Gifted and BITE ME Education

by Janelle Hanchett

So I walk into my kids’ school the other day with my stunningly gorgeous baby on my hip (this has nothing to do with the story, but she is in fact gorgeous and yes, I am that lame, shamelessly singing praises of my infant’s loveliness). And this lady follows behind me, cooing and making a huge deal about the aforementioned baby, so of course I love her instantly, even though I just met her, and I’m struck by her exceptional taste in babies.

Then she says, “Oh, is Ava enrolled here next year?” And I respond “no, she’s going to public school.”

Hold up. Background. We currently have our kids enrolled (thanks to the mammoth generosity of grandparents) in a very expensive, fancy school in one of the most yuppie-filled, hyper-educated, wealthy cities in the whole freaking world (I mean I think it is, having not been to every city in the world). I won’t mention its name, but I will tell you it’s on Hwy 80 between Dixon and Sacramento, and it starts with a “D.” But that’s all I’m saying. And there’s this type of mother who lives in this town…you may know her…she’s pretentious and quick-mouthed and affluent (not really affluent, but just enough to feel better than the poor people) and she has an assuming air about her, one that figures every child at least plays the cello by kindergarten and writes Russian and plays two sports and does theater, very well. In fewer words, she bites the big one and I hate her.

But I digress.

So this little number asks me politely about Ava’s continued enrollment and I say “no” and tell her which school Ava will attend and oddly, this news isn’t too shocking since many third graders bail to the public schools for fourth grade. But then she drops a bomb on me, with an almost imperceptible flicker of evil in the eye: “Oh, that’s a good school. The G.A.T.E. program is good – you’ll be happy there. My daughter did well in G.A.T.E.….”

But I had already stopped listening. I froze for a second and stared really hard into her mean steely eyes, hoping my silent derision would register somewhere in psyche. I mean, that is precisely the sort of behavior that makes me want to beat certain mothers with blunt objects. She knows perfectly well that not every kid gets into the “Gifted and Talented Education” program. She knows that a kid has to score very well on a pretty competitive test to get in. But despite all this, she refers to it as if everybody does it and everybody obviously participates and if your kid were going to public school, clearly she would be participating in the smart-kid (translation: “children of good parents”) program. Obviously.

I felt like asking her “Do you ever wonder why other mothers hate you? Because I can clear that up for you in about 12 seconds.”

But I’m a rock in the stream. All Zen and shit. So I didn’t say anything other than “Okay, thanks. Bye.”

You see…my kid didn’t get into the G.A.T.E program. There. I said it. And I’ll admit that it hurt my pride. My ego wept in the corner for at least six minutes after I read the results. I almost demanded a retest, confused at how my daughter could be reading at a 9th grade level and not be considered above average. Or how any kid of mine could not be considered above average. Duh. Then my ego took a new approach, getting mad because I only had her tested at the persistent requests of her teachers. So it’s their fault. Confused, I asked Ava about the test and she said nonchalantly “well, I didn’t know why I was taking the thing, so if I didn’t know an answer, I just sort of skimmed it and filled a bubble in.” Sweet. I’ll blame her score on that and move on.

So of course this woman’s comment burned a little, but what lingered was a total disbelief that a person could be so damn out of touch. I mean why not just be nice? She dropped that statement knowingly, with a complete and total awareness of the fact that it’s really kind of an elite group those damn G.A.T.E. kids, and rather than just being mellow, chatting it up with the commoners and whatnot, she saw an opportunity to brag, to look cool, and hopefully, (if all goes well), to make another mother feel inadequate and small – and she took it.

And I thought to myself as I passed her again “Can’t we all just get along?”

Then I thought, ah, whatever. Gifted and Bite Me Education.

At least I’m nice.

Most of the time.

oh. yeah. you know what you can do.

  • julie

    The appropriate answer to the yuppie Mom’s question is a slightly pitying look coupled with the statement… “oh, I won’t her participate in GATE… it’s all busywork and stifles creativity. From my perspective it’s for the parents who need to compete using their children, more than for the children”…

    And then you smile pitying… and say, “… it’s really great your daughter fit right in.”

    • Molly


    • renegademama

      Perfect. Why can’t I think of those things in advance…?!

