The kids are all trying to look over the fence… one is short, one medium-height, and one tall enough to see over the fence but just barely. In the next frame the kids all have crates to stand on that are different sizes so they all can see over the fence. The idea is that all kids should be given services that get them to see over the fence. The problem is the crates are all shorter and shorter the taller the child is.
If you take this literally it implies that every child who is already doing grade level work (hence, “seeing over the fence”) only needs a little bit of support or teaching during the school year, while other children should get more support and teaching. In other words it is saying that students with higher abilities should get less time or help or teaching than the other kids.
This is a real problem in education, not merely a problem in a cartoon picture. High level kids are often left to their own devices and teachers sometime assume these kids are ok with getting support, which often means less learning in a school year than other students. Kids who are asked to do remedial work to keep busy while other kids practice tasks they struggle with, or kids who are asked to help the other students after they are done learning the task themselves are often spinning their wheels and wasting hours of the school days when they could be learning new things and pushing their own minds instead. But yet teachers often seem to think it’s okay as long as they don’t create problems in the classroom… as long as they pass their standardized testing… as long as they don’t have parents who complain.
There are many kids with parents who trust the system and do not ask many questions or who just can’t participate as much as they would like in their children’s educational experience. They may be the ones who don’t come to parent conferences because they are working, or the ones who don’t realize their child is capable of much more and celebrate all the high scores he/she brings home each year. The ones who believe the teacher when the teacher says the child is not listening well in class, or the child is not doing well because of behavior issues, rather than challenging the teacher to find out why their child is doing grade-level work and acting out. Those parents look to us to help their children achieve at the highest level they are capable of achieving. We are not meeting that challenge by only giving those kids just a small “boost” or no boost at all like the cartoon implies those children should receive. Every child deserves our efforts as teachers and we should work just as hard to help them push their own limits as we push the kids who struggle more.
There are many gifted kids who will sit back and skate through life without complaining. But with a boost from a teacher who cares about them they could reach heights they never thought they could achieve before.
It is so important that in this day and age of common core standards that we advocate hard for those kids who have the ability to soar but are held back by the education system- the ones who meet the standards easily but then are forced to sit in class and wait for everyone else to meet them. Or the kids who are capable of meeting the standards but already are giving up on playing the school game because they are bored or they are uncomfortable with the teacher or their peers in the class or they are lacking skills but assumed to be the “smart kids” so they are afraid to ask questions or participate or just plain don’t want to even engage. We cannot let the lists of standards limit how far our gifted kids (or any kids) can go. The standards are not checklists that should be checked off and then “completed.” Learning should happen as a cycle- although skills may be learned and practice achieved, there is always a higher level you can take a discussion to, or a new way to explore concepts to see how they interact in new ways. Find extra books and bring in interesting articles and question the kids with things that make the teachers think hard about life and about the universe. And continue to push and provide opportunities that tie the world to the classroom and the kids to the community and things outside of the classroom doors. Keep stretching them, keep questioning, keep growing as teachers and the kids will keep up with you if they are taught to care and how to think, rather than how to achieve on a few classroom tasks because a standards list said they needed to accomplish something, or a test is going to only focus on the few things you did that week in some book.
There are students who are going to try to convince us they are too hard to reach, or too weak in some skills that they do not have high abilities. They will trick us and try us and sometimes make it easier to let them stand without that “boost.” And that is when we need to know enough about gifted kids to see past those behaviors and find the ways to reach them regardless. We need to focus our efforts in the education communities to ensure adequate training for all teachers- so that those who see misbehavior as a sign of low intellect can learn to see when it is more likely a sign of boredom or a sign that the academic program is not working for the child. We need districts and teacher certification programs to prepare experienced teachers as well as brand new teachers to teach real world connections and higher order thinking and to infuse every lesson with social-emotional skill building practice and support so that every child is challenged and supported, and every lesson is meaningful and stretches every mind.
Every child is entitled to high level instruction and should learn something new every day. Give every child the highest boost because they all deserve the teacher’s time and energy. Help every child see over the fence but don’t stop once they do- some of them can fly.