My former physics teacher posed a question to his students. A parent emailed him, and he wanted to know how we would respond to it. The statement was as follows:
“I talked to a parent with a child currently at Interlake. His opinion is the top 20% of the middle school prism students will do well in high school gifted program. The rest will struggle.”
This statement seemed rather odd to me, perhaps because of the way that I interpreted the tone of the message. This parent seemed to be worried that many students at Interlake are not able to do well primarily because of the way that they have to struggle with the topics they learn. Perhaps this parent is concerned for the sake of his/her own child, and not sure if this would have been beneficial for the long term education of the child.
Alas, to struggle or not to struggle: That is the question! One that was very familiar to me, as I recall the arguments that led to my placement in Interlake. When our family moved to Seattle in the Spring of 2011, we were still in the dark in regards with the gifted education programs at Bellevue. It wasn’t until after I took the CogAt test – and barely qualified for the gifted program – did we begin to reconsider my educational choices. As I remember, my mother was pestering all of her new friends, asking about how difficult high school might be. The tales of late nights, loads of homework and excessive competition concerned her, and quite rightly. She strongly opposed entering this “den of lions”, worried for my happiness, and perhaps as an afterthought, my eventual GPA.
On the other hand, I was desperate to try something new. My second semester of 8th grade at Tyee Middle School wasn’t the best experience for me. I’ve arrived late in the year and was sadly limited by the courses I could take. My schedule had a period of chorus, orchestra, Teacher Assistant, Drama, and PE: Too much activity for me. Every day seemed to blur into the next; there wasn’t the intellectual straining that I so desired. I was ready to try something new and exciting.
Over the past three years, Interlake has been as challenging and imposing as perhaps I thought. The number of essays that I have written exceeds my wildest dreams, while the amount of research that I do surprises even my dad. There isn’t a single class that I can claim to “coast” by in; every teacher demands my full attention and diligence with respect to studying and homework. More than once, I considered life if I haven’t willingly joined this program, or even if I stayed back in Knoxville. Would I be happier, relaxing and exploring on my own?
But as time went by, I began to adapt. An anthem of mine for much of one year was Kelly Clarkson’s song, Stronger. The more I learned, the more excited I was to learn. The struggle didn’t leave me in ruins, it opened up new worlds for me to discover. The more that I had to work to learn, the more I appreciated what I had. I couldn’t rely on my talents to get me by; I was forced to critically think at all times.
I embraced #TheStruggle.
I made it part of who I am.
A driving force for my reconsideration of this topic was my recently completed Mathematics Internal Assessment – henceforth known as the most number of hours I have ever put into understanding a topic. I put so much research into that paper. I poured my heart, my brains, my guts, my sweat, my blood into figuring out how to write it. I gave up three times in the process. With help from my parents and my amazing math teacher, I picked myself up each time. I painfully deleted a week’s worth of research because it didn’t fit into the paper any more. I wrestled with format, with word choice, with the logical conclusions.
I have never been so proud of a paper!
The easy things and the gentle rewards are not what we remember later in life. We aren’t made to live off the fat of the land. Rather, #TheStruggle should be real for all of us, and should eventually be a part of who we are.