I loved my fourth grade teacher. Miss Ranelletti. It was her first year teaching on her own. She loved us, and we loved her. This was also the year I was going to be in the gifted program. The year before, I was told I would have to wait until fourth grade. By the time I entered the 4th grade, rules had changed, or perhaps budgets? The gifted program was now only for fifth and sixth graders. Of course it was!
Somehow, this year, it didn’t matter. Though I was in a traditional classroom filled only with students who were the same grade level as I was for the first time since kindergarten, it managed to be another creative and enriching school year. Having the “gifted” label lingering over my head made me feel like I ought to do very well and get some of the highest grades in the class. I didn’t expect to get the very highest grades, because I knew there were other “gifted” kids in my classroom. I did end up in the highest reading, math and spelling groups. All other subjects were taught with the entire class.
It was a fun year. “Welcome Back Kotter” was a big hit and Miss Ranelletti let us call ourselves “The Sweathogs.” She would occasionally allow Arnold Horshack imitations with the “”Ooh-ooh-ooooh!” As we raised our hands in class. Not all the time. Just in certain, more casual situations. Not when the principal happened to be nearby, for example.
We were encouraged to express ourselves creatively, so if a few students wanted to write a little skit and perform in front of the class, she made time for that, right after lunch. I somehow managed to persuade one of my male classmates to be “Donny” to my “Marie” as we sang “A Little Bit of Country, A Little Bit of Rock and Roll.”
Looking back, I think the “gifted” label still helped me to excel in school. Back then, I wondered what it was like for the kids who didn’t meet those “standards.” Even for the ones who were otherwise good students, why didn’t they qualify for the gifted program? A few of us who knew we had qualified for the program, would sometimes quietly talk about certain students, “She’s really smart, why isn’t she ‘in’?” I realized that a good portion of why I did well in school had nothing to do with hard work and dedication on my part. Some of it did, but I could see that some kids had to struggle more just to pass. I felt bad for them. Even though I did well, I did struggle with certain things a little bit, and could only imagine what it must feel like to have to struggle with everything all the time. I thought of myself as one of the lucky ones. I wondered why I was so lucky to be “gifted.” I knew it wasn’t fair. Sometimes, I felt a little guilty, but usually, I was relieved.
Did you have a similar experience? If you were in the GT programs, did you have any feelings of guilt about the kids who struggled?
If you were one of the kids who struggled, did you have any feelings of resentment toward the kids who seemed to have a much easier time getting good grades?