Friday, March 8, 2013

The Un-Gifted's Gift

All day yesterday I was feeling anxious. It was conference night at my kids' school and I feared the worst. Not so much with my second grader because I knew he was doing fine, although not always showing his best work, but on target in the necessary areas.

It was my first grader my mind was reeling over.

Now, I've always known my daughter is witty and funny and a delight to be around. She makes us laugh or say, "Aw, so cute!" every day. But when it comes to study habits and academics, it's a struggle. Schoolwork for her is a have-to, not want-to. I get that. I was like that in school too. Under-achiever of the year. Every year. LOL. I never flunked out or anything, but unless the subject interested me, it wasn't worth my best effort. And homework was something done right before class started in the mornings.

Mind you, this is a terrible way to be and Hubby and I are desperately trying to instill better study habits in our kids. We want the best for them, obviously, and understand it won't always be easy getting them to understand that.

Aside from that, most of my close friends have gifted children. Even my relatives. School is easy for their kids--even understimulating--and they don't have to struggle at all. Talking about kids and school  with these friends and family is like me making a science project for the MIT science fair. Totally out of my league. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fab so many of my friends and relatives have gifted children and hope to see everyone of them highly successful! But when my little girl is struggling to spell easy words and mixing up addition with subtraction, sometimes I feel like I live on a different planet.

So when it was time for the conference with her teacher I was biting my nails. Almost certain I'd hear the words she wasn't going to move on to second grade. I already had my speech ready--I'd promise to get her a tutor and work hard all summer if she could pretty please go on to second grade.

Her teacher started with the good news, that my daughter's the best in her reading group and has come such a long way since the beginning of the year. Phew! That was a relief. I knew her reading had improved immensely and we read EVERY night. But that wasn't the part I was worried about. Her writing (go figure!) and math are where she struggles.

BUT! Her teacher said she will move onto second grade, and does think a tutor would be helpful (since she hates learning from her mom. Go figure!) and that she rushes through the work instead of taking the time. I knew that already. No news to me there. I was relieved to hear she'd make to second grade.

Marginal note here ------>  I love working with my kids and teaching them, but they don't like learning from me--they just don't see me as a teacher in that aspect, which is hard for me, but it is what it is. And while I strongly believe their school is vital to their success, neither do I want to stress out a 6 year old about it either. They have their whole lives to be stressed. I believe childhood should be about learning, as well as blossoming into likable, confident individuals. <End of soapbox rant>

Then came the news I was expecting: she's having trouble with writing and math and needs lots of work. *sweat beads on my forehead* But then! Her teacher went on to say that we shouldn't worry too too much. Huh?

I stopped to listen.

This teacher is an older lady, been teaching over 20 years, and a tiny bit intimidating. Sometimes she can sound militant and curt, but I also know she genuinely cares for her students. She had my full attention, and she looked into my eyes and said something that lifted the academically ungifted  weight right off my shoulders. She said aside from my daughter's struggles, she is a kind, happy, helpful little girl. One who goes out of her way to pat another kid on the back if they're feeling sad. She radiates joy with a genuine spirit. (I'm sure my eyes were twinkling at this point.) Teacher went on to say that, while her academic performance needs to improve, these other qualities are so much more important--that she's taught genius kids who didn't have an ounce of respect or personality, and that, as parents, we should be proud of the amazing person our daughter is.

*sniff sniff* I almost hugged that teacher right then.

While it's not the exact words every parent dreams of hearing when imagining the success of their children, it made me stop and appreciate my daughter's strengths. It reminded me that, as people, we all have different strengths and weaknesses. As writers, our stories all have different strengths and weaknesses.

Which is why we need each other. *insert People Who Need People song here*

If we were all self-sufficient and brilliant in every way we wouldn't need anyone and thus, live a lonely life. It was a perfect reminder that we all shine in our own way--and the bits that don't shine, can, after lots of polishing.

And here's someone who is gifted and shining brightly today. I'm sure her mom is extra proud!!

Jessica Mckendry's YA book is out for sale today and it's awesome! Super excited for her. Click on the gorgeous cover below to purchase.

 Exploring the nature of self-reliance and self-confidence, McKendry delivers a perceptive, nuanced portrait of the importance of teamwork and the strain it puts on individual desires and motivations. Playing with the concepts of dark and light, her novel is a complex coming of age story that encapsulates the complicated hero’s journey from student to leader. A dark tale of love and revenge, From the Ashes is a powerful reminder to think for yourself instead of blindly following what you’ve been taught to believe   

Find Jessica on her blog here. And on GoodReads here. Congrats Jess!

And to everyone else, thanks so much for stopping by! Have an excellent weekend! Do you let your strengths shine over your weaknesses? Have you, at times, overlooked your own gifts? Or your childrens'? Has a teacher helped you see the light when you least expected it? Please share ...


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

PK, that was wonderful news! What's more valuable - someone who is giving, caring, and works well with others or a super smart jerk? With a tutor, she can fix the academic stuff. Her real gift comes natural and will take her great places. Be proud, mom.
And congratulations to Jess!

