Monday, March 13, 2006

I forgot to mention something in my last post, where I lamented my lack of success in school, and that was that I was put into the gifted, talented and creative class at my grade school.

I remember it well, sitting there in Mrs. Kelley's class as the secretary came in and handed out folded papers with playful hand drawn lettering on them, replete with flowers, butterflies and humanoid figures that I think were supposed to represent gifted, talented and creative children. The figures were dancing and frolicking, celebrating their superiority above others. All of us chosen ones received invites into a class that set us apart from the other students who failed to qualify as gifted, talented, and creative. They looked at me with envy, and I looked at them with confusion.

Gifted, Talented Creative Kid: Look. Anne got one too. Anne, you're in.

Me: In what?

Gifted, Talented Creative Kid: You're gifted, talented, and creative.

Me: I am?

Eventually, we were shepherded into another classroom and told that twice a week, we would participate in a class that would challenge us to bring out the best of our abilities. And, twice a week we went, armed with our extra special notebooks that only kids in the GTC program got to carry. The class was held in the kindergarten class that was empty in the afternoons and looking at the colorful walls, toys, and open space, I thought that surely it was all for our benefit. The teacher, Mrs. Brown, told us how special we were and what a privilege it was to be asked to participate in the GTC program. At first, I bought the hype. I was elated at this get out of class free card and the recognition of my talents. I had entered an elite class of fourth graders who were considered more gifted, talented, and creative than the rest of the Stout Elementary School population. This was it. I was on the path to become a Jedi Knight.

However, the elation at being a chosen one soon came to the realization that all the class consisted of was extra homework. Mrs. Brown, the GTC teacher, gave us an assignment to do a report on a subject of our choosing that represented our interests. One girl did super trains, another kid did the pyramids. I wanted to do UFOs, but Mrs. Brown said that our reports must deal in reality.

Me: But UFOs are real.

Mrs. Brown: This assignment isn't science fiction.

Me: But UFOs are real. There are books in the library about them.

Mrs. Brown: Pick something else.

I was at a loss. If UFOs weren't real enough for Mrs. Brown, what was? I looked for subjects that were of interest to me, but nothing compared. As a fourth grader in Kansas, my world was limited. Finally, I chose the very thing I stared through for a majority of the time to escape the classroom.

Glass.

Riveting, I know. The whole time I was preparing this snooze fest, I was thinking about my UFO report and how I could have made that a hit. For glass, I used a flip chart, and crude marker drawings. It was the most boring report that I'd given in my life. I discussed how glass was made, what it was used for. Sounds like it could be interesting, but left up to a fourth grader it was a series of bad drawings and a rambling subject matter. I didn't know where to stop. Glass was everywhere. I was in fourth grade. It was too much to handle and I had a meltdown in front of Mrs. Brown and the GTC class. I knew I was losing them, all these gifted and talented students. So I just stopped. Right in the middle, in front of my flip chart with a badly drawn grain of sand and drinking glass on it. I just stopped talking. And for a minute, there was nothing but silence.

Mrs. Brown: You obviously weren't prepared for this report.

Me: No, I wasn't.

Mrs. Brown: Why not?

Me: Because it's boring.

GTC Class: (gasp. snicker.)

Mrs. Brown: But you chose the subject matter.

Me: No, I chose UFOs.

Mrs. Brown: (staring daggers at me) I can't give you credit for this as it's unfinished.

GTC Class: (silence)

Me: (turning crimson) Okay.

The class was silent as I closed my flip chart, took it off the easel and carried it to one of the desks marked in crayon by kindergarten graffiti artists. I sat down, near tears. The kid who had chosen the pyramids stood up and gave his report like a groomed politician. He didn't miss a beat. When it came to question and answer time, I raised my hand.

He called on me.

Me: Some people think the Egyptians got help from UFOs to build the pyramids.

Kid: Um...

Mrs. Brown: Anne, why don't you spend the rest of the class sitting in the desk over there.

She pointed to a desk by the window. I carried my flip chart "over there" and sat by glass, lots of it. I looked out through it, then at it, trying to see if I could locate any errant grains of sand in the window. I couldn't. So I sat, ostracized from the other GTC students.

I soon learned that GTC wasn't a bunch of frolicking, dancing, smiling kids. It was boring, uncreative, and stiff. It was additional work that I wasn't willing to do. Extra special notebook or not, I delivered my worst grades ever in my grade school career. When they came, I heard from more than one adult that this is the first time anyone in the GTC program had received such poor standing. I felt like a colossal failure at the time, and was confused. Did this mean that I wasn't gifted, talented, and creative anymore? Then I thought that maybe my name had been mixed up with someone else's and I got the notebook. Or, maybe I was as not ok with people calling me smart as I was them grading me based on a one fits all system. When I'd had enough, and so had Mrs. Brown, I asked to be taken out of the GTC Program and even offered to turn in my extra special notebook. I just wanted to be a fourth grader, no strings attached.

When I approached my teacher, it was as if I'd asked to defect to communist Russia. She got the assistant principal.

Them: You want out of the GTC class?

Me: Yes.

Them: No one's ever asked to be out of the class before, we'll have to see.

Me: I know. Here's my notebook. I don't want to go anymore. I just want to be in the regular talent class.

Them: But you can't just get out of the class.

Me: What if I just don't go? When all the other kids get up with their extra special notebooks and leave the dolts (I said kids, but might as well have said dolts) behind, I'll just stay with them.

Them: (silence)

Me: I just don't feel very gifted, talented, or creative while I'm in there.

Them: (silence)

Me: So I can stop going, right?

Them: No. No. Not until we talk to the GTC teacher.

Me: I don't think she'll mind.

Them: Well, we'll have to hear that from her.

Me: Okay, well I'm going to talk to my mom, and she'll make sure I'm out. You can't force me to go, right?

Them: (silence)

The next time that the class time came for all the gifted, talented and creative students to exit class with their noses in the air, I sat still. The chosen ones looked at me as if I should be following, but I sat firm as my heart beat in my chest.

Teacher: (silence. staring at me.)

Me: (silence. staring back, then at desk. Then out the window.)

The next week, it got around that I'd wanted out of GTC. GTC wannabees didn't understand how I could throw such an opportunity away. Didn't I know my future was at stake? Didn't I know what I was giving up?

A few weeks passed, and my extra special notebook eventually found its way to the back of my desk under my glue, notebooks, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener, markers, books, crumpled notes about boys I had crushes on, and a pack of contraband Starburst that I'd snuck into class. Life went on, my grades got a little better, but most of all I was out of the GTC. Every time those kids got up with their extra special notebooks and walked out of the classroom, I'd smile a little to myself. I'd been on the inside, and knew there was nothing special about GTC. I'd been invited into the program, but had asked to get out, giving me the prestige without the extra work.

Perhaps that made me the most gifted, talented, and creative of them all.

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