If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

If I'm So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?
Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

You were five years old and couldn’t wait to get to school. But when you got there, something went terribly wrong. You anticipated learning all about the solar system and reading all of the books that you could get your curious little hands on. But, instead, you were told to help the other kids identify the letters of the alphabet and color the circles red and the triangles blue.

This was so strange. Maybe you’d entered a time machine. Maybe extraterrestrials had invaded your school. Maybe you were missing something and there was a secret code you were meant to decipher that used red, blue, circles and triangles and if you figured out the code you’d find the trap door where they hid the books.

Weren’t the other five years olds also eager to know the speed of light and to read A Wrinkle in Time? You began to wonder what was wrong with you. You weren’t like the other kids. You confused them when you spoke about your trip to NASA. They resented you when you kept correcting their spelling.

But you adored your kindergarten teacher. If you could just talk to her all day, you’d be happy.  You hung around her desk at recess wanting to ask her why the sky was blue and what she thought of tesseracts. But because she was busy and looked stressed out, you felt sad for her. She was focused on stopping Tommy from hitting Gretchen. So you didn’t ask.

And that was how it went.

You loved learning. You were starving for answers to your questions. But school didn’t know what to do with you.

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement
Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

I’m hoping that you didn’t interpret that to mean that you were deficient. That you were the problem. Unfortunately, I know lots of kids who did just that. And if you didn’t get good grades because you became anxious during tests or because you had exceedingly high expectations so work didn’t get turned in on time or because you became disillusioned with the pointlessness of it all, then you may have decided that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or perhaps you did get good grades. Without really trying. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and get an A. So the grades became meaningless. Or an opportunity for bullies. Or a chance for you to feel guilty. And not very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or maybe you went to a university and then your fears were realized. You hadn’t learned how to manage your time or study for exams and you felt like you shouldn’t have to ask for help. You may have been unable to choose a major because your interests were so diverse. Surely, you’d proven beyond any doubt that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Certainly not gifted?

Stop blaming yourself because you never figured out the secret code. How could you know?

You were– too gifted.


To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences in school. Similar or different from what I’ve described here?

Disclaimer–I’m writing this blog from my perspective– growing up, going to school and counseling in the USA. I don’t know if these dynamics are common elsewhere. Can those of you from around the world let us know if you can relate? Was it similar for you? Are there differences? We’d love to hear from you. And, of course, I want to hear from all of you, my lovely readers. Your experiences, questions, feelings and insights.


Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

108 responses to “If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Rikki Avatar

    I am currently in High school. I know for a fact that I am not dumb, but I despise walking into that building everyday. My grades are bad in almost every subject, accept English, and I feel like warm and nice days, or even rainy days, are wasted away in a giant box with few windows.
    Teachers teach to the test, and if you get a good score, Hooray. If not, everyone is on your back saying you just need to work harder even though you put everything you can into it without crashing! If the school system actually cared about learning and teaching instead of money and overall test scores, it would be so much better.

    The only solution I have come up with is Early College. Wish me luck!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Early college can be a good option for gifted kids who aren’t challenged in high school. I hope you have support from parents to make this transition. Maybe there’s also an advocate in the schools? Did you have a teacher who “got” you who can help? We’ll be here cheering you on!

      1. Rikki Avatar

        Thank you very much! Yes, my parents are totally fine with it, and helping with the tuition, but the teacher part is harder. Especially since I am trying to contact them during summer to get a letter of recommendation for the application process. I just hope it all works out so I don’t have to do High School anymore and can move on to college. Thanks again!

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Oh, that’s great news, Rikki. With your parents supporting you, it’ll likely work out. You’ll just need to be persistent. I’m glad you’ve found my blog!

          1. Rikki Avatar

            I’m glad too. You’re a good writer, and you have a very good style that makes if clear cut yet unique.

  2. Just me Avatar
    Just me

    Thank you for your blog which I found recently and have binge reading since as it resonates so much with me.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Glad you found us!

  3. crazylipsticklady Avatar

    Thanks for this blog! I can relate to much of what you wrote.
    I was tested positive for being gifted in middle school so I knew I wasn’t stupid.
    However, I never fit in with the general population.

    I flunked out of college because I loved to read and learn. My major kept changing. After a couple years my grades started slipping. I have a very difficult time with long drawn out school. I never liked school, and college was a mistake! I found it hard to focus on college after awhile because I had my own interests.

    People see I’m smart and tell me I should go back to college. Im never going back unless I am 100% sure I know what I want to do and I know I can force myself to do school. What I truly need is a job that pays well, doesn’t require years of college, and isn’t intellectually demanding. i don’t feel like my job defines me. Everyone around me thought I’d have this great career and degree. Many people don’t get that someone can be smart and hate school.

    I always felt boxed in. I did school because I had to. Out of school I can pursue my many, diverse interests!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      You might want to look at the posts on multipotentiality. It sounds like that’s a part of your experience, too. Thanks for writing!

    2. Rikki Avatar

      Heck ya. I know I am super smart, even though I hate school. Although, I do want to go to college to learn more about English driven courses. I know what I want to do, and I think that’s what makes us different. But, I wish you the best of luck! If you tell me what some of your interests are, maybe I can try to find a good job for you. I’m good at finding things, but not so great at school, hehehe.

