I grew up in a very small town in Northwest Iowa where my total class size never exceeded 45. And where everyone was taught pretty much in the same fashion. My school didn’t have all of the specialists and testing that they have today—likely none did back then. But when I was in upper elementary they did have the “Talented and Gifted” program and man did I want to be included!
I don’t remember how kids were selected to be in the program—likely some aptitude test. I don’t test well, except on the ASVAB, which is an aptitude exam for the armed services. Apparently I rocked at that one and had recruiters knocking on my door (literally), but that’s a story for another day! Seriously, can you see me in the Army?
So when they compiled the list of the gifted ones, my name was not included, much to my dismay. I longingly watched the group get pulled out of the classroom on a regular basis by Mrs. Tjaden to go do their secret gifted activities. I envisioned their meetings as parties of the mind that I clearly belonged in, but was not. I actually have no idea what they did in there, but if it’s like the talented programs today, it was probably just harder work, which doesn’t quite live up to my party memories.
That experience set me on the path of thinking that I wasn’t gifted. And if you aren’t gifted, then what are you? I didn’t get a perfect score on my college entrance exams—far from it in fact. Trivia has never been my strength. And I’m very thankful that as an adult there is no shame in the use of a calculator. I did very well in school, but it wasn’t because it came easy for me. It also helped that I decided at an early age to go to Design school, so there was no reason to take Calculus (what is that anyway??), Chemistry, Anatomy, Physics, etc.
It’s taken years of combating these thoughts to slowly understand that I’m absolutely gifted! Everyone is! But my gifts are not the same as my neighbors. And definitely not the ones that put you in a talented and gifted program at school!
We all bring a unique set of gifts to the world. But I don’t think I’m alone in not immediately recognizing or embracing my gifts. You know why? Our gifts are the things that come easiest to us. We do them without even thinking and because we don’t have to work at it, they don’t seem valuable. But here is the story morning glory?
Your gifts, that seem so easy to you, are absolutely amazing to those that don’t possess them.
Let that sink in.
For me, I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic, quick on my feet, overly social (every teacher can attest to my excessive talking), and creative, crafty and fairly unflappable. Will that get me into a PhD program? I don’t think so, but I have cobbled them together to make a successful career and a pretty awesome life, which is priceless.
Recognizing my gifts and celebrating them has also helped me to see my children for their gifts and not their shortcomings. Academics do not come easy for either one (in different ways) and I can assure you, they will not be invited to the talented and gifted table. But what they do possess in humor, creativity, courage, empathy, and perseverance will help compensate for their need to rely on their calculators as adults as well.
Our children are asked so often, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
But I am much more interested in, “What do you want to bring to the world as you grow up?”
So what do you bring to the world? What are the things that everyone says to you, “I can’t believe you…” or “It’s amazing how you…” Don’t poo poo those things, they are gifts to be celebrated! Put them into use. Use your gifts for good!