    • Cat

      While I’m not saying that the GATE is necessarily the best, sometimes the grapes ARE sour.
      Here is a quote from what GATE tries to achieve; in case you’re concerned about creativity:
      “Central to the program is the development of critical and creative thinking skills as well as social and emotional competence.”

  • Shan

    Okay, I usually try to avoid reading other people’s comments so I won’t know if I’m more lame than them or not… but I heart Julie!

    I think we are living parallel lives. My son actually did well on the test for GATE. Not that it mattered. His school only offered to provide him with extra HOMEwork. Yeah, punish him for being smart, like he’s not in enough trouble already. Thanks. Fast forward a few years and he was being tested to *hopefully* get out of special ed (because yes, he *had been* in enough trouble already. Seriously,) I got this frantic call from his counselor to come in and review his test results. Because special ed usually has to do with cognitive disabilities and not behavioral, and we can’t possibly figure out a way to address the difference, he was given all the standard assessments. And was in a smart ass, “think I’m so funny” mood. So his oral responses to some test were so far away from the approved list of expected answers that he scored below kindergarten level on receptive and expressive language. They wanted to put him in speech to help him out. There were not many times I got to laugh out loud in those god-awful IEP meetings, but that was the best of them all. I believe I asked them to have a quick refresher with his sixth grade English teacher if they really thought he was that low functioning. *She* could clear up questions about his language skills real quick-like.

  • Christina

    Gerr. The exact reason I hate Davis. (also the exact reason I love it) …. Blah….. Even the “regular” public schools are better than any of the schools were we came from. I REALLY do hate these moms though. SO annoying.
    I have always been shocked at how overly micro-managed these kids are. I mean, if they are scheduled every minute of every day then when the hell do they get to be kids. Life happens fast enough, back off helicopter moms.

  • jillsmo

    Gifted and Bite Me.

    How I love that.

    • renegademama

      Glad to have you here! I’m on my way to check out your blog…

  • Erika

    Oh, and if you want to compensate for the activities, but avoid the frustration and trauma that your child would otherwise encounter, be sure to do the Egg-Drop (have Ava create a way of keeping her uncooked egg safe as you drop it from your roof, or other high structure).
    But by doing this at home/out of the GATE program, you won’t have to deal with the stunting of creativity or the trauma of some other child having a fit and crushing your child’s egg/egg protective creation.

  • Erika

    (Transferred from a Facebook comment because I’m slow on the uptake…)

    I was in GATE when in elementary school (third grade through sixth grade, and at two different schools). I hated every minute of it. I would come out of GATE class sobbing because the other children were so over-inflated by their “gifted” …status that no one else could measure up to their super-special brain powers, and they were sure to let all the other children know about it. It was the pecking order from hell.

    Let me tell you right now that Ava is no where near disturbed, insecure, or emotionally stunted enough to be in GATE. Normal school children can be cruel, but GATE students have mastered the art. It is “Lord of the Flies” when you turn your back on them.

    By not being accepted into the Grossly Anti-Social Tasteless Egomaniac club, she is missing out on: playing chess, building structures with balsa wood and rubber cement, making models of planets, learning to make fire by rubbing two sticks together, logic puzzles, writing and acting out plays, and loads of one-upping.

    You are involved enough with your children to more than make up for whatever additional activities GATE could provide.

  • Liz

    I just happen to google something and got to this page.

    Most Gifted and Talented testing is not geared towards kids that are truly gifted but more towards kids who are high achievers and have the potential to do well in school. Many truly gifted kids do terrible on the testing until they are taught how to take tests – i.e. pick the most obvious answer. I would reconsider having your daughter tested knowing that the test and the testing process are the problems not your daughter. Also, many moms of truly gifted kids would never consider their kids smarter or better than other kids – just different. This mom might have been out of touch but many are not. Sorry you had a bad experience.

    • Mainel

      well, i was the latter, and i still didnt get inti gate.
      because of that, kids with lower grades than mine got into advanced placement in middle school while i was stuck taking algebra in 9th grade with all the other, regular, kids.

  • Melissa

    I know that town. I live in that town, actually. Why haven’t we met?

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