In the world of independent schools, fall is the season of information nights and open houses for prospective families. Enthusiastic administrators and faculty describe their school's pedagogical mission and tell the parents about the great things they can expect from their children by the end of next year. Parents sit in stunned silence thinking about acceptance rates and tuition increases.
Parents are invited to ask questions. Administrators and faculty listen carefully to these questions. They're trying to identify the parents most likely to be real pains come next September. Most parents, however, keep quiet. They know that opening your mouth, or even shuffling in your seat, might expose your child as hopelessly defective. A few brave souls ask more or less thoughtful questions trying to make sense of the education theory/childhood development mumbo jumbo schools throw at them. (Beware of any sentence containing the words program,curriculum, development, education or child.)
Then there are "those" parents. They lurk in the audience waiting to ask The Question, the one that stands above the rest in both its entertainment value and usefulness in confirming whether this is the right place for your kid.
"Do you have a gifted program?"
Ah, here we go.
You may have the same question. It may even be justified; maybe your kid is as smart as you think (don't get your hopes up). Regardless, the first thing to do when you hear someone ask this question is move to the other side of the room (quietly, don't forget). You do not want your face associated with someone obnoxious enough to ask this question in a room full of people.
Most schools will say they have the resources and staff to give each child enough individual attention to meet his or her specific educational needs and/or talents.
That's not good enough. Oh no. We're not talking about just any gifted child.
"What if my child is progressing at a pace faster than the ordinary gifted program can accommodate?"
Now I'm all tingly inside.
The usual response is something like: "I can assure you... specialized programs... advancement... potential... focus... successful... carefully designed... national guidelines," etc.
Then a moment of silence. Wait for it... wait for it...
"No, you obviously don't understand my question. My child is extremely advanced. We had her tested... she's a genius."
Once a parent drops The Genius Bomb, teachers and administrators have two choices. They can keep trying to assure the parent that they are indeed equipped to handle even the most maladjusted little prodigy, or not. Their response will tell you more about the school than a glossy admissions packet ever could.
Don't you feel the electricity in the air?
"A genius, you say? Well now, that's a different story. Sounds like your nose-picking little Einstein belongs at Harvard. Ours might not be the school for her."
Dear Lord, please, please let my kid get into this place.