Friday, September 26, 2008

The Notebook

I walked into the room, nervous as if I was the "new kid" at school. This new school was having Open House, and it wasn't the relaxed, all the people in town, type of affair I was used to.

Instead, I had to go from room to room, recognizing only the kids' two teachers and one mom out of the parents of 166 children.

As I entered Aidan's classroom, I found his desk, and looked through his notebook. I look through this binder every evening. Check to be sure assignments are being done. Looking at his spelling. Checking out his handwriting. Making sure he puts things in the right section.

He doesn't always, but usually. Even though he carefully puts his things away, much more carefully than he ever has, the papers have wrinkled edges. The writing is messy. And he expresses that he likes school, but Mom, I have a headache. Or I have a stomachache. I have neck pain.


I recognize these symptoms. I know the panic feeling. I know the headaches.

I walk in, timidly, and note that Aidan's notebook is the only one that doesn't shut neatly. His papers, although done right, are crumpled.

I am NOT embarrassed or ashamed. I pick it up with pride, knowing that despite his difficulties, Aidan loves learning. And I bring it over to the circle with me. I listen to the parents complain about the new 6th grad math program that groups students together, regardless of ability. How will the advanced students get challenged? How will students who need extra explaining get the help they need? It doesn't seem to occur to anyone in the room that maybe it IS a good idea to teach everyone the same concept. That groups are artificial, and learning the concepts is the important thing. That advanced students can teach other students, thereby improving their own understanding of the concepts by explaining them, and that the other students might benefit from a different voice.

But that is not why I am writing.

I am writing because I realized as I drove home that maybe there is something to be said for identifying learning issues of gifted children. Aidan is clearly bright. But teachers say the same things about him that they used to say about me... "So smart... just doesn't apply himself." "Seems distracted" "Is always drawing rather than listening."

I'll be honest, a large part of me thinks, "SO??" I will also say that I believe he needs me to push him to see how he looks to others, to teachers, to his dad and I.

But as I stared out at the night, I thought, "WOAH." What if someone had said to me that I was ADD back then? That I was physically incapable of staying focused? My mom thinks I am ADD now. DO I even believe in ADD? And what does it mean to be ADD and Gifted? What does either label mean? And here, in Vermont, where there is no mandate to accommodate gifted children, should I allow Aidan to be seen as learning disabled? Would that get him the extra help to find strategies to get his work done, make it neat, and get him the OT help to fix his handwriting?? Or should I try and do it all from home?

I thought of his notebook, his noble effort to do his work well.

And I smiled. It doesn't matter what they think. I see a bright, beautiful, creative learner.

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