In a previous post, I mentioned that I found a folder of writing from college days. I decided to re-type one of my favorite pieces in my next post. It was the first thing I wrote where I was conscious of how my brain worked in relation to writing. It was the first time I was really able to see how I was weird.
I was identified as Gifted and Talented in fifth grade. In Louisiana, that meant an evaluation primarily based on an IQ test, with other evaluations weighted to lesser degrees. I was "serviced"--school district's term--through a pull-out program. That meant that on Tuesdays, a special G/T teacher came to school and took us out of our classes for the whole day. We met in our G/T classroom that was in a portable building and did enrichment-type lessons that usually included a novel study at their core. The last time I checked, in Louisiana, teachers who teach gifted classes, at any level, must be certified by having a Master's Degree in Gifted Education, or they must be in the process of obtaining that degree if there are no other candidates available for the job. Parents of the gifted in Louisiana have had a strong lobby presence, so they work harder than some states to serve the special needs of gifted students.
"Special needs." In Louisiana, I was a Special Education student, with an IEP. I didn't really think about that until I was in high school. As part of a research paper, I borrowed books from my teacher. They were her books from college days in the 1970s. I was shocked and a little frightened at the descriptions of giftedness I found. I knew at some level that I was wired differently from so many around me, but I had never seen it actually described as being something almost akin to disability which required special services. I didn't want to be in the G/T program any more and since high school offered honors classes, I didn't have to be in G/T to be challenged. In reality, I didn't stop being certified G/T; I just elected to drop the one class offered at our small high school.
About three years later, I had two experiences in college that made me revisit being G/T. The first was a realization as I watched a syndicated episode of The Waltons. In this early episode, John Boy Walton is making his own realization about himself as a writer. He is suddenly conscious of the fact that there is a part of his brain that is always watching, as if separate from himself, and that part is actively describing the situation in his head. It's as if it is writing it as an event happens.
It really bothered me. It left me a little shaken because I realized for the first time that I did that, too. Sometimes, in the midst of a situation, there is a part of my brain that is "writing" about it. I'm not consciously aware of it at the time and I don't hear the narration :), but later, I can retrieve it and take dictation. I did this often in college as I wrote letters about my week to my friend, Regina. It doesn't happen in every situation of my life, or even in the majority of them, I guess. More often, it's just a particular line or paragraph, or an overall theme or structure.
The second experience came when I was taking an advanced composition course. The professor asked us to come individually to the office to pick up our papers. When I received mine, I guess I had a look of disappointment. "It's a good paper and you made an A," the teacher said.
"I know," I said, "but I never SAW it." She stopped and stared at me and I realized what I had said.
"You see it, too, don't you?" she asked.
There was no way she meant what I did.
"You see the paper in your head, before you write it, don't you?" she asked.
"You can even turn the pages of the finished paper in your head, can't you?"
I nodded again and said, "When it's right, yes."
When I wrote something, I only felt good about it if I was able to match it with what was in my head.
She shared with me that she could do the same thing. We were kindred spirits for the rest of the class and I started to feel comfortable with being odd. I started to work with it instead of against it. It was a tremendous breakthrough when I admitted in a special education college course that I was G/T.
I still have other qualities that are typically found in the G/T population and while they are 'gifts,' they don't always make life easier. G/T is different from being "smart" or "high-achieving." It is about being weird and wired differently. When that weirdness is identified and developed, it can be a great thing. When it's not, it can lead to frustration, underachievement and a lack of self-esteem.