Our job is to teach them to suck it up

There are many things which I believe it is my job to teach my children. I should teach them right from wrong. I should teach them to be kind to others. I should teach them how to get along in polite society and remember the Golden Rule and how to use their utensils properly and match their clothing and cook a decent meal and do their laundry without turning everything pink. It’s my job to teach them the things they need to know so that they can grow up and become productive, useful members of the society in which they live.

It is also my job to teach my children to take pride in the the areas where they excel, and to learn to cope with sub-standard or even (GASP!) failing performance in the areas in which they fall short. That also includes teaching them that they are likely NOT the best (and even in the areas in which they ARE the best, that may be a fleeting thing), and that that doesn’t entitle them to begrudge the folks who are.

It is ALL OF OUR JOBS to help our children reach their potential. Can we agree on that? I think we can.

What we apparently can’t agree upon is how that happens. And I want to stand up, right here, right now, and say that as long as my children are kind and basically good, I REFUSE to take on the responsibility of someone else feeling bad because of their successes. It’s unnecessary and asinine and I won’t do it.

Susan wrote a great post about this recently, and you should go read the whole thing because she says so much of what I want say, but this in particular sticks with me:

If my kids don’t get anything else out of sports, I hope they learn how to win and lose gracefully, how to play as part of a team, how to do their best. Healthy competition––supportive, constructive, enthusiastic competition––builds character.

My generation of parents doesn’t really believe this, it seems. We believe that saying NO to our kids harms their self esteem, that uniforms restrict creativity, that keeping score encourages hurt feelings.

I don’t buy any of that. In fact, I think we’re underestimating our kids and their ability to dig deep and succeed, and to feel good about making the effort.

Winning is fun; doing your best is fun; being part of a team is fun. Being told that everyone is equal and that no one is better than anyone else is boring. I’m tired of pretending that no one wins.

You know what? I got a couple of comments (and an email) yesterday that basically boiled down to: “Oh, but having a gifted program makes the other kids FEEL BAD.” I did respond to one remark in the comments, but the longer I thought about it the more I wanted to make my position absolutely clear (and I am not picking on anyone who responded this way; this is about wanting to discuss the issue, not about trying to give anyone grief, I swear).

Susan hits the nail on the head. Our generation has been taught that we should tell our kids that EVERYONE IS EQUAL and WINNING DOESN’T MATTER. Believing that all human beings are of equal worth and entitled to the same opportunities IS NOT THE SAME AS deciding that everyone has exactly the same strengths and weaknesses. Believing that playing a sport or participating in other organized activities are important just for the fun of it DOES NOT PRECLUDE keeping score and having winners.

I believe this down to the tips of my toes, in every possible way, and not just because my kids are labeled as being “gifted.” It annoys me to think that I’m supposed to not want the best possible education for them because it might hurt someone’s feelings. That’s ridiculous. I live in a very poor school district, in a state which consistently ranks in the bottom five in the country for public school education. I happen to believe in the public school system, for all sorts of reasons. And back up north there was no gifted program and that was fine with me—the overall level of academia at that school was really different, and I was satisfied with the education the children were receiving. Believe me when I say that in THIS school, in THIS district, my children need (and yes, DESERVE) this program to continue thriving academically, and as their mother I am not going to apologize to ANYONE for that.

[I was emailing with an old friend this morning who happens to be a teacher, and we were talking about this issue. I happened to recall that when we were in high school, we were amongst the last year to have "accelerated" classes as an option. Some very angry people managed to phase out the tracking system in our district because they felt it was unfair to the kids in the lower tracks. Thus began the growing trend of making everyone equal regardless of their needs.]

I’ll tell you something else, too. This is not a position born of perfection. It’s not a case of “well this is easy for YOU to say, because YOUR KIDS are among the elite!” Part of the reason I am unapologetic about catering to my children’s academic excellence is because I am only too aware that this is but ONE FACET of their lives and obligations. There are lots of ways in which other children run circles around my children. And in life we ALL have both strengths and weaknesses. Isn’t our job as parents to celebrate the strength and teach them how to cope with the weakness?

Monkey’s soccer league (like Susan’s son’s) doesn’t “officially” keep score, but of course everyone knows what the score is. And while Monkey really loves soccer, he is—so far—terrible at it. I encourage him to have fun and work hard but I do not sugar-coat it for him. He is not very good. He’s also, I’m sorry to say, not a very good sport—he’s easily disappointed and has a hard time containing it when he’s upset. And I will continue to praise him for small victories and discipline him through what I find unacceptable (last week he took a ball to the neck and told me he was going to “kick that kid like he kicked me,” which prompted a swift and stern reminder that if I saw any such thing he would be done with soccer for the season). I didn’t yank him out of soccer because he’s bad at it. This is a great learning opportunity. But I know and he knows that there are many, many other players who are better than he is.

Chickadee’s Tae Kwon Do class contains many kids who are smaller/younger than she is but who rank higher, and this drives her insane. She, however, is generally interested in doing the smallest amount of work possible, and so she doesn’t progress as quickly as she would like. I do not imagine that she finds it endearing when I (gently) remind her that her progression is completely up to her, and if she continues to be lazy she will continue to advance slowly. And if you must know, I also often tease her that she throws like a girl.

Both of my children are emotionally immature for their ages, and this is made all the more striking in comparison to their advanced intellect. I spend much more time working with them on learning how to deal with life’s disappointments and inequalities without falling apart than I do stroking their egos because they get good test scores. They know they’re smart. They also need to know they’ve got shortcomings and that JUST being smart is not enough.

The point here is that my children are not perfect. I don’t tell them that they are. What I tell them is that they’re good at some things and not good at others, and I expect them to try their hardest and do their best and have fun when they can and lose gracefully when they must. I refuse to tell them they’re the best at everything OR that it doesn’t matter, because they’re not and it does.

This is what I’m teaching my children. I will not apologize.

128 Responses to “Our job is to teach them to suck it up”

  1. 1
    Yan September 26, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    Well said!!!!

  2. 2
    Martha September 26, 2007 at 9:51 am #

    I often read but never have commented before. This really struck a chord with me. My daughter, like yours, is very bright but can suffer a bit socially. She is accustomed to learning things easily and does not handle it well when she struggles. Athletically…..well let’s just say that she takes after her mother!!!

    Like you, I feel STRONGLY that it is my duty to teach my daughter that failure is necessary and even important- how else can you triumph? When I watch her out on the field and she is so clearly awful at what she does, yet she keeps plugging away at it with a smile nothing-NOTHING-could make me more proud!

    Good for you in taking this stand. We should all be aware of the things we do well and the things we need to improve in and not only recognize the same in our children, but teach THEM to see it as well!

  3. 3
    Flea September 26, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    You go girl. My youngest is believed to have an auditory processing disorder. Hopefully will be tested soon. All schoolwork is twice as hard for him, and we tell him that he will always have to work harder, but that it’s worth the effort. You don’t hear me saying,”My son is equal to everyone else’s. Don’t you dare put him in a separate class that would make others feel superior!” Really, it’s the opposite of what kids in GT get. I don’t want my kid to stay in a regular classroom and fall behind. You don’t want your kids shortchanged.

  4. 4
    Leandra September 26, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    This may be reaching a bit here, but if we treat everyone the same and no one ever wins or loses, I think we also miss out on a chance to teach our children empathy. If they win at something they need also need to learn what it feels like to lose so that they can be gracious winners and conversely not be sore losers.

  5. 5
    All Adither September 26, 2007 at 9:57 am #

    I want to be your kid! ;)

  6. 6
    Marissa September 26, 2007 at 9:58 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly. My son is in the “gifted” program at his new school, which does modules of different subjects and kids participate in which ever modules match their talents/interests. He just transfered from the city school district to the suburban district. His old school was the “gifted” magnet school for the city and the entire curriculum was pretty challenging. This year his spelling words are words he did in kindergarten (he’s in 2nd grade) and “They are so easy I don’t even have to study. Can I go play now?” I too will not apologize or feel badly that I pushed for him to get into the gifted program. This is what he needs, just like other kids might need extra reading help. It is our job as parents to make sure our children are getting what they need out of school.

    My son is very good at soccer, but last year his team had a lot of younger kids who were playing for the first time. His league doesn’t keep score either, but he knew his team kept losing and that he was the only one who was scoring. This presented its own set of problems(I mean “teachable moments”), where my husband and I had to talk to him about doing his best and not worrying about everyone else.

    My son is also a bit emotionally immature for his age and because he is so smart and verbal people expect him to act older than he actually is. I know how hard this can be, I had the same problem growing up. I wonder if there is a link between intelligence and emotional immaturity in kids?

    No one is good at everything and the sooner children learn that the better off they will be. Losing, not getting your way, and working with people you don’t like are all part of life. If you don’t learn these lessons early, they are very very difficult to learn as an adult.

  7. 7
    MomCat September 26, 2007 at 10:03 am #

    I wish more mothers were of this mindset….bravo, Mir.

  8. 8
    saucygrrl September 26, 2007 at 10:04 am #

    Well said Mir! I don’t often credit my parents with much but the one thing I have to really commend them on was the “Suck it up” theory. Although, internally I remain shy, I can fake outgoing like the best of them because sometimes you have to put your superhero suit on just to get through a day. And you know what? I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

    I completely commend your position and I think we need a hell of a lot more parents out there like you.

