If you’ve been following this blog at ALL, you know that Z is a superhero-genius, with a conservatively-estimated IQ of 923. All parents are soooo objective, but most especially parents of children who were adopted, because that latter event basically frees us up to brag in an unfettered way by virtue of not sharing genetics. Naturally, Z being the next Curie/Vos Savant/Sandberg, I was expecting a pre-tty fabulous report card this spring.
She received threes, meaning “Meets grade level expectations,” across the board. Several pages of threes. Out of **50** possible grades, only three were not threes! She got a two, or “making progress toward meeting grade level expectations,” in the area of “demonstrates self control.” The ONLY fours she received were both on reading speed, during timed tests.
Z’s teacher is one of the best in the state, so I knew these grades were more related to Z than a failing on her teacher’s part. Still, I hoped her teacher could help with ideas about improving both her work and her grades.
During our parent-teacher conference, Z’s very kind, very experienced, very gifted teacher admitted she’s not at all sure how to get her to do better. She told me that Z finishes everything ahead of all the other students. Then, rather than polishing her work or doing a little extra, she socializes, which, depending on who is next to her, can often be a problem for that neighboring student. She has been offered the opportunity to work on an optional special project of her own, like other gifted students in her class – something for which her teacher gives up her own limited free time -- but has opted not to do so. Rather than focusing on learning, Z’s focus is often on “side conversations.” Because she is quick, she manages to “meet grade level expectations” – but only in a perfunctory fashion.
It’s the same thing with her homework. She has reading homework every day for twenty minutes? She reads for twenty minutes. She is asked to write a sentence using a vocabulary word? She writes the shortest sentence possible. Not working hard feels so alien to me, the quintessential OVER-tryer, despite having been schooled on this subject by many brilliant friends who were underachievers in school…Something about “If everything is easy for you, why ever make an effort”??
There is also the possibility that I am/we are putting too much pressure on her, that we are having overly high expectations. Perhaps she’s not quite as exceptionally smart as I have always thought. Her teacher and I were obviously on the same page in feeling that Z is not even close to living up to her academic potential, but maybe we were basing our assessment of Z’s potential academic intelligence on her apparently immense emotional intelligence. Or maybe her approach to schoolwork is a survival thing, sort of a “do what you need to do to get by” scenario? Nonetheless, it’s evident that Z needs to up her game a bit; and that we adults need to somehow inculcate an attitude of pleasurable effort to replace the getting-away-with-the-minimum stance she’s exhibited thus far.
The parent-teacher conference was a few weeks ago. The other day, Z and I had mama-daughter time while G was in drama club and as we walked I lectured her extensively (yes! I am fun!) on doing her best, taking initiative, etc. After talking at her for some time, I realized what I was doing and asked her why she is only doing the minimum. She finally confessed she “just want[s] to get it finished!” She is proud to finish before the others in her class, and simply not will to do more, unless it is clearly required.
I asked her if she thinks she’s as smart as other kids in her class, and she said “smarter.” I explained to her that the kids who are really smart are the ones who are learning as much as they possibly can, adding that you can be the smartest person on the planet but if you don’t work hard no one will ever know – and you’ll accomplish little.
I turned at this point to a beloved longtime educator friend, who also happens to be the Dad of many sons, to see if he had any suggestions. He offered the idea of giving Z extra projects. In his family, African history was the subject of choice. I decided to have Z study Chinese history. I had her get all her Chinese history and culture books together. I asked her to begin reading a chapter of the top book in the pile that afternoon. Afterwards, she would be expected to write a report.
I was doing the dishes -- with dinner on the stove – when, a few minutes later, she called out: “Hey, Mom…does this count as doing my reading homework?”
“Sure!” Scrub, scrub scrub...wait a minute! “…NO!!!! Come on, [Z], that’s my WHOLE POINT!”
I don’t have enough brain-space for this malarkey. Available doing-dishes brain-space is utilized pondering the truly important things, such as: do we actually have more nose hair as we get older? If so, is that why boogers seem to hang down in there more? And if both of these are true, is that FAIR? (My vote? No.)
But back to the matter at hand: after this interaction I logically must conclude that Z is a genius after all.
Next: CONFERENCE II: FOURS AND TWOS
Full Spectrum Mama