Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifted and Talented

I listened to a story on NPR which had nothing to do with education, and, to me, it was all about education.

Go here to read about it and listen for yourself:

Two Decades Later, Success for a Man Who Imagined Turning His Life Around

The piece centers on reporter Robert Siegel return visit to meet with a man he had interviewed twenty-two years previously.

Steven Mallory came from a world of poverty where drug dealing seemed the only way out. He saw friends die or go to jail routinely. Listen to the piece in its entirety to understand how he made a decision to move away from that life and try to build a better one. But I ask you not to walk away from it with that "heartwarming story" feeling about a man who makes good by sheer dint of effort.

There's really so much more to it than that.

Robert Siegel talks about how Mallory's imagination set him apart from others he interviewed at the same time. He was able to imagine a life for himself that was different from his surroundings. And the story of the past twenty two years is a journey of dedicated effort to make that imagined life a reality.

To me this is a story about a young man who is gifted and talented. His exceptional imagination combined with the willingness to work are hallmarks of what makes GT students tick. And yet Steven Mallory's education plays no role in this story. That's probably because he didn't fit paper and pencil criteria for advanced classes. I can't say this with certainty because it isn't in the piece.

But, as I contemplate the piece about de facto segregation in Howard Schools, this radio piece haunts me. As a child, Steven Mallory would probably not have been identified for extra challenges or enrichment. No amount of additional paper and pencil testing would have "discovered" him. But I truly believe he had the potential to thrive in that kind of educational environment, had the door been opened to him.

That's a lot of hypotheticals, I know. But it's food for thought. Steven Mallory's peers were dying and going to prison around him. In one year he went to seventeen funerals. If this isn't a school-to-prison pipeline, I don't know what is. The educational system did not create the crushing poverty that he was raised in. His teachers were not necessarily bad teachers. But the system was not set up to "see" Steven Mallory.

It took imagination and hard work combined along with time and other factors for Mr. Mallory to succeed at achieving his goals. How are we going to use our imagination and focus our hard work to make our schools relevant to gifted and talented students that don't present as the typical GT kids?

I'm not done thinking about this. I hope you aren't, either.

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