  9. 9
    chris September 26, 2007 at 10:04 am #

    STANDING OVATION!!!

    Winning and losing are facts of life. And character is built by learning to handle both with grace.

  10. 10
    msb September 26, 2007 at 10:05 am #

    ditto ditto ditto…. ya know, I just deleted a 3 page comment to you… I just can’t go there right now without getting all worked up. “We” (not you and me) but most of our society is raising children that will not know how to deal with disappointment, losing, not getting that promotion they wanted, yadda yadda yadda – - we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I am the mother everyone thinks is too harsh with her 8th grader. An 8th grader here people. It is time to cut the apron strings. They are all gonna fly away one day. I am teaching my child to be a productive, responsible, mature adult that can handle constructive criticism, know life isn’t fair, know he isn’t going to get everything he wishes for but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t give everything 100%+ in working towards his goals. He knows which sports he is good at and the sports he isn’t good at and – if he chooses to play – it is for fun – and guess what, he doesn’t START or play the whole game and he doesn’t care…. or whine about it… he is doing it to be with his friends… and the sports he does excel at – he does play the whole game and it gets rather frustrating to him hearing not so good kids and their parents complain that they didn’t get equal playing time. In 8th grade you are preparing for H. S. – - H. S. they want to win. The coach’s position is tied to WINNING, not having snacks after the game and making sure everyone has fun.. see I am doing it again.. can’t keep it to a short post. Glad to see someone else out there is fighting the up hill battle on keeping our kids “grounded” with me.

  11. 11
    Dawn September 26, 2007 at 10:07 am #

    AMEN!!!!

  12. 12
    Ei. September 26, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    I wrote a long response yesterday that I ended up not posting discussing what a free and appropriate education entails for children like yours, like mine…I’m glad I deleted it and let you do the talking.

    I just wonder what these people think it does to the self esteem of a begining of the year Kindergartner who is reading Harry Potter to sit through “T says ‘tuh’” all day every day?

  13. 13
    Northern Girl September 26, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    Amen…and amen.

  14. 14
    Kris September 26, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    Mir, I want to have your babies. Well, no, really – keep Monkey and Chickadee. I have two of my own that are almost identical to them. Or maybe we could swap every now and again. (Mine are both girls. I’m willing to swap when the hormones kick in for good.)

    Bug has Asperger’s diagnosis (finally, and Kasia is gifted, too. We have no gifted program and it kills me to know that these are the types of kids who actually eventually have problems with low self-esteem (when the schools think it’s quite the opposite) and they have potential for becoming troublemakers out of boredom.

    Tell Chickadee that it’s ok to have kids under you rank higher. Kasia can do a full split. She’s in the Full Split Club! I, however, cannot. I will NEVER be able to do what she does. There are kids younger than her that are better at a weapon she really likes. It’s a goal to get better and better for yourself – not a competition. (Is her school WTF or ITF? One focuses more on competition/sparring and the other on patterns/forms.)

    The No Child Left Behind is crap and everyone knows it. I wish they’d stop calling detention “the Encore Club – a chance to do it over.” They’re trying to remove all negative connotations so our children don’t “feel badly about themselves.” Guess what – you learn to do things differently when you feel bad. That’s LIFE. And life isn’t going to give them the warm fuzzies at every turn.

    You’re a GREAT mom and you know what you’re doing (even if sometimes you don’t feel like you do). (HUG)

  15. 15
    Procrastamom September 26, 2007 at 10:18 am #

    *applause!*

  16. 16
    Jessica September 26, 2007 at 10:20 am #

    I so agree–well said. Thank you!!!

  17. 17
    Juliness September 26, 2007 at 10:23 am #

    Bravo! You wonderful, intelligent mom.

  18. 18
    el-e-e September 26, 2007 at 10:28 am #

    Here, here!!

    I think our collective vision has gotten so blurry. Your argument that equality of opportunity is NOT the same as equality of talent needs to be written out, big, with red Sharpie pens.

  19. 19
    BethR September 26, 2007 at 10:29 am #

    While I basically agree with you, I do think that there can be ways in which tracking is unfair that have nothing to do with wanting to pretend that all kids are equally smart (and I grew up in a school system with tracking in Massachusetts and was in a ‘good’ track, so this isn’t jealousy talking). In my mind, the whole idea of fast and slow tracks should be just that – the kids who are in the fast track should be getting material at the right pace for them, and the kids in the slow track should ditto. However, it should be basically the same kinds of material as far as possible; the kids in the slow track should have opportunities for fun, stimulating activities just the same way that the fast-track kids do, they should have the same shot at getting some of the best teachers, they should be pushed to the limits of their ability, etc., just all at a pace that’s appropriate.

    Unfortunately that’s not how it seems to work out from what I’ve read. The problem is that once you’ve made it official that one group of kids is dumber, the ramifications potentially go beyond cases of hurt feelings. School systems sometimes handle them differently in a qualitative way, not just quantitative. Frequently the slower tracks get stuck with less qualified teachers and boring, repetitive work. It’d be as though the poorer soccer players never even got to play in games or get coached by anyone qualified. It’s one thing to be slow, another to have someone decide that because you’re slower you’re never going anywhere at all, and because we’re human tracking seems to predispose to that.

    It’s not as though I have a magically good solution for this, and given the opportunity and need I’ll push as hard as anybody for SS to be included in the gifted-and-talented programs (in this school system they seem fine with handling an advanced reader in the context of his current class, and that’s the main thing he’s ahead on) with no apologies either. However, if on the other hand I wind up as the parent of a slower child (who knows what this kid in my belly will be like?), I’m also going to be pushy and relentless and unapologetic about making sure that child gets the best education possible, even if that means clashing in a resource competition with the gifted-and-talented program. It won’t be about denial of individual differences and strengths and weaknesses, but about wanting everyone to have the best shot possible at the level of their abilities.

  20. 20
    Missy September 26, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    Amen!

  21. 21
    becky September 26, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    there were times that we thought about taking our daughter OUT of the gifted program at our school. not because she wasn’t challenged, but because of the attitudes perpetuated in that program about the “other” kids. it was elitist and we did not want her to feel superior to other people just because she was smarter in some subjects. not too mention at the end of high school, she was overwhelmed with too much homework and too many extracurriculars. but they had programmed her to actually be scared to be in the “normal” classes. and that was unacceptable to me.

    no, everyone’s not equal. but i don’t want my kids thinking they are better than other people just because they are good at something. everyone’s good at something – some may just have to work harder to find their niche.

    good post, mir.

  22. 22
    Jones September 26, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    Hello Mir,

    I read your blog every day and love it. I don’t even know how I ever came across it. I’ve never commented before but today I have to applaud you for your wonderful essay on motherhood.

    I don’t have children and so I try and stay out of people’s lives who do and not give my armchair critic’s review of how they’re raising their children, because what do I know really?

    But what you said is so right on I must commend you. Keep it up! You’re on the right track and your children will love you for all that you’re fighting for in their lives.

  23. 23
    SarraJK September 26, 2007 at 10:41 am #

    Add another amen here.

  24. 24
    Beth September 26, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    I think Pixar’s “The Incredibles” had a fantastic quote on this subject: “When everyone is super, no one will be.”

  25. 25
    Mandee September 26, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    As I product of Georgia public schools, I could not agree more. I grew up in a small, agricultural county in South Georgia that had one high school. Therefore, everyone was thrown in together. I wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned from being immersed with such a variety of kids from various socioeconomic levels for the world. However, it was vital for me to also have the experience of “pull-out” once a week in elementary and middle schools and to be placed in “advanced” and AP classes in jr. high and high schools.

    And after living in several different areas of the country, getting a graduate degree and working for a Fortune 500 company, I can still say some of the smartest people I know are products of Georgia’s public schools. Let’s just hope I haven’t made any glaring typos that negate everything I just said! I can haz edumacation?

  26. 26
    Erin September 26, 2007 at 10:53 am #

    I totally 100% agree with you, Mir.

    When I was a kid, my parents actually put me into a private school (for GT purposes) and my sister remained in public school. They struggled over the decision, but Amy would have struggled at my school, and I would have been bored at hers. So, for six years, we went to different schools.

    My parents merely emphasized that everyone is good at different things–and mine happened to be school. Now, I am an abysmal athlete, and there are areas of academics in which I never excelled, as well (or at least didn’t like as much…I’m a humanities girl). I never felt bad about not being a good athlete, because I was smart!

    Great job with a tough subject–you said everything much more eloquently than I ever could.

  27. 27
    Laura September 26, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    Yea! I couldn’t agree more, and thanks for saying this so eloquently (and with such passion)!

  28. 28
    Erin September 26, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    My siblings and I were in the “gifted program” when we were young. But we moved and my brother (10 years younger)went to a school that didn’t have such a program. He ended up skipping the 1st grade. I think they should have accelerated programs so that the “smarter” kids can still be with their peers and their own maturity level. My kids are not in school yet but I am terrified. My 4 year old is almost reading and in Kindergarten they teach the colors? Heaven help me. If I didn’t need a break, I would look into Homeschooling–and not just so he can go to college when he’s 10, either :) Thanks for your post.

  29. 29
    AmyM September 26, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    My kids are watching “The Incredibles” right now.

