Looking back over my teaching years so far, I can see a trail behind me like I am the Pied Piper of lost souls. My kids who dance along the path of life with me, (because of course they are all my children deep down in my heart, especially these ones,) are often the ones that other people can't easily deal with. The ones who refuse to tow the line, like me, and ask all those same questions. They are the ones who have so much energy and promise, and yet they don't know what to do with all of their powers, so they fight- they fight their rough lives, they fight the school systems that often don't fit them, they fight anyone who looks at them sideways, and even people who smile at them. They fight, and it makes me fight twice as hard for them because if they are fighting so hard, then they deserve to have someone in their corner with them.
I've found several of these kids in my many years of teaching, and they exemplify the traits of gifted children, yet they often go unnoticed and they are usually under-identified. Which means they don't have access to the support systems they need to learn how to deal with their awesome abilities, and how to balance them with the despair, anxiety, and other rough emotions that go along with understanding things at a deep enough level to see how flawed other people really are.
As they march forward, I march with them, playing a tune of love and support that they don't seem to hear at first. Eventually they start to hear me... They see that I am stepping to their beat and would do anything to keep them safe and focused, and then they start stepping to my beat, slowly, too. They don't realize they are working with me, and wouldn't admit it even if they did because they don't like to admit they work with anyone. But once they realize I'm on their side and I don't let them down, they eventually look to me for the support they need. And I give it to them. I don't care if they are identified formally for services in the school district... I don't care where they are really supposed to be during the day if they come to see me. I try to find them the help they need, when they need it.
These are fragile souls with the world on their shoulders. They see people in the world hurting and they want to fix them. They hear about things on the news and it terrifies them. So when they look at me with those big eyes, reaching for my hand virtually through the air between us, I reach back. And that is why it's hard for me to fit in with the current public education system, because there is less and less flexibility for us to reach out to the kids that need us the most. There's less time in the day, less allowable time and/or resources for needed discussions and social emotional support, and less ability to move children around when they need to be somewhere other than lined up in rows of desks studying for end of year, standardized tests.
These little "deer in the headlights" children are the reason I work as hard as I do in the field of gifted education. I see them when I close my eyes at night, I dream of a better world for them at night, and I wake up energized because I know how important what we do in our communities and our schools is for these kids, and how much they deserve better than what we do now.
And when the sun comes up, I join my fellow gifted education gurus who focus on the at-risk children, the under-served, the stereotyped, and the disadvantaged kids who need us most, and I keep playing my tune- declaring the importance of identifying and serving these hidden gifted kids, and then standing by their sides even when they try their hardest to prove themselves unworthy. We do what we can for these kids who have little or no voice in the system, and we hope that someday enough people will look through the misunderstandings, misinformation, and stereotypes and help us grab their hands before they slip beyond our reach.
This is my song, and it is the song they need us all to sing. I hope you will join us as we dance through the streets, whistling this tune over and over again until the system finds a better way to reach them, until the leaders find a better avenue for us to teach them, and until the world recognizes the amazing potential we are otherwise discarding and finds a way to embrace these reluctant little warriors. And so, I sing my heart out, collecting those who I can reach, and we dance.