Suzi said...

That's a great story. I can probably apply it to my 3rd grader. I always feel like he's struggling, and so far, he's usually at the lower end of average, but he's always in acceptable range. And he ends up with Bs. And that's not bad.

But he's a great kid and the teacher has told me several times how nice it is that he listens and does as told. He also tends to be the more quiet one.

He has a lot of good friends in his class, and although academically, they are smarter, they also tend to be the active boys, giving the teacher a challenge. Which is why she appreciates him too. (I wish he just listened as well at home. But it's always different w/the parents.)

So for me, I worry about this same kind of thing. And although the teacher didn't say what yours did, she is still happy with his improvements. Which reassures me a little too.

I don't want him to hate school, but I want him to be successful too. So it's hard to find that balance of how hard to push.

Rebecca Green Gasper said...

PK- What a beautiful story- brought tears to my eyes. Your daughter is going to be amazing :)

Congrats to Jessica. I will be checking out her book :)

Barbara Watson said...

What a beautiful thing! It's so important for teachers to recognize that while schoolwork is key, being a caring person is even more so.

Karen Walker said...

Pk, that teacher is so so right. I watch my friends with young children struggle with these issues and the most important thing is to love our children unconditionally. It's hard when we want what we think is best for them.

Johanna Garth said...

I can't tell you how much I relate to this post. My daughter has some kind of processing disorder that no one can quite figure out. Which means, she does okay at school but it's not a joy for her either. I've taught myself to focus on all the other amazing pieces of her personality and skills, but it's so painful (still) when we talk about things like self-esteem and she says to me "Sometimes the other kids in my class make me feel like I'm stupid." Big hugs to you and for your teacher. Maybe the most important thing I've learned over the years is no one has the whole package. We all have obstacles to overcome and things that come easily to us.

Marsha Sigman said...

Love this, PK. Every child is gifted in their own way.

kmckendry said...

A beautiful story PK. I'm so glad her teacher recognizes what is really important in life. She will get those other things, but what matters is who she is as a person, not what she knows.

And yes I'm extremely proud of Jessica! But guess what...she has always been terrible speller!! :)

Old Kitty said...

You have an amazing gorgeous talented daughter and she is very lucky to have a kind teacher who sees her potential and a fab mum and dad and family who treasure her too! Yay! Take care

M Pax said...

Congrats to Jess! It's great to know others see your daughter's strengths.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, PK. Thanks for sharing that sweet post. You took me back a bit. My oldest is in college now, but he was the one who gave me headaches with grades. I would find the report cards or progress reports in the mail and cringe. His younger brother (now a Freshman in high school) would easily have straight A's. I didn't bother opening his until after I said a prayer and then opened his brothers first. *sigh* It was never good news. What was worse was how they can easily see their scores on-line every day, but wouldn't warn me that a temporary F was on its way to me until I'd already seen it. *Slaps head*
On the other hand, if a few poor grades is all we'll have trouble with, then we really do have nothing at all to complain about, do we? :)
I hope you have been well, my friend. Sorry it's been so long. *waves*


Joyce Lansky said...

Just because a child is intellectually gifted does not mean that they have no struggles. "I will" will take someone a lot further than "IQ." It's important to develop good study habits; however, a lot of these gifted kids are so used to getting /A/s without studying in the younger grades that they never learn how to study. Come middle school, they may be earning Cs, Ds, or even Fs. Others have a perfectionistic wiring that turns into a failure to perform. "If I do my best and get a B, I'm no good; however, if I don't study and get an F, it's not because anything is wrong with me, it's because I didn't study." It's a vicious circle. I spend three days a week trying to motivate gifted middle school kids to do their work. On the other days, I teach second and third grade gifted kids who are sometimes unhappy in school because the work is too easy and their parents put extreme pressure on them to make all /A/s. If school challenges your child and meets her needs, you might want to count your blessings. The grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side.

fOIS In The City said...

PK ... I'd say the hardest part of being a mother is not to teach them academics, but to teach them to be kind and giving, to mold them into good people. So wonderful to know your little "pixie" is a king and loving person. The other stuff will catch up with her :)

DL Hammons said...

I would take the qualities your daughter possesses over an A in math EVERYTIME! It sounds like she's on her way to earning a 4.0 in humanity! Kudo's to the teacher for not only recognizing it, but pointing it out to you! :)

E.J. Wesley said...

One: Your daughter has a superb teacher. The best, really. Academics are just one small piece of development, and a good teacher will understand, and value, all of the other stuff that goes into it just as much.

Two: You and I are twins when it comes to school stuff. I put it on cruise control until my senior year, just because I could. If a class interested me, I was in honors. (Seriously, I was on the academic competition team in history and English.) If it didn't, I was a solid C student.

Most of that had to do with my post-HS ambitions. I didn't have them. lol Until the summer before senior year that is.