    I agree with you, Mir. I hate that everyone has to be the same. How can we teach people to appreciate one another’s differences (and our own) if we aren’t allowed to see them?

    Being different is what makes the world go ’round. Some are destined to be leaders, some are destined to be ‘behind the scenes’. We can’t all be the same, or life will not function. This is the world that God created. He gave us all special gifts and dammit… we need to be able to step into our glory and use them!

    I have no idea if that makes any sense. This is why you are the fancee blog writer, and I am the lowly commenter.

  30. 30
    Jennifer September 26, 2007 at 11:08 am #

    Thanks for all the great reading!! I love all of you posts. I also love Want Not! Today is my one year blog anniversary and I mentioned you in my post!

  31. 31
    The Other Leanne September 26, 2007 at 11:13 am #

    Not having children myself, I only had suspicions of how winning/losing and success/failure have been bastardized so that “everyone’s a winner!” Thank you for saying what needs to be said. At a complacent point in my youth, when I had adopted the “why should I be judged on somebody else’s standards” mindset, a wise man told me that even though I didn’t subscribe to competition with my peers “someday you will compete, you will find it necessary to compete, and you will want to compete.” He was absolutely right. Competition, challenge, the promise of success is what moves us forward and makes us grow. We learn equally from losing as from winning. And life does not let us avoid either, so we’d all better learn how to handle the wins and the losses with grace, humility and dignity. The sin is pride, not achievement.
    Yours truly,
    Gifted in language, dumb-as-a-stump in math.

  32. 32
    Trish September 26, 2007 at 11:14 am #

    BRAVO!!!!!!!!!

  33. 33
    Aimee September 26, 2007 at 11:15 am #

    Amen, sister! Very well said. You know, I don’t have kids yet, but this type of thing (the idea that all kids *should* be taught the same way, and at the same level) infuriates me. I was in a gifted program in elementary school, and in honors classes throught junior high and high school. I would have been bored out of my skull without the challenge those classes provided. And furthermore, I think there’s an argument to be made (to these parents who are so certain that their kids will be demoralized if they’re *not* in gifted classes) that kids who don’t, say, grasp math as quickly, might not learn as well if they’re in a class with kids who are far ahead of them. They’d always be feeling like they were behind, whereas in a class at the appropriate level, they would be getting the attention they need in order to thrive.

  34. 34
    Karen September 26, 2007 at 11:25 am #

    Hi Mir
    Read alot, never comment. But you’re so right on pushing for the gifted program. I was a product of a school system the abolished the gifted program during my junior high/high school years and went for the whole “everyone is equal” thing. And I was bored out of my mind…I can remember spending two+ weeks in highschool english with the teacher trying to get the class to understand the difference between direct and indirect nouns. OMG! Thankfully, the school had an incredibly challenging French teacher and I learned all of my english grammar from French and the higher level science and algebra classes got better as only the more “academically curious” students took those. But wow – those were some painful years. Several kind teachers took pity on me and let me “volunteer” in the library during class several days a week as they knew I was miles ahead of the other kids.

    You’re so right to push for your kids to be challenged and get the best education possible!

  35. 35
    Christine September 26, 2007 at 11:27 am #

    I agree completely. How are kids supposed to learn to deal with failure if they never experience it? ‘Cause I can guarantee you they will experience it when they are adults and out from under our wing. We are coming up on my twins’ birthdays and, just like last year, I’m going to have them take invites to school to invite the four friends each they can invite. And just like last year their teachers can bite me if they are offended my kids aren’t inviting the whole class. This whole “don’t bring invites to school unless you invite the whole class” is baloney. When I was a kid I didn’t get invited to all the parties. And, yes, I was sometimes upset by that. But I learned to get over it. It’s part of life. Sometimes you don’t get invited to the party. Sometimes you don’t get the job. Sometimes the boy you like doesn’t like you back. We need to teach kids to deal with it.

  36. 36
    LadyBug Crossing September 26, 2007 at 11:32 am #

    Yes!

  37. 37
    TC September 26, 2007 at 11:48 am #

    It’s funny that you wrote this today, as I sit here while my fifth grader is being tested for the school’s GT program. She missed the cut last year, which was the first point at which GT is available in our school system. Didn’t make her feel bad AT ALL. It did, however, make ME feel bad! Which, I hasten to add, IS MY PROBLEM, NOT YOURS OR YOUR CHILDREN’S.

    See, I was id’d as gifted when I was, oh, who knows how young. Always in special classes. In high school, there were not only Honors classes, but XH (extra honors) classes…and I was in all of the XH classes. And so, despite my insistence that “my ego will never be so bound up in my children that I will consider their successes my successes and their failures my failures”…it bugged me something awful when they said my oldest didn’t make the GT cut, and I was extremely excited when I heard she was going to be tested this year.

    Which means what about your kids and their giftedness? NOTHING. Which is my point. So, I feel bad that my kid’s not GT. So, in an alternate universe where my child cares about such things, maybe she feels bad about it, too. That doesn’t mean there should BE GT. That’s INSANE. It means I have to learn to suck it up and realize that my kid is incredibly special in so many ways, and if she’s being well-served by ‘regular’ classes, then what’s the harm in her not having a gifted label? Basically, it just means I need to get over myself. Which has nothing to do with your children and their needs.

    There. I’ve solved that problem. Now that I’ve shown everyone the light, they’ll leave you alone, right?

  38. 38
    TC September 26, 2007 at 11:53 am #

    Ugh. Typos. Not so gifted, me:

    “That doesn’t mean that there *shouldn’t* BE GT.”

    Sorry.

  39. 39
    Jamie September 26, 2007 at 12:02 pm #

    Thank you for this post. :)

  40. 40
    Lisa September 26, 2007 at 12:05 pm #

    Great post!
    I often wonder about this generation – what are they going to do when they get to their first real job and the boss gives the OTHER employee the promotion because the other employee is *gasp* BETTER at the job? Will kids today be somewhat crippled because of the whole “everyone is equal!” mentality being drilled into them?

  41. 41
    ChristieNY September 26, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    Oh Mir, what a beautiful post. I agree whole heartedly.

    BethR said, “It’d be as though the poorer soccer players never even got to play in games or get coached by anyone qualified”

    Here’s the thing, we don’t give our children enough credit for what they can handle. Although I agree that every teacher should be qualified, I personally find some of the best teachers are those helping with the lower tracks of education, the “reading recovery” teachers in particular are highly skilled and amazing. I believe that every child should be taught in portions they can digest. Some digest more than others. I don’t believe the better teachers, per se, are teaching the higher workload, in fact sometimes it’s the better teachers who are put with the children who need the most assistance.

    But here’s where your comment hit home for me:

    My little sister was told by the coach of her soccer team that she was not good enough to “make the cut”. He gave her two options, she could leave gracefully, or know that she would “not play a single game”.

    Do you know that SHE (to my parent’s surprise) chose to stay on the team?! KNOWING she wouldn’t get to play in the games! When I asked her about it, she said, “My team depends on me to help them practice! I support them and like being part of the team, so I’m sticking with it.”

    I think we truly underestimate our kids sometimes.

    Bravo, Mir.

  42. 42
    Amy September 26, 2007 at 12:07 pm #

    I am on the boat with you on this one, and I can often be heard telling my two to “shake it off.” My next-door neighbor, on the other hand, has an 11 year old who has been passed through the system so not to harm her self esteem. I have to say this year in middle school has been rather hard on her and her inability to do basic math and reading. Her self esteem has nose-dived b/c she can’t function in the classroom. And the truly sad part is that middle school is when they need a boost in self esteem.

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    Radiationman September 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m sorry but a statement like:

    Oh, but having a gifted program makes the other kids FEEL BAD

    is a steaming pile of CRAP!

    As somebody who went to an elementary school with a gifted program and initially wasn’t in it – I didn’t feel bad. Heck I didn’t even harbor resentment towards those who were in it. I was a little jealous at some of the cool field trips that they got to go on though… I did eventually get in that program though and did feel a sense of accomplishment when I got in the program.

    Later in my High School years my high school had an AP program that I applied to – and didn’t get accepted. I felt bad because I didn’t get accepted, but I got over it pretty quickly. Like every High School student, there were enough other things going on that made me feel bad that not getting in to the AP programs were a minor blip…

    Having a gifted program doesn’t make the children who aren’t accepted feel bad – however it can make the PARENTS of the children who aren’t accepted feel bad. I think the driver behind these movements to have games with no winners etc… is because the PARENTS behind them can’t bear to tell their children no or can’t be bothered to comfort their children when their kids suffer one of life’s normal setbacks.

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    tammy September 26, 2007 at 12:15 pm #

    I so agree with you… I think the whole movement to make sure children never have a single moment of feeling like anybody is better than they are at anything is ridiculous.

    Sneaky Pete has a LOT of students that have been raised in that kind of environment and they totally cannot deal with a bad grade. They will sit in his office and cry and cry because they got a C, and they “tried really really hard” and can’t they please have an A because they tried SO hard. And he will sit there and go over the tests with them and show them where they made mistakes and got a wrong answer, and they just don’t get why he won’t give them an A for effort.

    Dude, one plus one equals two no matter how hard you tried to make it three.

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    Lori September 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm #

    As a grandparent I appreciated every single word you said. I always believed you tell em like it is and slather them with love.

