My wife and I have been talking quite a bit lately about how challenging the school work has been/hasn’t been for Lexi. When she first started school it was a concern for us because she had shown aptitude for advanced processing and we wanted to make sure that school was sufficiently challenging her brain. Then, when we found out that she had ADHD we knew it would take a renewed effort to ensure that school was “tough enough” just to help her keep focus. But we’re still concerned.
When Lexi got her report card at the end of the school year that divide was still quite evident, with all of her strictly academic grades in the wonderful category while her behavioral grades are under the average. Why is that? We had a talk with her about it soon after the school year ended…
Me: So, Lexi, how come your grade in art is so low? You love art.
Lexi: I know, but I keep finishing early.
Me: And what happens when you finish early? Do you work on more art?
Lexi: No. I just go around and tell other kids how to fix theirs.
Me: You think what they’re doing is wrong?
Lexi: No. But I’m bored, and since I’m artist I wanted to help them.
Me: And what does the teacher say about that?
Lexi: She says I’m too loud and distracting others.
And therein lies the issue, in my opinion. Lexi more often than not finishes ahead of the other students, with significant time to spare, and then has to come up with things to do in order to fill her time. Most times, because she craves interaction with others, that means interrupting them while they’re trying to finish and getting in trouble for it. Simply put, she’s bored, and when Lexi’s bored she finds things to occupy herself, not all of which are good ideas.
Me: Did you stop going around and trying to help others?
Lexi: Well, yeah. I did, but then I got bored again so I started playing with the paints.
Me: Is that why you have a big spot of paint on your pants?
Lexi: Yeah. And the teacher said I wasn’t supposed to be doing that either.
Me: Did she tell you what you could do when you finished early?
Lexi: No. She just told me what I couldn’t do.
Me: Next time, ask her what would be good for you to do, okay?
I guess, I just see all these schools bending over backwards to help kids on the lower spectrum, giving them so much extra time in order to achieve their potential, that I wonder why they don’t also help kids who are at the higher end of that spectrum to achieve their potential, too. The consensus I’ve heard from others has been that schools are satisfied with the achievement grades of those at the higher end so they don’t bother with enrichment, but from a parental observation, that’s why so many smart kids don’t make anything of themselves, because they aren’t challenged.
Heidi: Lexi, do you find the work at school hard enough, challenging enough, for you?
Lexi: No. It’s really easy.
Heidi: Do you want harder work so you feel challenged?
Lexi: Well, duh.
Heidi: You know we don’t like that kind of language.
Lexi: Oh, sorry. But yeah, it’s obvious, I think. I do want harder work.
Heidi: And if your father and I found a way to get you that harder work, would you want that?
Lexi: Yeah, I would. I would do anything to get harder work!
Heidi: Even if it meant you had to change schools to get it?
Lexi: Um, I don’t want to change schools. I don’t want to be away from all my friends.
Heidi: This is just a possibility, maybe for the future, if you keep feeling like you aren’t challenged.
Lexi: Well, if you and Daddy think it’s best then I would go to a different school.
And it’s sad that we even have to think about that, that enrichment isn’t as natural a part of the school system as intervention is, because it is also important. If a child isn’t internally motivated, that child won’t reach his/her potential, and isn’t that what we say is our aim when we teach? There’s only so much enrichment that can be done in the home, or during the summer. We just hope that as the grades get higher the more opportunities will present themselves. Lexi agrees.