Austin Creek Educational Systems Professional Quality Educational Presentations and Consultation
  • Oct

    Elsa and Berta were gifted.  They lived in financial poverty.  They were Hispanic.
    Elsa came to our school as a preteen who knew very little English. Since she was older than most of the students in her class and because her English was limited, Elsa spent most of the day with me and the other migrant students. Elsa learned quickly. Her math abilities were at an eighth grade level when she arrived at our school.  Only her language and English reading abilities required remediation.  She learned to read and write English in just a few months and was not shy about trying to speak English when she was in the safe confines of my classroom.  Well, obviously she was gifted.

    Berta came to school at age seven.  Neither she, nor her younger sister Maria had been to school, so they were both first graders.  Berta learned very quickly.  Between October and December, Berta was reading beyond many of her fellow first graders. She was speaking English almost in concert with reading it.  Writing was a little slower because of her motor skills. Anything that we had to teach her, she soaked up, squeezed out and offered a different point of view, and soaked up more.  Well, obviously she was gifted.
    Elsa and Berta were my teachers in the early 1970s, and I was the student of children of migratory farm workers.

    Were either Elsa or Berta identified for services?  Of course not.  The idea that they could be or should be identified was not considered.  Even if they had been, I doubt they would have met the behavioral checklist criteria that accommodated middle class children.

    If I had known then what I know now….

    How often have we educators of a certain age lamented the refrain after gaining a new tool for our educational toolbox?  Early on in my career, I learned about the nature and needs of the gifted, but came to understand that what I accepted and practiced applied only to a portion of the population of gifted learners.
    As a migrant teacher for over fifteen years, I now realize that many of my migrant students were gifted, but not recognized because our knowledge of characteristics was so narrow.  Often, my classroom was near or a part of the Title I Math and Reading classes or the classrooms for the learning disabled.  I can think of several students with areas of academic weakness who were academically gifted in other areas.
    Elsa and Berta are now adults contributing to our local economy and social structure.  By the time Elsa and Berta’s children came to school, I had left the district, but I know the children, their strong academic abilities, and their sound belief systems that reflect their giftedness.

    Elsa’s children have finished their formal education at renowned Texas universities. Elsa and her husband made sure that their children had access to educational opportunities they never had.  Berta and her husband have done the same for their children.  Your doctor, banker, or lawyer may be one of their children.
    Recently Elsa and her husband won the Texas Lottery.  They didn’t win the zillion dollar one, but one that gives them some financial breathing room.  As I think about how Elsa sacrificed to ensure formal educational opportunities for her children, I think about how that money would have come in handy for them.

    And then I think: my family won the lottery, too.  We didn’t buy a ticket or choose how the winnings would be distributed.  We won nevertheless.  We were born white, English-speaking, and middle class.  We knew the hidden rules of middle class.  We knew how to access gifted services, summer camp opportunities, and college admissions.  We supported our children in ways that first generation Texan Americans could not because they often didn’t know when the district was testing for gifted services.  Or, what gifted services were. Our children lived in a world of academia with its hidden rules and privileges.  Elsa and Berta’s children didn’t have that opportunity.

    Our job, as educators of and for the gifted, is to make sure that all children, including Elsa’s and Berta’s, know our rules and the tenets that lead to services for the gifted from every background.
    By making sure that teachers and parents recognize nature and needs of the gifted, including the social and emotional ones, we can ensure an equal opportunity, appropriate education for all.
    My family won the lottery many generations ago.  It is time for us to share our winnings with those who are our new neighbors.