Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dealing with Smarty is not always easy. She is definitely not a quiet and polite kid, and her opinionated personality is only getting more noticeable as she is getting older. My husband made an interesting remark the other day that he can tell good teachers from mediocre teachers by how they react to our daughter.
It was Smarty's second day of three week camp on college campus when I got a call from camp administration. Apparently, Smarty had "an outburst" in her art class where she yelled at the teacher. I was somewhat surprised, since it was literally the first time in many years when we got a call of this nature. I told the lady that I would talk to Smarty about "behavior expectations". Then the lady asked, "Your daughter says that she is going in the 7th grade. Is it true?". I was taken aback, but said, "Umm... yes. She is going to the 7th grade." Lady thanked me and hung up.
When I picked up Smarty from camp that day, she was in a great mood. I asked her about her outburst in an art class and she was genuinely surprised. She said that she did not yell and that her teacher did not say anything. I asked her if she wants to talk to a teacher together the next day and apologize to her. Smarty agreed, and the next morning I walked to the classroom with her. Unfortunately, the teacher was late, and Smarty told me that she does not want to talk to the teacher in front of all other students. She promised to talk to her after class. On my way out I ran into this teacher who I recognized from a short (and not very friendly) orientation session. I asked her what happened yesterday in class and immediately she got quite defensive. She said, "I think your daughter is not used to American classroom." I said, "I am not sure what you mean. She is going to a regular public school right here in San Jose." She looked at me funny and replied, "I thought she is homeschooled. She is so young and so loud and how can she be in the 7th grade?"
Yes, Smarty is young (and also very small even for her physical age). Yes, despite our best efforts, she still did not find her volume control button. She tends to be very loud when she is excited. She can also be irreverent or direct with her comments. But... the best teachers see spirit and passion in her behavior. Mediocre teachers see disrespect and/or immaturity. The important thing is that Smarty is receptive to corrective feedback and is usually able to control her "outbursts" once she knows that her normal behavior is "too much" in a given situation.
To the credit of the teacher and the camp administration, we did not get any more calls. Smarty enjoys her art class and other classes that she is taking in this camp, and I think that this whole incident did not really even fully register with her. But it makes me value our school and the teachers who appreciate Smarty's strengths. It also makes me wonder how often asynchronous development of gifted children and their behavior is misunderstood and misdiagnosed as attention deficit, hyperactivity, or autism. I am not surprised that so many parents of gifted children choose to homeschool rather than fight an uphill battle for appropriate education in school settings.
Don't get me wrong. We talk to Smarty a lot about expected behavior. In fact, just recently I was discussing with her the truth behind a phrase in the movie Gifted when a very gifted girl explains her decision not to correct a math professor by saying, "Nobody likes a smart-ass." Smarty has a tendency to focus on being right or on the task itself rather than on building relationships, and it can cost her dearly. But... I don't want to squash her personality, her honesty, her desire to prove herself and stand out. It's really a fine line to walk between self-confidence and arrogance or between passion and disrespect. I can only hope that our daughter will learn to tell the difference through continuous feedback and her own experiences.

Your Turn

Did you ever struggle because of your personality traits? How?

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

This is a very fine line to walk, but you and Smarty seem to be dealing with it pretty well.

I struggled with being quiet and staying out of trouble and therefore teachers forgetting I even existed. In both fourth and fifth grade two different teachers cast the class play and forgot to give me a part. I see this invisible well behaved child phenomenon happening to my own kids sometimes, now.

Ticia said...

I struggle with this with Princess, it's a hard one to figure out.

For me, I got in trouble as a kid for reading. Apparently teachers think you should close your book and pay attention to them.