I was sitting on the school bus in front of my school waiting for the kids to straggle in from the other fifth grade classrooms (the sixth graders went on a different day). My friend, Tania and I whispered words of mutually agreed approval and occasional surprise as each student took a seat on the bus. “Oh yeah, of course he’s in,” or “Hunh, I didn’t know she’d be in, but okaaaay..” And off we went in the middle of the school day to the HAPP (High Academic Performance Program) building which was located in a portable building on the campus of another elementary school in the school district. Finally, after two years of waiting, I was back in a gifted program. I felt vindicated.
Every Tuesday we’d go our HAPP class and do a variety of projects. Some activities were boring and some were fun and creative. To be fair, some of the activities I considered boring were probably intended to be creative, like the “Thinking Program.” The teacher would read a problem from the Thinking Program book and we would either discuss a solution as a group or break off into smaller groups or individually and come with solutions to bring back to the group. Sometimes we had math problems to work out, which I never finished before the other students.
One day, after a disheartening round of math, I was sitting at a desk, doing some self-scrutiny. I was wondering if they got it wrong when they tested me. I remembered reading some material the HAPP teacher sent out to our parents explaining that there were different ways a student could be gifted. Mathematics was obviously not my way. I could still read better and certainly with more inflection than most of the kids in my school. I knew I was a better and more entertaining reader than many of the kids in my HAPP group. In fact, at least in my particular group, at the best, maybe a few students read as well as I did, including proper inflection and emotion. Just as I was coming back around to believing in myself again, I overheard one boy from our group disdainfully ask another boy using what can best be describe as a stage whisper, “Why is she even in here? She’s terrible at math!” I felt a lump rise in my throat. I took his tone and word to mean that he felt I was ruining everything like the worst player on a team. I looked up at the ceiling to prevent the tears. That’s when I heard the other boy, a boy from my school who had been in every class with me since third grade say, “Because she’s a really good reader, so shut up!” While I don’t even remember who the boy was that complained about me, I will always remember the boy who stuck up for me.
We would also get a bit of homework to turn in the next time. It wasn’t a lot, but in addition to that, we had to make up whatever we missed in class that day. The highlight of the year was the talent show where my friend Tania and I played our violins outside the auditorium as the audience piled in. The downside of that evening was when I was supposed to read a paragraph or two explaining the next act, but the spotlight shining on me, made my paper less opaque and made it more difficult to make out the words to read. I managed to stumble through it, demoralized that my chance to shine and show off my very best skills had been thwarted by technical issues. To make matters worse, my own mother questioned whether I had practiced reading through it enough. Was she kidding? One of the only things that got me through it was that I had read it so many times I practically had it memorized! O, for a time machine! I could have used a clipboard to hold the paper!
In Sixth grade, due to the students complaining about having to make up work they missed in class, and also, probably due to budget cuts, the HAPP teacher traveled from school to school so the students would miss less classroom time with the travel time now omitted. While this helped with homework, I think we all kind of missed our friends from the other schools. We did get to meet up with them when we went on field trips, one of the most memorable being the time we got to see the space shuttle Columbia while they were still building it –I think at or near a facility at Edward’s Airforce Base.
Things changed with the school district’s gifted program for Jr. High School. I’ll talk about that the next time I post an installment about my experiences growing up as a gifted child. If you wish to read my previous installments:
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