All of my friends (most of whom did study hard and excelled at every aspect of school) were all discussing which college they were going to, etc. after graduation, and I hadn't even considered college. Then they started talking about how they were going to concurrently enroll at our tiny community college during the upcoming year to get a head start on some credits--plus, they'd get out of HS half-a-day, every day.

I was sold! lol I took the very next ACT offering and scored high enough to take speech, English Comp, a history, and a science class at the college.

Everything changed from then on. Something clicked with college vs HS--I embraced the nerd in me and really tried at everything. Truthfully, I think there was JUST enough freedom in college to finally let me be the person I wanted to be. I went on to get a master's degree and graduated Magna cum laude at both undergrad and graduate levels. (I won't even tell you what my class rank was leaving HS, but I'll just say I wasn't in the top 50% of my class--slacker, through-and-through, this guy.)

Anyway, I like to think that BOTH of us can give hope for your daughter. As you say, it doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to show her a different path. (God knows if had I taken things more seriously, I wouldn't still be paying off student loans!) But she sounds like such a beautiful soul, and that's truly something to celebrate.

She can learn to be a good student, and how to work hard, and how to find what's important and what's not. But I'm not at all sure you can really teach kindness and creativity.

Way to go mom! :-)

Annalisa Crawford said...

What a great report from your daughter's teacher. Kids make you proud, don't they? :-)

Anonymous said...

Congrats to your daughter for being an outstanding citizen, and to you for raising one! My first child is gifted by a miracle of God, not due to inheritance from either one of her parents, lol. But my second one struggles big time with math, as I did. Luckily, I'm a teacher and can tutor her over the summer to get her prepared for the next year. I guess she doesn't have a problem with seeing me as a teacher since I am one, lol. She often tells me she's lucky to have a mom that's a teacher too:-)She also has a speech problem, so although she writes wonderful stories, her spelling is not great since she writes like she speaks and she doesn't say words correctly! She goes to speech therapy twice a week. As a teacher, I look at the students strengths and make sure I continually praise those. I find the biggest obstacle is kids believing they can't do something. When you build their self esteem, it's amazing what they're willing to do for you!

Shelly said...

Linked this back to my blog. Very sweet, PK.

Hugs and chocolate,

mshatch said...

I'd be proud to have a little girl like yours and how nice of her teacher to point out that there's more to being a person than a brain; there's a heart, too.

Carol Riggs said...

That is SWEET. And so awesome the teacher realized there are more important things than excelling in studies. Yay!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I was a slow elementary school learner, late bloomer, and never did quite get the hang of getting my stuff done ahead of time (I've done homework walking to school) and I've learned to survive.

And a teacher who recognizes the child behind the grades is absolutely golden!

LTM said...

omg! I love that teacher so much!!! That just made me all misty. I mean, sure you can't make them be born with a genius mind, but you also can't make them be born with a genius heart. And I guess of the two, I'd choose the second. Bravo, girl! Sounds like you're doing everything right~ ((hugs)) <3 <3

Michelle said...

PK so true! I posted something similar today!
We all have different abilities and gifts! It would be very boring if we were all the same!
And I L-O-V-E that Barbara Streisand song!!!

Nick Wilford said...

It's not every teacher that would praise the positive, personable aspects of a child rather than just academic ability. She sounds like a good one! And yeah, things would be pretty boring if we were all brilliant at everything - learning is something that never stops.

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Jay Noel said...

My first grader is also the one I worry about. She has issues with sensory overload. And she gets frustrated easily.

I used to be a high school English teacher, and my students noticed that I didn't treat my kids like a grade. I had A students I couldn't stand!

E.Q. is more important than I.Q.

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Leslie S. Rose said...

How exciting for Jessica. And now speaking from the other side of the conference chair - Really a tutor in first grade? Hey, here's a wild idea, maybe let her brain actually develop until it's ready for the crazy concepts our society tries to stuff into our kids. BTW - I've been a college professor and an elementary school teacher for over twenty years and my own kids NEVER listened to my sage wisdom when it came to their school work. *sigh*

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

If it helps any, I was the one who loved school, and my grades showed it. Whereas, my little brother hated school, and if he had of failed another semester of some class I don't remember, he would not have graduated high school when he was supposed to. Well, I have proven to be pretty much a miserable failure in the eyes of this world, and he has had a fairly successful life. Sigh.

Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

Everyone's gift is a different one. You can make up for scholastic difficulty with time and determination. You can't just make someone a good person, that's much harder.

William Kendall said...

Quite a great story, PK.

And congratulations to Jessica!

Maria Dunn said...

Hi PK. I love your writing style! I wanted to finish your story and I couldn't help tearing up and smiling with you at the most important words about your daughter. What a great teacher, also, to help you see the beauty of your daughter's strengths in such a positive and powerful way.

And if your kids don't want to be 'taught' by you, just read with them and learn with them and do all the wonderful things you do with them and don't let them know you are teaching them. You obviously are successfully teaching them very important things, how to be joyful and to encourage others to be joyful to. Loved your story. Thank you. God bless and Happy Easter. Maria at Delight Directed Living