that they think differently from everyone else. Year after year of these unfulfilling experiences teach many gifted thinkers that school has nothing to offer them--that school never will have anything to offer them--so they shut off to the learning experience entirely.

Here are a few statistics. Up to 30% of high school dropouts are identified as gifted kids sometime in their school career, while 50% of gifted kids never reach the level of academic achievement that they were identified with as elementary students. (For more information from the perspective of an underachieving gifted kid, you can click here for a page on my "For Mesa's Gifted Kids" blog.)

School fails to meet the needs of so many gifted thinkers--kids who should be excelling in the thinking environment. Regardless of the label used, these kids need different academic experiences, and as a general rule, school isn't providing them.

I've done the research. I've asked the questions. I've identified some problems. I need your help and support so that the administrators at MPS will listen.

Many of the heroes mentioned in the above clip are poster children for gifted thinkers--Einstein, Edison, Lincoln, Jobs--Mr. "Think Different" himself. They tried and failed and tried and failed until they succeeded. I'm afraid I may fail, but I'm not afraid to jump. Jump with me.

Go to this website,, read the information I've assembled, then join your voice with us for change. For some reason, the comments section of that blog isn't working properly. To add your signature to the petition, please email me (and any comments or suggestions you may have) at and I will add your name. If you read through the comments on the petition page, and your signature is missing, please email me as well. 

Time is short. I present to the district tomorrow morning.



  1. Im so proud of what you are doing, Jen! Go get em girl!!

  2. How can they possibly NOT listen to you?

  3. I am rooting for you all the way. I only wish I lived nearby so my signature would have some meaning.

    I do remember sitting in classes already knowing everything that was being taught, and it was not a good experience.

    As I said earlier, I really hope they have the sense to take advantage of your knowledge and expertise and willingness to share them.


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