Who knew being smart could be a bad thing?


November 16, 2012 by vlittle528

I don’t even quite know how to express how disappointing it was for me. Before kids, I used to have daydreams of how perfect that first Parent/Teacher conference was going to be. After all, I was a little Ms. “had to be perfect” student so my conferences were usually pretty good. And then came my son. Little Mr. too-smart-for-his-own-good. His preschool teachers LOVED him. All the girls thought he was so cute. All the little boys wanted to play with him. He was outgoing, smart, fun-loving and nothing could bring him down. He was beyond ready to start kindergarten.

I pretty much thought it was in the bag that his first “official” conference (aka Kindergarten) would be amazing. That his teacher would rave over how much she loved him and how popular he was with the other students, and how he was the smartest little booger she ever taught. I didn’t really expect that I would walk away literally wondering what the hell just happened.

As a little disclaimer, I should say that I love his teacher. I have a great deal of respect for her. I think she is great with the students, she isn’t a pushover, and my son enjoys her. I also volunteer in class and talk to her at least for a minute or so each day. So it isn’t like we haven’t talked before about my son. In the beginning of the year when he tested, she admitted that she didn’t often see a student on the level of my son, particularly ones that were naturally born that way (yeah, I would love to say that I molded that little brilliant brain of his, but my body just naturally made it. I know you enjoy that positive twist there). She is the one that tested him and told me that he reads on the level of a fifth grader. And even though I resisted, I finally saw some of her thinking behind keeping my son reading books that seemed too young for him. I have also been warned by other moms of little brainiacs that “social issues” of some sort was going to become my battle. I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Disclaimer over šŸ™‚

So back to the conference. Mrs. D. put a piece of paper in front of me where there were all three’s. I didn’t even have time to ask if that was good or middle of the road, much less look at what the categories even WERE before she waved them away saying “we both know he is good at all of that, what I am concerned with is…” and led me to the direction of listening and following directions. She told me that she is getting more and more concerned that he seems to just not be paying attention and not listening etc. Yes, I KNOW my son has a bit of an issue with getting distracted. I am the one that sets a timer for each activity he does in the morning and tells him to race the timer because I refuse to get up any earlier than the hour I think it should take us to get ready. But when the words “pediatrician” and “ADD” came out of her, I felt MYSELF stop listening to her and wondering what sort of alternative world I suddenly fell into. My son? The little man who is only five and can add and subtract, count money, tell time and read chapter books? We aren’t going to talk about ANY of that? Instead I am hearing we have an issue? I need to get him tested-and not for what level of math he is doing?

I nodded my head and listened and agreed to get him tested. Mrs. D. told me that my son even sincerely told her thank you when she helped him by talking to just him and telling him what to put in his backpack before they left. She said that to her this indicated that he may really be struggling with remembering and taking in everything he was supposed to be. I sat there and listened like I used to when I would be having a conversation with my mom about something, and I knew she didn’t understand what I really felt, but I didn’t feel confident enough to say anything. Inside I was screaming that it wasn’t that he didn’t remember, he was thanking her because he loved the individualized attention that he was getting from her. He loved being recognized by her. He felt special because he was spending time with her. My mom gut knows this, my “parent in the teacher’s office” side of me was afraid if I was wrong I would look stupid.

She briefly showed me some of his “example work”. Again saying it was nothing we didn’t expect, and she did point out how nicely he wrote his numbers. And then she got to a matching page, and as an example of him not really being “into it”, she pointed out that his lines were wavy instead of straight. In some vain effort to make it up to him that I didn’t stand up for him earlier, I too-forcibly declared that he did that because he thinks the wavy lines are more fun and look neater. Heck, if I wasn’t challenged I would try to make my work more interesting, too.

And then came the final kicker. She said she would think about recommending him for early G&T but he would have to do beyond fantastic work on the test out. Well, if that is the case then we are screwed. The only way I get this boy to do beyond fantastic work is when I go to the computer and print out work that is above his grade level. Then he gets excited and takes pride in the work he is doing. Otherwise he is bored and does it quickly, just to “get it over with”

When I came home and saw other glowing status’ about the conferences I felt let down. I wasn’t angry or upset with my son, definitely not disappointed. How could I be? He is very very smart, way ahead of where he should be. He doesn’t get into trouble, he isn’t mean to other kids, she didn’t mention any social issues. But I could see how it would be hard to be smart. If there isn’t enough time in class, you are the one who is skipped for one-onone reading because “you can do it.” If you are sick of counting to 100 by tens and decide to try to count to 10,000 in your head you “aren’t paying attention.” You are the only one on the level you are, so you aren’t paid attention to, and you can’t get recognized for progressing in your work because there is nowhere to go from where you are and what you are given.

We hope for the best for our children. While we rub our big round bellies we wish and dream that they will be so sweet and kind, generous and smart. What I didn’t realize while I was rubbing that big belly was that it may have been easier for both of us if I just hoped for him to be average. But my son never has been average. He has always been exceptional. And it is up to me to be a stronger mom than I was and find a better than average answer to his problem. Because being smart shouldn’t be a bad thing.


2 thoughts on “Who knew being smart could be a bad thing?

  1. Lucretia says:

    It’s not a bad thing. Don’t ever let anyone make you believe it is either. We all have our challenges and our rows to hoe… In the middle, you never seem to shine – people just don’t notice. In the lower end, everything makes sense to people around you but it just doesn’t click for you no matter how hard you want it to. In the upper end, there’s a lot of boredom and isolation.

    But it’s not being smart that’s the bad thing, it’s being in the wrong place for your talents to be nurtured and your challenges to be accommodated. So fortunate that your Kindergarten teacher is paying enough attention to catch it. Because it is much harder when it’s something you have to press for other people to notice. “Oh it’s normal to get distracted at this age” or “s/he can’t possibly be ready for that level, look at this thing we’ve had them doing for the past 4 days, s/he didn’t even finish it…” when it’s more that the teacher has too many students to notice that the distraction level isn’t normal and that s/he mastered the 4-day-old concept 15 minutes in and is ready to chew a limb off to escape the repetitive torture.

    There are limitations to what a school that has to be directed toward the middle 80% can do. They certainly aren’t set up to handle twice-exceptional kids (which are actually pretty common.) I’m afraid the answer lies in looking for the right fit for him, not having him fit into the mold.

  2. […] last post I wrote about my son was about his teacher’s conference in which she suggested getting him […]

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