In sixth grade my teacher ran out of math to teach me. His solution was to have me “tutor” some of the slowest kids.
I looked at my teacher like he was nuts. Didn’t he know that was like painting a big target on my back that said, “Beat me up after school?”
Having no choice, I walked up to math-challenged kids and said, “Um, I’m supposed to help you with some of those problems, but…”
Before I could get the next words out, the boys started to threaten me. But I was ready for them.
“Hey, I’m with you. Let’s just pretend that I’m tutoring you and then we can go our merry ways.” Or something like that.
It worked. The boys not only left me alone, we became friends of sort. After a few days, I told my teacher I helped them all I could, but that I was still out of math to study.
So he stuck me in the Learning Center with Algebra study cards. Soon, two friends of mine joined me and those “study” hours turned into quiet “chat” time.
My suburban elementary school was new and well funded for the day, but there was little money for gifted children. Worse, there was a belief that gifted children should be held back for the benefit of the other kids.
The result was years of boredom and frustration for me and my friends. While the situation was bleak in the 1970s, it may be worse today as No Child Left Behind siphons money and energy away from gifted programs.
The Bush Administration has repeatedly killed the $9 million Javits Act, the only federal funding for gifted elementary and middle schools programs, reports The New York Times. Each year Congress had the sense to restore the paltry program.
Not only are schools cutting back on science and history coursework, they are also eliminating field trips, adds The Times. One small study shows a 20 percent decline in visits to museums over the last few years. That means increased boredom for many gifted kids.
While many parents understand how to keep a gifted child engaged, a poor school setting can cause serious problems. Gifted children develop poor study habits if they are not constantly engaged. Sometimes, under-challenged kids can become moody or appear hyperactive.
Considering how business and policymakers constantly harp on how important it is to remain globally competitive, you would think funding gifted programs would be a no-brainer. But no, America’s policies seem more dedicated to fostering a class divide that benefits those who can better fund their children’s education.
Besides, it’s difficult to get public sentiment worked up about a bunch of smart kids sitting bored in school all day.