As I got older, school became less and less relevant for me. By the time I got to high school, I felt as if I would jump out of my skin every time I had to endure a class. I schemed and plotted of ways to get loose, using up every possible tardy and absence the school district would allow. I joined student government because I discovered that I could get free passes out of class. My grades depended on what I thought the teacher deserved. If I liked the teacher, I would provide the teacher with “A” work. If I didn’t, I would get a D - on purpose. This was my way of punishing bad teachers. In my warped brain, I thought I was punishing them if I got bad grades.
I knew I was smart, but it wasn’t really important to me. Years later, when I was in college, I happened to see my IQ score from all those years ago flashing on a computer screen, and was stunned at how high it was. Things came very easily to me, but I never really put it together with the concept of IQ. This was fascinating to me at this time since I was struggling to learn who I was and what I wanted out of life. So, I started reading articles about “gifted” children and realized that I was one. I had all the telltale signs: daydreaming, constant questioning, preferring the company of adults over kids, gaming the teachers, and somehow always feeling just a little bit “out of step” with others. I learned that the traits I had did not always translate into high success in life, and that most kids who are labeled as “gifted” turn out to be very normal adults, who lead very ordinary lives.
To me, this business of putting kids into kindergarten, based on the calendar, and putting them into programs based on tests, makes no sense at all. Teachers really do understand who is ready for kindergarten. For some this may be at age 4, and for others not until about age 6. Yet, our society has set arbitrary dates for the start of formal schooling based on chronological age, and what is convenient for the system. We really don’t need tests. Turn a young child loose with a qualified early childhood or kindergarten teacher for about 15 minutes, and she can tell you if the child is ready. Create systems with flexible pupil progression, allowing kids to move forward then they are ready, not when the calendar says it is time. We really don’t need to put kids in specific grades each year. They can function quite well in multi-age classrooms that are structured in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them. I am not suggesting anything new here. Maria Montessori had this brainchild way back in the early 1900’s. I used this way of progressing children at my school in Florida called Renaissance Academy with great success. This allows gifted children and those on the other end of the spectrum to flourish together in a nurturing, humane environment. What a wonderful world it would be if we could provide all kids exactly what they need to learn, at the moment they need it!