By Maddy Pettit
I don’t remember the day that I was informed I was a gifted student, but I do remember distinctly walking into the gifted education classroom for the first time halfway through my sixth grade year. I was nervously anticipating what was to come. The gifted education teacher warmly greeted me with her bubbly Texan accent and paraded me around the room. She proudly showed off the different projects the students had been working on so far that school year, which included some weird mummified experiments. She went on to share that I could look forward to having the classroom turned into a “crime scene” and becoming an investigator, building a solar car to race in a competition, and making bottle rockets to shoot off in front of the school.
To some people, these things may sound more like extra work than fun. But to me, they were exhilarating and helped drive my education further. They also allowed me to have a period every day that I was able to spend with like-minded peers. Instead of sitting in a classroom full of students who were too cool for school, I got the chance to push myself academically with classmates who were equally enthused about learning.
But with this, I sometimes felt guilty for getting the chance to have these added projects and experiences. Why was it that I got to create a presentation on cellular functions when everyone else was still working on our worksheet for class? Why did I get to take Algebra and Physical Science in eighth grade while everyone else was still taking eighth grade classes? Why did I get the chance to come to college early while everyone else stayed back in high school?
One day, I happened to overhear a student question his teacher about why he was reading a different book from everyone else. She sat him down and asked, “Jacob, if you had a cut on your leg and went to the doctor, what would the doctor do to make you feel better?” The little boy thought for a few seconds before responding, “He would put a Band-Aid on my leg!” “That’s right,” the teacher continued. “Now if you went to the doctor with a headache, and the doctor put a Band-Aid on your leg, would that help you feel better?” A few moments later, Jacob replied, “Of course not! It’s my head that hurts, not my leg!” The teacher went on to explain that just as doctors use different treatments for their patients, teachers often change the way they teach in order to help their students learn best.
Thinking back on that conversation helps me understand why coming to college early was so important to me. Sometimes I hear people make the argument that gifted students will be fine if left on their own. And sure, just like putting a Band-Aid on a cut would be adequate in many cases, high school is sufficient for most students. But for me, acceleration and early entrance to college was the treatment that I needed to reach my full potential. And so it is the case with many gifted students; we may look fine from the outside, but left alone without academic enrichment and acceleration, we are actually far from fine. We crave the academic experience only found in opportunities that gifted education can bring. Without it, we are quickly bored and apathetic, (sometimes even getting on the teacher’s nerves because we ask so many questions). Coming to college early isn’t for everyone, but it was certainly the remedy for me.
Maddy Pettit is a 20 year-old senior at the University of Iowa studying Elementary Education with a minor in Psychology. Her passion is working with students from difficult home lives and she would like to someday work with English Language Learners.