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    Kellan September 26, 2007 at 12:28 pm #

    I can’t think about this today – I exhausted my thoughts on this issue yesterday, but I agree with your position! I tell my (gifted) daughters, “Identify your potential. And then it is your job to strive to reach that potential. If you waste it – that is your choice, but remember that it is a choice.” Soon … I may write my own post on this subject – having both (gifted and non-gifted) types of children – I have a lot to say.

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    Shalee September 26, 2007 at 12:29 pm #

    Amen, sister! Amen.

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    Karen September 26, 2007 at 12:31 pm #

    You are SO wise! I read your blog every day and am just astounded at your wisdom. I am a counselor in a junior high school. I have been known to quote your wisdom to parents I deal with.

    I see kids every day who haven’t been taught these basic lessons. They jave been taught they should get a good grade because they show up and are cute. The fact they haven
    t turned in a single assignment should mean nothing. Then I go to soccer games with BF where is 10yo daughter plays. There is one team they play that takes poor sportsmanship to a new level. It is so sad the lessons they are being taught.

    It is my philosophy you should go out there and try your hardest. You may not be the best person doing it, but that is ok. We can’t all be perfect at everything. It’s how we learn to deal with these imperfections that counts.

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    arduous September 26, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    I COMPLETELY agree with your post. I think it is totally ridiculous the way parents today try to protect their children from every possible failure there is. Guess what? Life is not fair. And sooner or later, your child is going to have to learn that.

    And as an intellectual child who was in a gifted program in one elementary school, and then moved to an elementary school where there was no gifted program because “everyone is gifted,” I know first hand the damage that can be done when a child isn’t challenged properly.

    My only problem with tracking and gifted programs is that many times the way the system works is disadvantageous for minority children whose parents are often not as aware of such programs nor willing to fight for such programs. Thus, intellectually smart minority children often get placed in lower tracks even though they are capable of superior work.

    But that just means that we should try to make sure that capable children don’t fall through the cracks. Not that we should get rid of gifted programs. Good for you, Mir!

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    Lucinda September 26, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    You obviously struck a chord with a lot of us! I couldn’t agree with you more as someone who grew up in the gifted program but was also hit in the head by every kind of ball at one time or another (even by my own teammates) and just fell down my stairs this morning and twisted my ankle (again). Yes, we are gifted in some areas and weak in others. That’s how God made us (part of the body thing). I wish more people were secure enough with themselves to accept and embrace that and not try to pretend otherwise, thereby hurting our children and dooming them to this same misconception and resulting poor self-esteem.

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    Ann September 26, 2007 at 12:44 pm #

    Amen to that! I once went to a parent/teacher conference for my son, who was in tenth grade Spanish. His teacher told me how nice it was to have him in her class, but added that she felt bad for him because he could be advancing through the cirriculum much faster, except the majority of the class were either slower learners or rowdy. When I repeated her observations to my sister, who was an EBD teacher, she emphatically insisted that I go back to that teacher and demand better. My sister pointed out that parents will willingly advocate for their learning disabled children and no one will fault them for it. But when we try to advocate for our “gifted” children, we are perceived as pushy or arrogant. My sister said that if the situation were reversed – that if my son was struggling in the class and the rest were breezing along well ahead of him, I would be trying to get him help. The gifted kids have just as much of a right to an education as the struggling kids, and it is ultimately up to the teacher and parent to ensure that it happens. Does that make sense?

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    Carla Hinkle September 26, 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    There is a great article in New York Magazine called “How Not To Talk To Your Kids: the Inverse Power of Praise.” Go to http://www.nymag.com and search the title and it should come up.

    The article talks about how the best things we can do for our kids is to encourage/praise their persistence and ability to try when things are hard, because when you tell a kid they are good at something because they are smart, they tend to think it should be easy for them, and hence don’t try hard. When you tell a kid they did a good job because they persevered even when it was hard for them, they learn to keep working on things even when they are difficult.

    It is worth noting that it can be more complicated than just “some kids are better at things than others.” Of course kids need different challenges — I was in GT as a kid, I have nothing against it. But it is a challenge to US, the parents and teachers, to make sure we don’t just label the GT kids the “smart” kids and leave it at that.

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    jennielynn September 26, 2007 at 12:50 pm #

    After years of teaching sdc, I adopted a mantra that I live by to this day. A-hem,

    Fair is not everyone getting the same. Fair is everyone getting what they need.

    When Drama Queen entered the Internation Baccalaureate program, I caught some flack for it. A lot of flack actually. And there have been some bumps. But for the first time in her academic career, she has to work. And that is good thing.

    I’m not denying the system is broken. It is. But the answer isn’t to boost self-esteem by proclaiming everyone equal. That doesn’t level the playing field at all. If we take it to it’s logical conclusion, do we eliminate special education programs as well?

    Whew. I’m going to jump off the soapbox before this becomes a manifesto. As usual, Mir, you’re right on the money.

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    Lisa September 26, 2007 at 12:51 pm #

    Amen! I live this as well. It was brought to my attention recently when discussing with a parent at the elementary school how horrible our GATE program was the last couple of years that the funds are not being given to GATE because “It isn’t fair to the other kids who can’t participate in these cool activities”. WHAT?! I am raising two girls who excel in school but it has taken forever to find a team sport for the teen and she is no social butterfly. I am constantly trying to teach them how to lose, how to be nice to others, and that you have to WORK at some things-not everything comes easy. It is a struggle, but there is no way that my kid who can work faster shouldn’t be in an honors class or a GATE program because someone else’s kid didn’t test in. I’m sure they are a fabulous guitarist, soccer player, or whatever. We actually work hard at it all—including the academics. This subject drives me crazy and I’m so glad you posted this. I can’t agree with you more.

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    Caz September 26, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Good on ya for making sure your kids learn this at an early age!
    It took a lot of reflection and self-realization, as well as a few disappointments in university for me to realize that just because I was ‘gifted’ in elementary and high school didn’t mean I was ‘better’ or ‘smarter’ than anyone else in university/the real world. Lessons my younger brother is definitely still learning the hard way.
    While my parents didn’t strictly promote the idea that we were ‘better’, nor did they raise us like kids today -never saying ‘no’, but we were made aware of how lucky we were to be ‘smarter’ then other people, and how it was our section of society (the smart ones) who got places in life. This was equally emphasised by our teachers who reiterated how ‘special’ we were, and this was why we got to do different things in school.
    Good to know some kids aren’t being raised by the “yes” method of parenting.

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    janet September 26, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    hear freakin’ hear!

    amen

    you go, girl

    thank you

    thunderous applause

    standing ovation

    and a hearty handshake, even!

    you deserve them ALL and more for this post.

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    Flea September 26, 2007 at 1:03 pm #

    My dh is a college instructor and department chair. He was dyslexic growing up, trained to be an academic failure. Now working on a second masters (LOOOONG story). The stories he comes home with about today’s college students! And their parents!!! Parents come to his office all the time to argue about their kids’ grades, when the kids (actually, now adults) just haven’t done the work. Bottom line, it’s people like him, once the kids have already been through the public school system and have been taught that everyone’s equal and no one really has to work to succeed, that have to tell these brand new adults that the world just doesn’t work that way. These college teachers and chairs tell students that they EARNED their F’s. It seems no one did them that service when it was a much easier thing to learn.

    This is my kids’ first year in the system and as hard as it is to let them fail and not fight for grades, that’s really the way they learn to work hard.

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    Chris September 26, 2007 at 1:03 pm #

    POWERFUL POST! I agree with you 100%. You go girl.
    At the end of the day your children will be great adults.

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    Burgh Baby's Mom September 26, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    I could go on for days about this topic, but since you did such a great job summing it up, I won’t (for now). But I do want to add a little antecdote that I think is directly related to this whole plague of “nice” parenting that is going on.

    I had a recent college grad interview for a position that reported to me. She interviewed OK, but when I gave her a writing test, she failed miserably. Since the position was 90% writing training documentation, I hired someone else. A few weeks go by and HER MOTHER CALLS ME. She wanted to know why her lovely and perfect in every way daughter didn’t get the job. When I told her that I had hired someone whose qualifications more closely fit the position, she went on and on and on about how great her daughter is blah, blah, blah.

    Long story short, coddling your child does not prepare them for the universe we all live in. It does, however, provide me reason to mock you for hours. “My daughter wrote this wonderful paper on how to use the Internet to do research and she got a B so she must be a really good writer. It probably should have gotten an A because it was really, really good.” (That’s a direct quote that still makes me giggle like an idiot.)

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    Susan September 26, 2007 at 1:33 pm #

    Amen! I couldn’t agree more.

    Last Friday night, my 11yo son was goalie during his soccer game. He sucked, to put it crassly, and they lost 10-1.

    My ex-DH said to him, “It’s okay, son–your teammates didn’t back you up very well. IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT.”

    I countered with, “It’s okay, honey–you win some, you lose some. This just wasn’t one of your better games. Next time you’ll do better. Maybe you can talk to your coach about helping you practice your goalie skills…”

    Some days it feels like an uphill battle.

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    Barb Cooper September 26, 2007 at 1:34 pm #

    At my child’s school, the kids who were in GT weren’t allowed to say they were in GT. They had to say they were going to “Ms. Russell’s room” to try to save the feelings of the kids who didn’t get to go work with Ms. Russell, the GT Teacher. WTF? Like it’s something so shameful that we can’t name it.

