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Polite conversation

I love reading Maxabella’s posts. They are always thought provoking, funny, or just plain great. Today she posted about the art of playground conversation, Mum to Mum. You know where one person talks and talks about whatever is on their mind, their opinion, whatever, and just does not shut up to allow you the time to join in the conversation, to respond. We have all been there, probably all been that person at some time in our lives. I know I have been that person.

What interested me about Maxabella’s post was that she had two messages. You see she described the unp0lite one-way  conversation  of a mum talking about her gifted and talented children. I have been thinking about this all morning and felt the need to talk about it.

I have no problem hearing Mums talk animatedly about their wonderful children. How capapble they are at such and such or how quickly they learn so and so. Let me share a couple of recent conversations I was involved in:

We have friends who struggled to have their first child. When finally pregnant, they learnt that their first child (at 20 week ultrasound) was severely deformed and was tested to genetically be incompatible with life. This child died and my friend had to birth her. They fell pregnant again. This time a boy. He was a difficult baby who grew into an introverted toddler. He rocked in the corner and screamed uncontrollably with fierce and violent tantrums. They placed foam along his bedroom walls to prevent him from harming himself when he rocked and banged his head. They struggled to find answers and early intervention. At aged ten he now attends a ‘special needs school’ where he is considered to be high functioning. His recent Naplan scores did not make the National benchmark but he is now independant with dressing and feeding. He has an 8 year old sister. She has been offered a place in her primary school’s Gifted and Talented program. I listened intently as my friend talked about this achievement, just as I have listened intently over the years about her struggles to achieve adequate schooling for her son.

A Mum who had a son attend my daughter’s school, until this year, and I met up again recently when collecting our children from their philosophy class. This class is offered to GAT kids and she felt the need to open up to me about her recent knowledge that her son was gifted. While he had attended my daughter’s school, he was seen as mischievous and unsettling in the class. His attention was poor and his grades were low. In desperation, she enrolled him into an all boys private school. A teacher suggested psychometric testing and it became apparent that he was of a high IQ, and his learning environment was enriched. No longer does she feel she has the ‘brat’of the school. Again, I understood why she felt the need to share her story, and I listened.

I worked for 11 years as a neonatal intensive care nurse at King Edward, the largest neonatal unit in the Southern Hemisphere. I left for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I was burnt out. My heart ached for the 25% of newborns being admitted already addicted to drugs. For the preterm babies who had no family visit for weeks on end, and for the babies who when ready to be discharged, had to wait until a social worker could find a relative to discharge them to. I wonder if these children grow up to have loving Mums and Dads discussing their achievements at the school playground?

My understanding of the public school system is that they have programs titled Gifted and Talented, for the top 10% of achievers. This is a great opportunity to offer these kids enriched learning but perhaps the name of these programs produces comparisons which can only cause discomfort? Some schools provide streaming in subject areas like maths and spelling while others have Challenge or Extension programs. Do we get our hackles up when a Mum wants to share the problems she faces with her child who is in an Enrichment program to assist them to catch up with reading or maths?

What I have learnt is that sometimes having a gifted (psychometrically tested as having an IQ of 115 or higher) child can bring with it many problems. They have over-excitabilities associated with being gifted and often have their own special needs. Parents with these children are often not found to be sprouting about the joys of their ámazing abilities’. I am already noticing the stares, and the withdrawal of Mums at our weekly library sessions when master x, who although adores books one on one, finds it difficult (like every other boy in the room), to sit quietly and listen to the stories. Come craft time, he is the first at the table to scribble on his photocopied picture and then asks me to help write his name as he loudly spells out the letters. He then chooses his favourite books (Maisy, Charlie and Lola or Spot) and “reads”the words aloud. Mothers seem to find it difficult to be around a not-yet-2 1/2 year old who knows his alphabet, the sound each letter makes as he “sounds out” words, and can recognise all numbers up to 100. Do I ask him to perform these tricks? Eff no! I already feel the isolation. I have been down this path twice before and I know that some people think I am a pushy mother with my oldest daughter who is intrinsically motivated to learn and achieve.

I guess with most things in life, some people like to sprout about things that interest them, and to most (especially first-time) Mums, that is their amazing offspring. So to sum up, I definitley agree that being a talker, and not a listener makes for rude behaviour. I have no problem with the content of the conversation, as long as we remember the rules of conversation, to take turns.


5 Responses

  1. Very thought provoking post, Vanessa and I”m not surprised that you were burnt out (and no doubt finding it harder to have a ‘hard heart’) in your intensive career nursing career.

    I remember the labels at my rather big and rough public high school were still applied in general streams: you were placed in Advanced, Standard or Basic science, Maths and English classes. No surprises how well the ‘basic’ kids did – abominably, probably due to the low expectations and interest shown them.

    Your comment – “being a talker, and not a listener makes for rude behaviour” is spot on and I’ll admit that it’s something I have to really, really work out. Not regarding my daughter per se, but in my ‘please like me please please please’ insecurity in other social situations. I know have LC give me a tiny ‘sign’ to let me know when to shut up, calm down and listen.

  2. Yes, exactly what I was trying to say in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way. I think I got side-tracked by the GAT thing and shouldn’t have put it in my post. The two things are not necessarily related at all.

    I like to pay out the ‘GATs’ because I firmly believe that everyone is gifted and talented at something or another. It might not be what our educational system determines is rewardable, but it will be something. I wish the GAT stream thing didn’t happen in mainstream schools. I’m not sure why.


  3. hmmm – I have a child going into the GAT program at a public school next year. I am grateful for the opportunity but agree that the title “Gifted and Talented” sounds elitist and unfair and I too believe that everyone is gifted in their own way x

  4. You interest in people is very apparent in this post. I completely agree that it is the turn taking – you talk about yours, I talk about mine – that makes friendships work. I am actually surprised that the GAT programme is only based on an IQ of 115 (1 SD above the norm). It doesn’t seem nearly as impressive as I imagined! Maxabella (who is my sister) always has something interesting to say. She has a different take on life – probably would have been a GAT had we had such nonsense in our schools!

  5. Hello Vanessa! I’m just popping in because I haven’t seen you in a while. Is everything okay? Or just ridiculously busy.

    Thinking of you… x

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