As I come to my final year of high school, I am starting to look back on things that shaped my education, good and bad. One being the GT program. There are many things I have learned from the Gifted and Talented program in my 12 years of involvement, but now, I would like the GT program to learn a little from me.
To this day, I tell people that I was admitted into the GT program because I knew how many sides were on a triangle when I was 5 years old. More or less, that’s what it was. The only thing I remember was a little picture of a sailboat on the test. I’m sure as a little kindergarten student a long test like that was daunting, but I remember my mom getting the test results back and being super-excited and telling me I did really well. But the only thing that changed for me was that I was pulled from my normal classes and started doing random activities with kids from other classes.
At the time, I never thought I was any different from the other little students, but the Gifted and Talented program knew before I did.
Parents, guardians, teachers, and students, please know that there are many benefits to being in the GT program. Being in a GT class, whether it is in 5th grade or in 11th, allows for a more interactive learning environment. Students are able to test out hypotheses, formulate stories, and craft arguments without the typical textbook teaching style. GT teachers are some of the greatest teachers I’ve ever met, because they understand students on a deep level. I think this really did help prepare me for higher level thinking/classes. Every GT class I’ve had has challenged me to think harder and differently. It made me a more well-rounded thinker and a better learner.
The biggest perk, to me, of the GT program is the teachers. My GT teachers have taught their subject in greater depth, in better detail, and answered my questions better than any other teachers in that field. How? The teachers really understand how their students’ minds crave a deeper understanding. Those teachers know that their students won’t just settle for the answer “because,” and I am so thankful for those teachers, especially Mrs. Greer. I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I want to thank you so much, for everything you did for me. She was with me from Kindergarten until fifth grade; almost everything I learned in elementary school was taught by her. At the start of my first year of school, people thought I was a mute, couple years later; I would go on to become a reporter. When you have a teacher for multiple years, a real bond forms, creating true growth, and I am so thankful for that opportunity.
There is one thing that is really overlooked in the GT program: the social aspect, both positive and negative.
GT kids aren’t just a bunch of socially awkward geniuses that are too scared to be in any other classes. Although I know many GT kids that aren’t the greatest at making friends (myself included), there are also many that love having deep conversations and love the social aspect of school (myself included). A major negative aspect of GT, for me, was that, when I was younger, I really struggled with being social, making friends, and being outgoing. GT didn’t make me an introvert, but often times, it did the opposite to help.
I was in the same classes with the same kids since kindergarten; I learned physics with the kids I learned addition with. Is it a security blanket? For sure, but that isn’t what I needed. I needed to learn how to make new friends every year and have to do group projects with different people. GT isolated me from public school. There are so many lessons that I am learning now, as a senior in high school, about making friends that I probably should have learned years ago.
Another social problem with the GT program is the stigma. There is a negative stigma towards kids in GT. They are considered the nerds and try-hards. If the GT classes didn’t isolate you, then the other students still treated you different. Don’t get me wrong, it has gotten a lot better in high school, but in middle school, there used to be a GT table at lunch.
Districts tend to tell kids that the GT ones are smarter, so they are isolated by their peers. That’s really not true; GT students aren’t that much different than “regular” students. GT should be treated equally, and I am not directing this at the student body. The administration needs to do a better job at integrating students of all learning types closer together.
So the real question that many parents (and maybe students) are wondering is “Is GT worth it?” For the students that qualify, every time I will say yes. But keep in mind, this is only the case for the students that really do need to be in the GT classes. If a student is fit for the program, the positives that you get from being in a simulated, dynamic classroom environment with passionate, unique teachers is an educational dream.
As I apply to college, I feel more equipped to write essays about my educational experience. To name a few benefits that I gained: I am a grade ahead in math credits, I’ve become a stronger writer, and I feel like I have quality skills in group discussion and collaboration. But parents and students, to get the most of your education, involve yourself in other activities, outside that group of GT students. That’s when you will put together your knowledge with your newly developed social skills. Paired together, those two create a student that is no longer just a GT student, but a high school senior who will be attending college this next fall, and in the end, that’s when it all matters.