    I’ve written a lot about having a profoundly gifted kid. Two of my essays, which still bring e-mails from anguished readers every week, at posted at http://www.hoagiesgifted.org

    It was quite an eye-opener for me, the amount of anti-gifted bias out there when ATHLETIC gifts are so joyously celebrated. It was even more surprising how many teachers really don’t want to have to put forth the effort with gifted kid–I would have thought they’d have been so excited to have a chance to guide a mind like that.

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    Wendy September 26, 2007 at 1:38 pm #

    I applaud Susan and you, because I agree. I see all this as being PC and, frankly, I am sick of all this PC crap. If we continue with everyone is the same we are that much closer to all wearing the same jumper. Who wants to do that? And in Susan’s words, how boring.

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    jess September 26, 2007 at 1:51 pm #

    Everyone should read a wonderful story by Kurt Vonnegut about what happens when everyone is truly made to be “equal”: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html

    I think people forget that gifted children are part of what is headed under “special needs” children in the school system. My class of “Exceptional Persons” (as it was called) in college for education majors) covered those with autism, behavioral disorders, social disorders, etc. AS WELL AS gifted students. They, too, have special needs in the classroom that legally should be met to ensure the “least restrictive” learning environment for that child. Now, as I get into my pet peeve with education, how many schools do NOT throw their gifted students on the figurative side of the road and DO actually give them a “least restrictive” environment? Not very many. I was only allowed to accelerate in jr. high school to high school math (the only program they allowed acceleration) and, in high school, created some of my OWN classes and lesson plans through independent studies for which I PERSONALLY had to fight (I told my parents to stay out and I would handle it, but I wasn’t in elementary school either). Yes, a student herself fought for the right to a quality education when the school itself wouldn’t step up and give it. I am glad to see a school system who allows children to learn at their ability and am proud of Mir for fighting for her children’s RIGHTS in education.

    I was told “no” a lot as a child, and I learned to be an independent and thinking human being. I am not entitled to anything and I have to earn it myself (just being given something gives no sense of satisfaction either, to be honest). Entitlement is a huge problem with many people and it has carried over into the classroom, unfortunately. My husband is a college instructor and he deals with it every semester. And, yes, sometimes parents get involved; however, he legally cannot tell them anything about their child’s progress or papers, as they are legally adults and the information is sealed from the parents without a release. They cannot understand how THEY can read a paper and give it an A when my husband gave it a C. (A parent’s opinion of his child accounts for SO MUCH out in the real world, right? That’s why we aren’t supposted to use relatives on applications, eh? *winks*)

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    Zee September 26, 2007 at 1:57 pm #

    Thank you. You are brilliant. And pretty.

    I’m not a parent, so take this for whatever it’s worth, but I am SO TIRED of seeing crap out there in the world of parenting that children must feel good at all times in order to succeed. That is rubbish and is breeding an entire generation of kids who have been so coddled that when they get into the real world and experience loss they simply don’t know how to cope. I don’t think that’s does kids – or the people who have to deal with them – any favors.

    Loss happens, hurt feelings happen, someone is always going to be better or worse than you at everything and teaching your kids otherwise sets them up for some serious disappointment down the road. That’s one of the best lessons my parents taught me and when I have kids I plan to teach them the same lesson.

    I, for one, applaud your stance. Mir RULES.

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    Kendra September 26, 2007 at 2:07 pm #

    First time commenter-Mir you are 100% on the money. This generation of kids are not learning to function in the real world with programs that ‘boost their self-esteem.’ A quick example:(I’ll try to keep it to the nutshell version)
    My daughter is a sr. in HS, and on varsity cheer. The contract that the girls must sign states clearly that there is a minimum gpa to be able to try out. One girl didn’t make the grades by a lot, and was not allowed to try out. Apparently her parents sued (or threatened to sue) the district. The district caved, we had to hire special judges for her to try out 4 months after-the-fact. She made the team. I feel sorry for this girl and other kids like her. They feel entiled. EVEN MORE I hate it for my daughter and the others like her that work hard-in school and in the gym- because they know the requirements. The entire squad of 30 girls is angry. I hate that many parents are teaching their kids that if they don’t like something that all they have to do is whine loud enough, or hire a lawyer, and they will get it their way. I hope that at the end of the day my kids will know what they are good at, be encouraging to one another, and know how to lose gracefully.

    Just because I want to be you when I grow up (you are the writer I would love to be) doesn’t mean I have the skills or wit to pull it off. I am happy to read you every day and cheer you on from the opposite side of the country.

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    Tracy September 26, 2007 at 2:18 pm #

    You’ve heard from quite a few parents of gifted students, but not so many on the other side of the fence. As a parent of two boys who struggle academically but excel athletically, I also have to agree with you. My husband has coached young athletes in football and baseball for several years now, and one of the most important things he tries to instill in these boys has been how to both win and lose graciously. Yes, the score counts, because as you said: even when you try NOT to keep score, the kids know what it is anyway. They still feel the agony of the loss, and the exhilaration of the win. My boys are learning, however, that they simply can’t be good at everything. They’re not even good at the same things. :) They know that despite giving something everything you’ve got in you, there is always the chance that there is someone better sitting right beside you on the bench or in class. And that it is OK for that to be so. I’m proud to say that I’m raising boys who are both not ashamed to ask for help on something when they need it, and not the least bit hesitant about offering encouragement and support to others who aren’t as good as they are at something.

    Wow…. I could go on and on….

    Suffice it to say that I agree with you! :)

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    Sara September 26, 2007 at 3:14 pm #

    Can I get an “amen”? Um, well. Apparently you can. When I was teaching I heard a speaker say once ‘fair doesn’t mean equal’ and he proceeded to give an excellent example (I won’t go into it here). I have told my children this many times. Sometimes–horrors!–I actually hear them say it to each other and, shockingly, not in a taunting way. This was an excellent post and said everything I would have said if I could string words together as well as you.

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    Niki September 26, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    I work at a school where we embrace the tenets of “All Kinds of Minds” – basically (my words) that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone learns in different ways. All of the teachers go to a week-long training in learning to teach to different learning styles, and after listening to it all for a few years I started seeing it in my kids. You know – the pencil tapper NEEDS to tap a pencil to concentrate – she just needs to be taught to tap it on her leg instead of on her desk, so she doesn’t disturb others. And her sister – well, she just can’t seem to sit still. Allow her to wiggle, she’s fine! The best phrase I’ve heard in all this time, though, and I’ve used it many times on my kids, “Fair does not mean everyone gets the same thing. Fair means that everyone gets what THEY need.”

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    hamiam September 26, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    Amen – spoken as a fellow mother of kids who are “emotionally immature” and yet very smart/bright.

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    MommasWorld September 26, 2007 at 3:42 pm #

    ManSon entered kindergarten already knowing how to read, write, add and subtract. They would not adjust the curriculum for him or allow him to have a tutor/assistant, not even for one day a week. He was extremely bored. The result was daily phone calls from school about him acting out in class. One time there was a “stabbing”. He poked another boy in the shoulder with one of those giant kindergarten crayons. You know that old saying “Idle hands are the devils invitation..” After only one month of school they decided to let him play basket ball with a guidance councilor for the remainder of the year. Every single day he was in class long enough for attendance then went to the gym or black top and played basket ball. That is just over 160 days of basket ball!

    The principal and the Board of Education knew my concerns regarding my son’s education but I was blocked every which way I turned. “There is no funding for an accelerated curriculum at the Kindergarten level.” “He must attend Kindergarten, it is the law.” “Wait until next year and we will see if he qualifies for the Gifted and Talented Program.”

    He did attend class during test time. The teacher bubbled over with excitement after each test. I was not as thrilled as she was simply due to the fact it was no surprise to me at all. Had they given him a 3rd grade test and he out passed that level I might have reacted the same as the teacher.

    Oldest Daughter required extra tutoring to get her up to speed with the rest of her class. Snow White, my youngest, excels in ever subject but one, math. She isn’t middle of the road she is really awful with math.

    Each of my children have different needs and I would not apologize for helping each of them enter the programs they need. As far as hurt feelings go. Yes there were some mothers who reacted not so well. Even Oldest Daughter was upset about her brother being in the G&T. She was upset because she had to work so hard and school work came so easily for ManSon. She did not begrudge him the opportunity to be in the program.

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    Jazzy September 26, 2007 at 3:50 pm #

    I absolutely agree with your post and say very well said. We are raising a generation of children that when/if they reach the “real” world, they are going to fail, with a big fat F, because Mr. CEO could care less if he/she hurts your feelings. Mr. CEO hires the best and the brightest and what he/she needs you to do. So parents like you who are raising children to be realistic and strive to be the best that they can be, while realizing that doesn’t mean they will be the best at everything, will have children that succeed and fail and take responsibilty for both, the other side of our generation will wonder why their children are still living at home when they are 25/30/35.

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    Kristen September 26, 2007 at 4:01 pm #

    so you are saying it’s not going to get easier as they get older?

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    Elleana September 26, 2007 at 4:17 pm #

    I’m glad to see so many people feel the same way as you do about this subject. I do. I want to give a hearty AMEN! to what you’ve written.

