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The Tantrum: Is Gifted & Talented Evil & Shameful?

October 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

classroomShort answer: No, but it’s unlikely to be worth the trouble.

In my childhood, these programs were called TAG, not G&T. (I read the latter abbreviation as “gin & tonic,” which is a lovely summer diversion for parents, less so for 8-year-olds.) Gifted programs were new to the school district, and ours called for a little knot of seven or eight of us to be pulled out of class once a week, for a couple of hours’ Time to Do Creative Things. My memory of those classes is significantly faint. I think there were word puzzles and other brain-teasers. I do remember the first teacher I worked with, a guy named Bob Ginsberg, who was funny and clever and made me feel smarter principally because he talked to us like adults. Ran into him regularly through my high-school years, and I think of him surprisingly often, and fondly.

But I also remember the following year, when Dr. Ginsberg got kicked upstairs to administer something or other, and a new teacher was given the gig. She was an elementary-school lifer, and what I remember was that (a) her classes were fairly uninteresting, and (b) we were a little bored by them, and (c) she became snappish at us because we weren’t Being Creative. And a couple of years later, I recall hearing that she’d stopped running the TAG program, and had even become a little bit embittered by the whole thing–like it had been her shot at a dream gig, and she hadn’t been up to it. In fact, a few years after that, she dropped dead.

Well. Reading this, I suppose I’m painting a more negative picture of the whole experience than it actually was. I mean, I got to step out of class for a few hours and do puzzles. That’s hard to call a bad thing. But I do wonder, given the limitations of the experience I had, whether it’s realistic to expect anything out of such a program. If it’s so dependent on teaching skill, and teachers who can deliver are so thin on the ground that even in a well-funded suburban school system we went one for two… would my son be better off spending more time on the standard everyday curriculum? Would the better G&T program be just an hour on Saturday morning with his dad, sharing the Times crossword? Could be. And neither of us will end up embittered and prematurely dead. I hope.

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