Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I'm new to the performance anxiety commonly felt by parents. So far the evaluations of my children's prowess have been fairly low stakes. Sure, we let out a gentle sigh of relief when the report card shows excellent all the way across, but we expect no less from our academically talented and mostly well-behaved children.

Starting in third grade, though, the "everybody gets a trophy day" egalitarianism practiced by the elementary school in regard to the Gifted & Talented program (GT) comes to an abrupt end, and students are tested to see whether or not they qualify for this special training in problem-solving and creativity. We received a notice a few weeks ago that if we wished, we could nominate Archer for the program; this nomination would trigger standardized testing using the SAT-10. In most cases, only students scoring in the highest percentile on the test would be accepted to participate in GT.

Archer's been focused on GT since viewing the PowerPoint presentations created by its students during the last school year; you may remember that he came right home and made his own version. We knew that he wanted to go, but couldn't help feeling the odd sensation of almost not wanting to mention it to him in case ... in case he didn't make it. In the end our conviction that he would benefit from GT overcame our worries about this first possible instance of disappointment or failure, and we nominated him and gave permission for the testing. Then came the anxious quizzing after the testing happened about how he thought he did.

Today we got the letter informing us that he'd been accepted. And my relief and happiness surprised me. When I was a kid, I took all these advanced programs as my natural due, and I imagined that my parents did, too. But I really didn't know if Archer's deficits might interfere with the testing, and therefore if he would make the grade. Holding the notice of his acceptance, I felt not only proud but also ... unclenched. There, he made it over that first hurdle; the next one might be easier, I thought.

I suppose I need to accept that parenting is going to be a long series of these tests and evaluations and gateways, open and closed, for the foreseeable future. I think my reaction means that I need to guard against over-emphasizing their significance, for me and for my kids.

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