    And I also wanted to say that my daughter is being tested for the gifted program. I wanted to make sure that she was given something challenging because her main shortcoming is that she will not even TRY something if she feels like she can’t do it perfectly the first time around. I want her to know that it’s okay to learn things, and for it to take a while to get it right. I want her to know that she will come upon things that do not come easily for her, and that she’ll have to WORK for it. So yay for gifted programs, and yay for learning how to deal with shortcomings. And yay for you for saying so.

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    Pamela September 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm #

    Kudos!! You are right on target, Mir, and your kids will be great!!

    My boys are grown now but I battled these issues several times over the years. The most frustrating part is conflict caused by teachers/coaches that are at cross-purposes with what you are teaching your kids.

    My oldest was a middle of the road student and a semi-poor athlete but he was content and happy and enjoyed life, giving all he had and making friends.

    My youngest was gifted and a good athlete. He always tried very hard and got upset with himself when he didn’t do as well as he knew he could. He wasn’t the best all the time but his goal was to be the best and this kept him working hard. His gifted teachers challenged him which was necessary to keep his interest. He didn’t flaunt it; he just lived it.

    What I’m saying is that every child is unique and their needs are unique. If we as parents and teachers help them on their level, things will be better for them because they will learn from the good and the bad and will have pride in their individual accomplishments. If we don’t, they will think they can do anything they want and they will go to great lengths to prove it – even hurt someone.

    I for one wouldn’t want those children to be the adults running the world in the future. We want strong, independent, uniquie, decision makers who can handle anything that comes their way.

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    Petunia September 26, 2007 at 5:47 pm #

    200 years ago, when I was in grade school, each grade was divided into about 5 groups of children, classroom assignments, if you will. And we were grouped by “ability” or “speed of learning” or whatever it might have been called in the ’50′s! The brightest/quickest were in one class, those slightly less so in another, “average” students in the next, and so on.

    This system allowed those who were brighter and quicker than the average to progress faster, learn additional information and skills. Because the program was more challenging, they didn’t get bored as fast, and they didn’t get into the trouble that boredom often causes.

    On the other end of the scale were those who needed more assistance to learn, more time, more explanations, more individual attention, and often, more discipline. They had their own class where they received what they needed to learn at least the required lessons.

    Great system – but, of course, it was stopped. It was deemed too harsh on some students, that they were singled out as “dummies” or whatever. It damaged their little egos.

    So everyone was lumped together. Aren’t we known for “the melting pot,” after all? Homogenized. That’ll make everyone feel really good about themselves, and boost their psyches. What a wonderful world.

    EXCEPT – Say there’s a new math concept. The new system allows for the concept to be taught for one hour. One hour only. The bright kids got the drift in 10 minutes, stared out the window for awhile, then boredom set in and they acted up, clowned around and generally disrupted everyone and everything. The kids who needed 4 hours of instruction on this new concept didn’t get it. No time, and it would make them feel stupid to indicate in any way that they needed more help than some of the others. So they were passed over, knowing they hadn’t caught on, and that they were not getting the education they needed. And those students acted up, because they saw the others catching on, and knew that they were getting further and further behind their classmates, until they simple gave up, quit trying. But you’d figure the average student would be OK in this system, but it didn’t work that way, either. The “average” student, who got the proper amount of instruction, didn’t learn nearly as much, nearly as well as in the old system, because 2/3 of the class was not interested and disruptive to all.

    So, maybe 20-25% of the student body thrived and did well in this great new system. It was adopted while I was in schook, probably state-wide, too. The brightest never worked up to their fullest potential again, and the ones who needed extra help were forbidden to receive it. The “dummies” were never again singled out as such in school. They just, sadly, grew up getting no education.

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    MaryP September 26, 2007 at 5:51 pm #

    Two of my kids are in the gifted stream; the third is not. None of them make anything of it at all. One of them is a computer GENIUS, but completely disorganized. That’s okay, too. One speaks, reads, and writes French, the others do not. Two are musical, one isn’t. One is hugely, and successfully social; the other two have friends, but nothing like that.

    As a result, they look to each other for help and support, knowing just who has the expertise they require. If they thought they were all supposed to be Just The Same, they would only resent each other’s accomplishments.

    Even within a family, the gifts and weaknesses are not distributed evenly. Where did we get this patently ridiculous notion that “fair” means “exactly the same”? (For that matter, where did we get the notion that nature plays fair?)

    NEWS FLASH: People are not all the same. And (even BIGGER news flash) That’s as it should be.

    Well said, Mir!

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    Ayla-Monic September 26, 2007 at 6:14 pm #

    I agree with everything you just said. I have friends who are starting to have kids, and oh, man. What people don’t get is that if you raise your kids to think that winning doesn’t matter, and tell them they’re as good as everyone else… when they get out in the real world, they’re going to be in for a huge reality check. And a parent should be guarding against that above all else. Even if that means telling you kid they suck at something.

    This is like the Age of Being Politically Correct. And it drives me nuts. It’s no wonder kids these days have trouble when they’re faced with real life situations. >.

  78. 78
    Holly September 26, 2007 at 6:23 pm #

    You know, I have to say that you shouldn’t have to write a whole blog about what you’re kids aren’t good at because of a few comments. You should celebrate the fact that your children are smart and refuse to apologise.
    Growing up, I wasn’t put into any special programs, and you know what? It didn’t hurt my feelings. I didn’t feel inadaquate(sp?) I don’t think kids think too much about it. So, don’t apologise!

  79. 79
    Sheila September 26, 2007 at 6:34 pm #

    You put it all very, very well (as usual).

    That said, I’m peeved that you’d even have to explain yourself.

  80. 80
    Mel September 26, 2007 at 6:51 pm #

    Wow – lots of interesting comments. I agree with you, Mir, in many ways, especially in teaching kids resiliency and grace in the midst of disappointment.

    That said, in my neck of the woods I see some serious problems with the way “gifted” children are educated. Too often, it ends up being an elitist group. The “gifted” children are taken out of the neighborhood school which creates a type of unofficial segregation — the rich kids, white kids, or, simply the kids of stay-at-home moms who have time to by-pass the bus and drive to another school end up together and the neighborhood schools are bereft of the positive influence those kids and their parents could have made.

    It seems to me (and I say this as the parent of four children who qualify for the gifted program) that either I believe in our democratic system of educating and being responsible for every child or I don’t. And I do, so I choose to stay in the neighborhood school and expend my efforts toward improving the school and the educational experience available to all children, regardless of their background.

  81. 81
    Rebecca September 26, 2007 at 7:08 pm #

    Our school has several extra teachers and time set aside for students who need extra help – speech, reading, etc. No one complains. Gifted students need extra help too, but so much uproar about the costs!! Seems biased to me.

  82. 82
    Paula September 26, 2007 at 7:13 pm #

    Hmmm…there have been some interesting points made.

    However, I do have to point out that we don’t get upset when there are special classes for the deaf and hard of hearing children, or the blind children. The fact is that their needs are different from the average child. Why then is it any different for a highly capable child? We certainly wouldn’t begrudge the parents of the afore mentioned children for taking their children where their needs would best be met, so why would we hold it against parents who choose to take their kids aross town for appropriate schooling for their highly capable child?

    As a stay at home mom who has driven her child where he needs to go to get a proper education that meets his needs,I must say that there are all types of kids, families, income levels, religions, you name it represented. In fact the only reason my son is still in public school is that our district has FINALLY bridged the gap between elementary and high school and we now have a self=contained junior high program. Sort of like a school within a school.

    I know that this is a sensitive subject but for those of you with average kids don’t think for a minute that it is easy just because your child is “gifted”. Trust me when I say that it opens the door to a whole host of issues! One of the most surpising issues that I’ve run into is animosity from some of the teachers in the school that are not part of the highly capable program. Don’t even get me started…

  83. 83
    dragonfly September 26, 2007 at 7:22 pm #

    Daily reader but first time commenter: BRAVO!!! What an on-the-spot wonderful post. I can’t agree with you more.

  84. 84
    ScottsdaleGirl September 26, 2007 at 8:05 pm #

    It seriously pisses me off that no one knows how brilliant I am because “everyone is equal”. What? Bob the nosepicker is NOT EQUAL TO ME.

    That is all.

  85. 85
    Dawn September 26, 2007 at 8:47 pm #

    Amen, amem and AAAAMEN!

    These children who are being coddled and told everyone is equal are going to have a nasty shock when they get out into the real world. No work place I’ve ever experienced ascribes to the theory of No Employee Left Behind.

  86. 86
    McSwain September 26, 2007 at 8:48 pm #

    My son is gifted also. I hate, hate, hate that it if I say that, many people think that it’s bragging. Because it’s who he is. It’s okay to say it if your kid is good at sports, etc., but if they’re intellectually gifted? You are supposed to keep it a secret, because otherwise it’s bragging and other kids might feel bad.

    I’m a fourth grade teacher, also. And I can tell you that “gifted” brings with it a whole set of challenges. Gifted children do not have it easy–in fact it’s often the opposite. We have gifted programs because gifted kids are AT RISK. I wish people would get that.

  87. 87
    Amy-Go September 26, 2007 at 9:13 pm #

    Heck, even the three kids who live in my house and share the same gene pool don’t have the same abilities. And treating them all the same won’t change that. God made us different for a reason, and it used to be accepted as a fact of life. When did that change? There’s a serious reckoning coming for this generation that we’re sheltering so carefully from disappointment. And I doubt they’ll thank us when it gets here.

