By Dave Rosewood
David felt the cold hard plastic underneath him. There really was no comfortable way to sit on the chairs in the school library. They provided little support and were slippery.
David looked around the room. Other first graders were there as well, some from his class, some from the other two first grade classes.
He shifted his weight forward onto his elbows to maintain his position in the chair, sighed, and went on to the next question.
“If you have seven apples and you give three apples to a friend, how many apples would you have left?”
David wondered to himself,
“What if I don´t want apples?”
Most of the first graders appeared to be in states of serious concentration. Some scribbled madly on the scratch paper they had been given. Others looked up and to the left trying to determine how many apples they may or may not possess at any given point.
David didn´t really understand what was going on. If he did well on this test he would be “gifted”. A few times a week he would to a “special class” and do things that were “stimulating” to his mind. At least that is what the gifted teacher had said when she made the presentation to their class.
David looked down at the answer sheet and filled in the bubble next to the number 4 indicating that he would have four apples left, IF he wanted apples and IF he decided to give three of them to a friend.
David always associated apples with brown paper sacks. Specifically, the ones they got at church on the Sunday before Christmas. In the sack was usually an apple, an orange, and various pieces of candy nestled together in the bottom. The hard candy must have been sitting around the church somewhere for a very long time. It was always stuck together and difficult to dislodge without breaking your teeth. The mini-candy bars were much appreciated and usually gobbled up within seconds.
Now that would be a good problem for the gifted test:
“If you have five pieces of hard Christmas candy stuck together, how do you get them apart without breaking your teeth?”
David sighed deeply, shifted his weight towards the back rest, and pressed on.
“What are the three primary colors?”
David was not very good at drawing and subsequently not very good at art class. He did like drawing roads and trees. Browns and greens were his favorite to color with. Unfortunately, his trees were often lopsided which drew the ire of the art teacher.
“Oh David, why can´t you draw like Mandy?” she would say as she pointed at the little blond girl in the corner. The little blond girl would stick out her tongue at David when the teacher wasn´t looking. Mandy was also the art teacher´s daughter. She probably had to work on art projects at home.
David looked around and saw Mandy writing furiously on her scratch paper. Mandy so badly wanted to be gifted. David wasn´t sure if he wanted to be gifted, just like he wasn´t sure if he wanted apples, rather than say, any other fruit.
What did “gifted” mean? Did it mean smarter or better? What if being gifted was like apples? You didn´t really want them, you really just wanted the mini-candy bars.
The Christmas apple usually had a troublesome rotten spot somewhere on it. “Maybe if you are gifted there was also a small rotten spot somewhere on you” David thought to himself.
David rocked forward in his chair and filled in the answer bubble next to blue, red, and yellow. Those were the primary colors after all. He didn´t understand how knowing some basic facts would prove that you were gifted, smarter, or better than anybody else.
David DID know that you were supposed to raise your hand before speaking. This was one of the most important rules in school. Teachers constantly reminded kids of this.
With his hand in the air David thought to himself, “Do adults raise their hands before speaking to other adults? Who would call on adults to speak? A third party of adults?”
David finally spoke up as he couldn´t wait any longer for an adult to respond.
“Mrs. West,” he called out.
Mrs. West always wore purple sweaters and had a nice smile. She was also the gifted teacher. Mrs. West had made the presentation to David´s class about the gifted program. She explained what gifted students did during gifted time. They performed various projects to improve their minds. Gifted time included putting together puzzles and playing chess. David thought it just sounded like Sunday afternoon at grandma and grandpa´s house.
David wondered why Mrs. West had made the presentation to the whole class. As far as he could tell not all of his classmates had been invited to take the gifted test.
Mrs. West made her way to David´s table. She gently bent down beside him. Mrs. West spoke in a hushed tone so as not to disturb the other potential gifted students.
“Yes David?” she said quietly.
“May I go to the rest room?” he asked politely.
As far as David could tell, the difference between may and can must be very important in the adult world. Adults were always correcting kids where may and can were concerned.
“Yes you may,” she replied in kind.
David made his way out into the hall of the high school building. The gifted test was being administered at “Saturday, 9 a.m. sharp in the new high school building”. They still called it the new high school building even though it was twenty years old. The “old high school building” was also called the “Red Brick Building” because it was made out of red bricks. Maybe lots of adults remembered when the red brick building was the high school building and needed reminding which building was which.
Now David just knew the red brick building as the place where they had weekly art classes in the basement with Mandy and her irritated mother. They also had gym class there once a week in the “old gym”. The old gym smelled funny and the floor boards squeaked too much. These were just facts.
David made his way around the hallway. He saw many new and exciting things. It looked like the high schoolers were having some sort of exhibition. There were different displays arranged along the walls. One display showed how a potato could power a light bulb. Another one showed how light passed through different shaped crystals.
The display that intrigued David the most was about a high school student that had fostered a praying mantis. This particular display had many interesting tidbits about “The fascinating creature that is the mantis”, as the sign proclaimed.
David loved animals. He read about them as much as he could. His knowledge mostly came from second hand books and magazines that his family picked up at garage sales.
According to the display, you could teach a praying mantis to drink from a spoon. David would file away this interesting fact for future use, possibly on a gifted test.
David noticed movement in the hallway. He looked up from the praying mantis display and saw parents filing through the door.
There was Mandy´s mom, the irritated art teacher.
Finally, David saw his dad´s giant form fill the corridor.
David´s father recognized his son and lumbered towards him.
“How did the test go?” asked father.
“Test?” said David quizzically.
Suddenly Mrs. West burst into the hallway.
“Oh there you are David! I thought you had fallen in!” she laughed hysterically at her own joke.
Father looked at Mrs. West contemplatively.
“I just don´t see how young David can get into the gifted program with a half finished gifted test,” said Mrs. West.
“Hm” said father.
“Well, you have a good weekend all the same” said Mrs. West.
“Hm” said father as he turned to go.
David shuffled after his father down the long corridor.
“Hm” said father.
“Can we have cheese and crackers and orange juice for lunch?”
“Hm” said father.
“Did you know you can teach a praying mantis to drink from a spoon…”