Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Not-So-Gifted Athlete

During elementary school in Virginia Beach, I was part of the gifted program. I like mentioning this because it means that at some point in my life, I was actually considered somewhat intelligent. (Granted, in grade school at that time what qualified as “smart” was probably not eating paste and being so painfully shy that the teachers just assumed you were some sort of genius. But whatever.)

The way the gifted program in Virginia Beach was structured was that you went to your regular public school four days a week, and then one day a week you’d go to another elementary school where you’d have your gifted classes with kids from all of the other schools in Virginia Beach.

As part of the curriculum, we took awesome groovy classes like “Values Clarification” and got to sign up for “Special Interest Units” where we’d learn about specific subjects – anything from hieroglyphics to archaeology to oil painting.

We also had to do contracts, which means we’d share a particular interest or talent of ours with the class once a quarter and then receive feedback on our presentation from our peers. I don’t remember many of mine…but I do remember doing one about carob. (Ridiculous aside: One of my mother’s best friends in Virginia Beach owned a spice company, and one of the products they processed and marketed was carob powder. The friend asked my mother to be the spokesperson, so for a brief time in the 70s, my mother starred in some very low-production-value local television commercials hawking carob.) Somehow, I got involved in this pyramid scheme and ended up proselytizing the benefits of carob to my class. I remember there not being much interest in what I had to say until I pulled out a bag of Doritos that listed carob as an ingredient to share with the class. It was on that day that I learned something that has continued to serve me faithfully. And that is “know your audience” “Americans will always give you a better peer review when you ply them with anything ending in –itos.”

I suppose my real gift was being wise enough to realize that based on how freakishly smart a lot of my classmates were, I was probably the cut off kid; you know…the last qualifier who just barely made the program. Let’s face it, while my peers were taking apart and re-assembling computers, I was mimicking acts I saw on Circus of the Stars. We had an understanding, though. I never questioned any of their BASIC programming or said that Princess Leia was not that hot and they would pretend that I deserved to be there as much as they did.

There was one magical time when I did not feel intimidated by the future Bill Gateses, however, and that was when it was announced that we would be having a field day.

We had one of these in regular school, too. This was the day when everyone participated in standardized physical competitions and ribbons were awarded. There was always the one kid who won the blue ribbon in everything (cough cough…Canetto…) and then there were kids like me, who got second place in jump rope one year and rested on that laurel for the duration of her elementary school career. (YOU try jumping 151 times in one minute, haters.)

But the field day in the gifted program was my day to shine! God knows, the pasty kids who played Dungeons and Dragons and spent all day drawing intricate designs on graph paper whose IQs were approaching infinity had nothing on me when it came to physical activity. (Or lactose tolerance, frankly.) In a hilarious twist worth noting, the administration actually dumbed down the physical events for the field day. Instead of the 50-yard-dash and shuttle run, we had events like sack race and egg toss in deference to the gifted spazzes.

I remember distinctly that on the morning of the field day, I was confident that I would own the events. I would finally earn some respect among my gifted peers in what was sure to be a showcase for my athletic prowess. I would find my niche! I would earn those blue ribbons! I would be a winner! And I continued to live that dream until my egg broke in the first round of the egg toss and I came in third in the sack race.

It took a long time for me to re-gain my athletic confidence, especially because there were more humiliating experiences along the way -- like the time I tried out for the track team in junior high and built up too much momentum while winding up to throw the discus. I spun around so many times and so violently, that when I released the discus, I just kept going until I stumbled sideways and fell over. It's pretty much a given that you will not make the team when the coach asks your name while unsuccessfully attempting to stifle her laughter.

At least I have my hieroglyphics expertise to fall back on.


Moooooog35 said...

Are you sure that the class was 'gifted' to mean 'smart' and not like 'gifted' to mean 'you're special in your own way?'

Sarah said...

I subbed at a gifted school one day and a kid came into class humming the Darth Vader tune from Star Wars. I said, "Somebody's been watching Star Wars!" and he said, "Oh yes, I love singing, my friends and I play barbershop quartet on the playground." Thank goodness this was a "special school" or else that kid would get beaten flat.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Sometimes I feel so sorry for children, having to accede to their parents' obsessions and humiliate themselves at sports events. I suppose you could have got your own back by mentioning that carob is an aphrodisiac, which might have embarrassed the teachers.

Dilettard07 said...

I always thought that the Darth Vader tune should follow certain partners around the office of the law firm I used to work for. I swear I once saw one of them choke a first-year associate without even touching his neck.

kath said...

Of course, I have no recollection of field day, but I was probably too hopped up on carob-coated Doritos at the time.

For the record, you were plenty smart back then and only recently have shown signs of falling behind your peers.

I saw my father 2 weeks ago who presented me with a box of slides (SLIDES!) labeled "The Bay, Explore It." Worthy of their own post, natch.

Michelle said...

Wish my shyness translated as genius...instead they thought I had a major learning problem...psh

dori said...

I am so glad I'm out of grade school. I prefer the current form humiliation is taking - reporting to a guy 18 yrs younger than me, and being technologically bitch-slapped by my 7 yr old.

beth barnes said...

HAHAHAHA! It appears that ODC did not change at all in the 10 years between our attendance, except they must have eliminated the field day. Damn it! Ah, SIUs and contracts (mine always involved bringing some sort of live animal to school with me). And I WAS the cutoff child, I know because my mother decided to tell me, "well, the score 130, and your score was 130." That made be an uber confident 7 year old.

PS Yes, I'm reading your old blogs at midnight while I should be preparing for a trial tomorrow...