  88. 88
    Cele September 26, 2007 at 9:50 pm #

    You go girl. I get tired of people who feel everything should be leveled across the educational board. Take the video game controller out of their hand, turn off the tv, pick up a book and read. Sit down and do homework together. These same people who bitch about the unfairness of advanced or accelerated programs, often are the same people who don’t have enough time for their children.

    I love that you do not sugar coat your children’s truth. You show your loved and support for your children, beauty, warts, and all. You’re inspirational.

  89. 89
    Daisy September 26, 2007 at 10:04 pm #

    I studied ballet for years and was never any good, but it was social and fun. My mom confessed later in life that she pushed me to keep at it so I could learn that it was okay to have something that didn’t come easily to me. Gee, I didn’t even know that school came easily to me until much later. She was really ahead of the game as to parenting philosophies.

  90. 90
    Katie September 26, 2007 at 10:55 pm #

    Very well written post!

    In our school, the special ed teacher for the “not on grade level” readers actually has her doctorate in English and education. So much for the notion that slower kids having the lesser teachers.

    I have a GT kid, an average kid, a slightly behind kid, and a “probably bright but rather disruptive in class” kid (kindegartner). So I’m all over the place but I would never ever push my slightly behind kid into a GT class so to “be fair” and keep up with a sibling.

    I say “Life is not fair” to my kids at least once a day. Life is Not Fair. It’s not fair that they were born in the USA where life is relatively easy when other kids were born in Africa and are dying. I like the “suck it up” line, I’m going to have to add that to my litany of sayings.

  91. 91
    Lynda September 26, 2007 at 10:55 pm #

    Mir, I want to commend you for doing what you feel is right for your children and for not taking the crap off of people that have bought into the idea that you have to make everything an even playing field. Life isn’t an even playing field. If you don’t lose at some things then you will never learn disappointment and won’t know how to deal with it. This no child left behind is a raft of manure and most teachers know it, but their hands are tied for various reasons.

    You are doing one of the most important things that you can do to make sure that your children come out at the end as productive adults, and that is being involved. You push them to be and do the things that they need to do. We homeschool for some of the very same reasons that you pushed for monkey and chickadee to be in the accelerated program…it’s what works best for us and for our son. Bravo on your stand and on your parenting, you’re doing a great job!!!

  92. 92
    amy September 26, 2007 at 11:01 pm #

    Actually I am against parents saying anything remotely bragging about their children either to their kids or to other parents. I have tried to follow that in my life but of course I am certain I have failed frequently, but I do try.
    I do not think we should speak of how wonderful they are at sports, learning, or dance or singing or anything. What is it about us that we constantly need to say” “hey you are great at X, and so and so is great at Y?” Why can’t we just encourage their interests and skills and help them be the best that they can be? Working hard for a goal is the important thing. Yes, the goal itself is great too (like winning the game or finishing the book or completely the chess match) but it is far more important to teach them to actually persist in their quest. As the other commenter pointed out there is a great article in New York Magazine called “How Not To Talk To Your Kids: the Inverse Power of Praise.” It really is not healthy for us to be praising our kids in general about anything no matter what. We are raising a generation of lazy kids because we overpraise even when they are good at something! This is not even about the issue of every person being the same. This is about not needing to praise in general.

    I think we should, as parents, always advocate for the best education for our kids, and if we feel they are gifted or whatever, of course find the right program for them. That does not mean we have to belabor that we think they are smart or whatever it is that they are good at doing. I speak from some experience as one child is at an Ivy League and gifted, and the other struggles with dyslexia and ADHD but is a good athlete. Still I try with both of them to just talk about hard work because in the long run, that is the only thing that really matters – the satisfaction of the journey. In general our failures will teach us a lot more about coping with life than our successes.

  93. 93
    Barb September 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm #

    This is refreshing. I’m so tired of the politically correct and the self esteem mumbo jumbo, and the parents who want to be friends rather than parents. Parents are there to offer guidance, and life skills, and morals, and support–but honestly. It really is okay to feel sad or rejected or angry…because that’s real life. We have a generation of narcissists who always were told everything they did and touched was perfect, and they don’t understand why they can’t just walk into any company and automatically be the manager. And they haven’t learned how to handle grief, or disappointment, or how to handle their frustrations. We need more parents who value the journey, as you say, and relish every moment. To teach their kids how to have introspective time, and day dream time, instead of running off to every filled second on a too-full schedule.

  94. 94
    Tracey September 27, 2007 at 12:04 am #

    Well put Mir. Can I throw another facet into the mix?… I am blessed with 3 daughters who are pretty bright, and who sail through school getting academic achievement awards… The problem is that they achieve all this without having to work very hard at it, and I am trying to find the right balance with them. I am always emphasising to them that we only ever want them to do their best. To try hard, work hard. To do their homework. So, when the 14 year old (who cruises through all her other subjects) decides she hates Maths and we discover she is not handing in homework, we got tough with her. Just about had to chain her to the table to do revision, and her father was tearing his hair out because of her attitude with it. In her test she made huge improvements – ended up with second in the class (top Maths class – no idea how, it’s scary, because she isn’t that good!), and yet she was miffed because I wasn’t hi-fiving her and telling her what a legend she was. I told her that we simply expect her to do her best, and, given that we had to nag and nag her over her maths, it wasn’t her best. I would have rathered she’d come last in the class but seen her willingly and voluntarily doing her homework and revision.

    Does that make sense? Yet when I’ve blogged about this I have people commenting about how their parents made them feel they were never good enough and they’ve carried the baggage and resentment into their adult life. I wonder whether I’m getting the balance right… of course your kids need praise, but they also need to know that they need to ‘do their best’. That is their best, not the best. There is a difference!

  95. 95
    Angel September 27, 2007 at 12:46 am #

    YOU ROCK. Your kids are blessed :)

    My daughter is in honors–a new program at her middle school. The other classes, though, to protect self-esteem, are called Advanced. No different from last year.

    She is very good at very many things. But she is not afraid to admit that she’s not good at art, and her volleyball team doesn’t win often. But I tell her she’s working better as a team, and improving in her skills, and THAT is what is important.

    My son is the smallest kid in Judo. He just started this month. He tries hard–and sometimes does pin a kid bigger than he is–but otherwise he has a BLAST just being there. As it should be.

    It’s like the saying–if everyone is special, no one is special.

  96. 96
    stace September 27, 2007 at 1:43 am #

    smart doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot if you don’t have social skills!

  97. 97
    Jenni September 27, 2007 at 2:05 am #

    Yes.

  98. 98
    Meg September 27, 2007 at 3:13 am #

    Very good, Mir.

    I’ve never copped the “apologise for being good at something” attitude from anyone, for me or my kids, and I’m very grateful about it. My kids are good at some things, not so good at some things, bloody terrible at some things. I encourage them and applaud their successes, but I don’t try to pretend they’re great at everything.

    I like your reasoning and agree with your sentiments.

    Also, you’re very pretty!

  99. 99
    Carolie September 27, 2007 at 4:17 am #

    I heartily agree, Mir. I find it interesting that the same parents who fight against GT classes often find no hypocrisy in encouraging the coach to cut the less talented football players so the varsity team can make the state championships.

    Kurt Vonnegut wrote a BRILLIANT short story on the subject of everyone being “equal.” It’s called “Harrison Bergeron.” Find a copy here: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html I think it should be required reading in high school, and again for new parents.

  100. 100
    Veronica September 27, 2007 at 4:38 am #

    Brilliantly said.

  101. 101
    karen t September 27, 2007 at 6:03 am #

    I totally agree with Mir’s post. Nothing wrong with wanting your kids to get a good education.I am not opposed to ‘gifted programmes’ either. That said here’s my two penneth. I don’t agree with the line ‘if everyone is special that means nobody is special’ Special can mean different, distinctive, unique. Aren’t all children all of those things? The term ‘gifted’ means to have a natural ability, a talent.Great -if a child has a talent for maths,language, music etc then those talents should be nurtured. Having a core ‘average’ class is necessary to deal with the practical problems involved in trying to teach large numbers of children at the same time. Lump them all together because they don’t stand out at either end. Within that group will be children who couldn’t be more different both in their learning styles and in their natural talents. The artists, aid workers, scientists,journalists….a room full of potential. I believe we all have a gift for something – and it may be more relevant to a happy, fulfilling life than that child (or teacher)could ever imagine whilst wrestling with fractions and grammar at the age of 10.The problem is that schools prize some talents more than others. They assume the child scoring highly on a logic test is going to achieve more in life than the child gazing out of the window waiting to go out and play. Not necessarily so. But if you teach in one way only, stream and label as soon as they walk through the doors, refuse to recognise their skills and attributes then yeah ‘most’ kids (ie the average lump in the middle)probably won’t shine in school.

  102. 102
    Brigitte September 27, 2007 at 6:10 am #

    I never understood why it’s OK to have different levels of sports leagues, depending on skill levels, and publicly applaud those players who are outstanding.

