Katie from Tomahawk and 25 of her
gifted peers spent a day in January with me focusing on self-advocacy -
creating their learner profiles and plotting their unique paths to
graduation.We also took time to
vent some frustrations.
Thank you, Katie, for sharing your heartfelt and provocative
Thank You for the Cages.
There was once a time
When there were no cages.
I was too smart,
And led me
down a sticky-sweet road
gleefully agreeing to be chained
To kids I
Who had already
And I was an
awkward, missing button.
for the cage.
It was once
To be strong
To live in
my own way.
injected the wicked serum
Into the students
pulsing toward middle school
quarantined, and stayed different.
want the sameness
Until it was
for the cage.
I was once
free to frolic
To play, and
enjoy all things movement.
snapped up the kids,
All but me,
the odd one out,
them like packages
rounds of sports,
I was thrown
into the group
Of the few
kids who hadn’t chosen sports
At age seven
simply hadn’t wanted to.
And now it
was too late.
for the cage.
I once felt
the joy of difference,
nectar of being admired and different.
un-sameness attracted attention,
friends and enjoyment.
weirdness became repetitive and annoying,
sideshow everyone’s already seen
And moved on
to the next novelty,
alone with my new identity
to vent my wayward thoughts
replace the companions I thought were mine.
for the cage.
I had no
choice but to be alone.
learned to enjoy it.
learned that this was acceptable.
any weak ties to others severed,
my freedom, my flexibility
many others seemed to crave.
my lone wolf status.
talking behind your back”.
some adequate social behavior from the bottom
This year marks two milestones in Wisconsin’s gifted history:
·40 years ago the Wisconsin Council for Gifted
and Talented was formed, our first state advocacy organization.
·20 years ago Wisconsin parents and educators
joined their separate advocacy groups to form the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted.
We are thrilled to be working with archivists at the
Wisconsin Historical Society to preserve our history.Our “History Hunters,” a group of Wisconsin gifted education
pioneers, are collecting and recollecting the stories of our work.
As I listen to their tales of struggle from 40 years ago I’m
saddened that the same struggles exist today.Yet I’m also encouraged. For I remember that it was they and their efforts
that made all the difference for my own kids over 25 years ago. And it was their voices I heard and responded to, their research I relied on and their organization that supported me
when I began my own professional journey into gifted education.
I’m reminded of the butterfly effect: What may have begun
with just one small flutter of wings in 1973 changed the history of gifted
education in Wisconsin.It
also changed my life and my children’s lives . . . and no doubt the lives of
thousands of others throughout the years and throughout the world.
And what about the future?Rather than feeling disheartened by the struggles that lie
ahead, I’m energized.For
today we parents and educators continue to work together for the sake of our gifted
children.We have successes; we
have failures.But I believe those
seemingly small steps we take each day for the sake of one child . . . those
little wing flutters in the Wisconsin wilderness . . . will also impact lives around
We stand on the shoulders (or maybe we fly on the wings?) of
some very wise and wonderful people.
Comparing academics to sports isn't new to advocates for gifted kids, but William's comments area good indication that those outside the field also recognize the inequity.
I'm not sure where it came from, but the decades old story told by educators of the gifted goes something like this:
So I walked into my high school principal's office and asked for a few minutes of his time. "I'd like you to consider this proposal," I said.
"I'd like to select a handful of our best students and allow them to work together with specialists in their talent area for 3 or 4 hours each day. Then they could interact with other students with similar interests and abilities. The adults would be good role models, experts who could work individually with the students, perfecting their skills, making sure each is appropriately challenged."
"We'll need a bigpart of the schoolbuilding for our program. And lots of specialized equipment. Probably a budget of $500,000 a year or more."
"I'd also like the kids to go to other schools several times a week to interact with and learn from kids just like them. We'd need busing and chaperones, of course. And also school logo clothing for each of them would be nice, just to show that we're proud of them and wantothers to know they're from our school."
"As a matter of fact, I think this selection process should begin in elementary school where we'll identify the most promising students and provide year-round programming for them, includingsummer camps and after school lessons. That way, by the time they reach high school they will truly be our best and our brightest."
"Are you crazy?" he said. "That would be elitist."
"No," I said. "That would be our athletic program."