    Yet, in school, nobody wants gifted (or whatever you want to label it) classes because it will make the other kids FEEL BAD. Well, I got pretty damn tired of feeling bad and being made fun of for being smart, and having to hide my grades when tests were passed back because it was SHAMEFUL to have a perfect score. I was also tired of being bored out of my skull, because I was being held way below my intellectual level, until I finally quit doing my homework or studying, because what was the point? Rrrrrr.

  103. 103
    Casey September 27, 2007 at 8:11 am #

    here here!!!

    I believe that is exactly why my mother let her gifted klutz (me) continue in dance for 15 years

  104. 104
    tori September 27, 2007 at 8:11 am #

    I have 4 kids and they have such different needs and abilities, strengths and weaknesses that I can’t imagine the horrible consequences if I treated them all exactly the same. Good for you for not apologizing. I love this entire post. You are so wise.

  105. 105
    nan September 27, 2007 at 8:15 am #

    Okay, you all get an A+ in creative writing, logic and parenting. And, um, a C in politics! Heh heh! Nice one Mir, and great comments… Some very thought-provoking!

  106. 106
    Terri September 27, 2007 at 8:34 am #

    As someone who was in G/T programs throughout my entire education and whose son is now in the gifted program, I’d just like to say that there’s a lot more to the “gifted” label than just being “smart.” Gifted people think differently, learn differently, and behave differently. Gifted programs are there not only to challenge them, but also to teach them in ways they’re best suited for. My child can’t sit down while he writes and does math — he stands quietly at his desk, so he’s not bouncing off the wall, but I’m certainly glad that he has a teacher who thinks out of the box and lets him (and the other kids in the class) do his thing.

    If there aren’t gifted education opportunities for these kids, many go “underground” and become underachievers, or worse, troublemakers. I’m sorry, but I think special ed is as important for these kids as it is for those with learning disabilities, etc. Truly great schools serve the special needs of all their students, whatever they may be.

    Knock wood, so far the kids in his program don’t put on airs, and the other kids don’t give them grief. The other students are much more likely to pick on him because he’s not good at soccer or because he constantly retreats into his imagination than because he excels academically without trying. Because he’s so different and has his little “quirks,” I love the fact that he’s in a class with other “quirky” kids and a teacher who used to be one herself. School should be much less lonely for him as a result.

    To me, being in the gifted classes is less about puffing kids up and more about giving them a — for lack of a better word — support network.

    Do people get as worked up over athletes chosen for the varsity teams and honed for college athletic scholarships — and hopefully a professional career?

  107. 107
    Megan September 27, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    I get to see the educational end result of all of this stuff – at a public university. Every semester we have students coming wailing into the “complaints” office at our department to cry about how the teacher doesn’t LIKE them and it’s not FAIR and they really, really TRIED. The poor faculty member (they have to rotate every few years ’cause they burn out so quickly) looks over the failed essay, goes through the egregious and obvious errors (yes, but this sentence doesn’t actually have a verb…) and points out that mistakes mean points off. This concept completely bowls some kids over – and yes, we do get several irate parents calling to complain about how junior and juniorette were mistreated. One threatened to sue – SUE – because of a grade.

    The result? The stupid regents are putting pressure on faculty to “dumb down” the classes by imposing a grade quota on each course! Can you imagine? You MUST give at least x% A’s, X% B’s and so forth. If they have their way a degree from this institution will mean absolutely nothing – and the bright students who come here because this is the place they can afford… makes me spit!

  108. 108
    mamacita tina September 27, 2007 at 9:03 am #

    I think it’s about honesty. I don’t want my kids to have delusions of being great at something they’re not. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses, otherwise how would they know which areas need improvement, which areas they want to explore further because they have an innate ability to do it. They should be aware of skills that are lacking so they understand where all the frustration is coming from and learn to cope with it.

    It saddens me to know a district would dispense of any program that helps individual students reach their full potential, whether it be remedial or gifted.

  109. 109
    Naomi (Urban Mummy) September 27, 2007 at 1:32 pm #

    I have not read the other comments yet, but wanted to put my 2 cents in. First, I am a high school teacher. Second, I am a graduate of gifted education. None of this is especially important except to give a perspective.

    At our school, we have a lot of issues with kids wanting what is “fair and equal”.

    I work to teach them (and my own kids, of course, who are much younger) that FAIR and EQUAL are not the same thing.

    This is what has worked for me.

    There are 2 people. A little boy, and a very big man. They are both extremely hungry. I give them each a small bowl of pasta. This is EQUAL. When they are finished eating, the little boy is full and happy. The big man is still hungry, and a bit crabby. Is this FAIR?

    Oh, I could go on and on about the sense of entitlement that some of the kids today (and their parents) have!!

    I am so with you.

  110. 110
    carrien September 27, 2007 at 3:07 pm #

    I’m agreeing with you emphatically.

  111. 111
    Students at Wellington Hall September 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm #

    Great blog – very in depth. We are learning about blogs today and our teacher showed us yours.

    We thought a lot of what you said was true and we could relate to it. We can’t wait to hear more!

  112. 112
    Mamacita September 27, 2007 at 3:48 pm #

    Several people have already recommended “Harrison Bergeron,” so I don’t need to. :) I will have to say, though, that we’re not far from there, in so many ways. And that there are people who think it would be a good thing. THAT’S what’s really scary.

    The fact is, and this comes as such a shock to some people, that we are NOT all equal. Some of us are taller, shorter, prettier, uglier, smarter, dumber, coordinated, clumsy, musical, artistic, kind, sympathetic, rude, hateful. . . .

    And why should we all be the same? How boring the world would be.

    And you really don’t want to get me started on the disparity between athletic programs and academic programs.

    Great post, Mir. I’m with you.

    I also believe that people who jump on the “that’s ELITIST and will make the self-esteem of other kids dip down into the negatives” need to get a life. Or look in the mirror and admit that it’s mostly sour grapes.

    Right on, out of state, groovy and all the other aging hippie expressions of love and approval to you. You are absolutely spot-on 100% correct.

  113. 113
    Delton September 27, 2007 at 4:58 pm #

    You’re awesome.

    As a member of the gifted programs of my youth and also having been behind in the whole athletic & social arenas my entire life, I appreciate what you’ve said here. I’ll be keeping your words in mind with my own kids. Thanks.

  114. 114
    Giillian September 28, 2007 at 12:54 am #

    I think most kids of any level of intelligence know when their parents are telling them a lie. Think of all those months and years of growing where the source for study most available to little sponges was mom or dad. Kids get to be experts at reading their parents. The scary part is that they get no guidance as to why you feel the need to tell them a lie, so they are going to try to guess at that and the answers they will come up with will never be good ones.

  115. 115
    dorothy September 28, 2007 at 10:14 am #

    I’m with you, Mir. There’s an amazing short story about putting weights around the ballerinas legs and making smart people listen to loud noises so they couldn’t think. In order for everyone to be “equal,” you have to go to the lowest common denominator in each area instead of encouraging individual talents.

  116. 116
    Mom101 October 2, 2007 at 12:26 pm #

    Amen, sister Mir! Your distinctions are spot on. I was in a gifted program as kid but I also was the kid that never won the stupid presidential physical fitness patches or whatever because I couldn’t do a long jump. Everyone has their skills and weaknesses. Maybe we just need to get over the fact that our kids will never be perfect in every way.

  117. 117
    BooMom October 2, 2007 at 2:53 pm #

    May I just add a LOUD and HEARTY

    BRAVA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  118. 118
    Nicole/wksocmom October 2, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    okay, there are a million comments but I just had to chime in what a great post this is. My husband praises our darn kids all day long, which is fine, but I do try to instill a dose of reality to both him and the kids. Ehem, they are smart, but I don’t really think they are “gifted” (sorry, buddy)- they will be way better athletes than I ever was, thanks to his genes and passion for sports, but that doesn’t mean they will always score or win, or to rub it in other kids faces :)

    On the other hand, we have a school around here with a “college track” and “non-college track” which the locals like to call the smart and dumb track, or worse the “bussed in kids from the poor towns” and the “kids from the wealthy areas” (replacing the name of the towns) track. That just sickens me.

  119. 119
    Redhead Mommy October 2, 2007 at 11:29 pm #

    EXCELLENT. I just found your blog. Wonderfully said. I plan on linking to you in a future blog. My husband and I are both teachers. He likes to say, “We are raising a nation of [wimps].” He actually uses a much nastier term…but I’m the editor. Anyway, as you can see, we have the same sentiments as you. Thanks again!

  120. 120
    MyStarbucks October 3, 2007 at 8:40 am #

    Finally, someone stands up for what they believe and doesn’t let the fear of social standards get in the way of the truth. I totally agree with everything said. You should never have to apologize for how you raise your kids, it’s those that are insecure about the job they are doing that stand in judgment of others and unfortunately that becomes their problem. Of course, society has done such a crappy job at making us all feel like we need to tip toe around others and their feelings that we begin a pointless journey of eggshell walking and truth then becomes a thing of the past because no one can handle it. I agree, it’s time the kids “suck it up” and make no excuses, after all we all know what excuses are like…..LOL

  121. 121
    carson October 3, 2007 at 10:22 pm #

    Anyone who would disagree with you should read “Harrison Bergeron” again. And again. And again. Maybe even with the television off.

  122. 122
    Desiree October 8, 2007 at 4:52 pm #

    Brilliant!! Absolutely brilliant. I couldn’t agree with you more.

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