  4. Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might […]

  5. Michelle Avatar

    Yes to all of it.
    I was identified at 6yo and the gifted programs in which I was enrolled were not inspiring.. to the point that I stopped caring about academic advancement. I viewed the grading system as irrelevant since an A took little to no effort to receive and therefore held no value – so what was the point of it all? Just to receive a pat on the head from everyone? College was challenging as there were finally so many amazing avenues and experiences to pursue, none of which my ‘unplugged’ self from K-12 had been prepared to achieve. But I loved every painful minute of it.
    Now I sell pharmaceuticals for a large corporation (we don’t need to get into the myriad of moral issues I have with this) but it pays my ‘adult bills’… and I have no drive to be ‘great’ at what I do. I do not receive career advancement opportunities or recognitions – and my primary career goal is just to keep the job without receiving too much negative feedback. My managers ‘can’t figure me out’ (its in my file) because I can not be motivated with cash spiffs, etc for behaviors… I can’t tell them it is because I find it insulting. I do get energized by new products – new disease states and pharmacological processes, and my energy intesifies at these meetings and is viewed as ‘excessive’ and ‘weird’. I eventually stopped sharing ideas during planning meeting when they were repeatedly used as fodder by extroverted colleagues with something to prove. I don’t feel that same competitive need to prove myself or even defend myself in this arena so I just let it be. So I do the minimum at work to keep my job and income so I can go home and invest myself in my ‘passion of the month’. So far I have learned different languages, chess, organic gardening, furniture refinishing, read the classics, studied string theory, traveled, etc…
    I appreciate this alone time as I don’t have to dilute my personality for people to be able to tolerate me and I can be as voracious a learner as I want without it being ‘weird’… it is just a really lonely existence.
    So thank you for writing this blog. It is quite relevent, even if for only 1-2% of the population.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you Michelle. I’m glad you were able to have some good academic experiences in college. I know that the career path choice can be so difficult when you need the income but feel conflicted about the work. Love your list of passions! I’m glad to have you reading my blog–that you have this place where you’re understood!

  6. Bear22 Avatar

    I love your blog Paula, you always manage to speak with such kindness and advocacy for gifted children and adults alike. We are a mixed up tribe that the rest of the planet just isn’t able to understand.

    This is never truer than in the education system of any country (I’m in New Zealand). Our kids just don’t fit and it’s important to know it’s not their fault despite the “experts” trying to label them or put them in boxes.

    We recently moved our daughter to a small private school with class sizes of around 8 children and she is thriving there with individual attention and a specific detailed learning plan. I feel very lucky to have found such a great environment for her education and the nurturing of her spirit. It’s not easy for us to afford the fees but for now it feels very much worth it.

    I want her to be challenged and engaged at school instead of learning not to ask questions and sitting at the back reading books like so many of us did.

    Being a gifted adult trying to parent gifted children can be a lonely job but at least we have each other. Keep up the wonderful posts!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you Bear22. I appreciate your words of support. So sad to hear that the struggle exists in New Zealand, too. I’m glad that you’ve found a place where your daughter can thrive!

  7. Si soy inteligente, ¿Por qué me siento tan torpe? | Aa.Cc., LA REBELIÓN DEL TALENTO

    […] Tú no sobresales en la escuela. “Los niños de alta capacidad siempre sacan sobresalientes y nunca tienen problemas de […]

  8. Existential Depression in Gifted Teens | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] ended up in disappointment. The boys would accuse her of over-thinking or of being too serious. School was disappointing as well. In one instance, she said that she’d read 1984 in English class and spent hours […]

  9. Emily VR Avatar
    Emily VR

    Paula, this is brilliant for so many reasons! I hope it starts some great conversations between parents and educators. Thank you.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Emily. Always great to hear from you.

  10. 7sigma Avatar

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for posting this here, 7sigma. Sadly, many readers of my blog will be able to relate to your story.

  11. David Avatar

    (laughs) Yep – my sister breezed through school partly as she had a good memory. She didn’t need to study.

    Myself, my report card usually said something along the lines of “David would do much better in school if he didn’t spend so much time looking out the window.” For me, it was a blend. Boredom but also anxiety. Not fitting in, no one understanding me, no sense of self that made sense. Imagination was a better place. I learned much better life skills as a young adult.

    I also didn’t finish high school until a bit later. Did much better in University but didn’t take a standard route. Now have expertise in multiple unrelated fields. Some major successes.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks for sharing, David. And congrats on the non-standard route and unrelated expertise! 🙂

  12. Afflicted With Too Much Talent | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] it was school. Maybe it was your dysfunctional family and your chainsaw parents. You’re complicated so it […]

  13. Most Popular Posts of 2015 | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag? […]

  14. If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two | Your Rainforest Mind

    […] You didn’t excel in school. Gifted people always get straight ‘As’ and never have learning […]

  15. Xavier Avatar

    Nice post! I just found what happens with me and this post remind me all my childhood…

    Althought I wanted to be a scientist since I was a child, I had to repeat 2 courses in my school because teachers didn’t know what to do with me. However, years later (and thanks to my persistence) I finished my BSc. in physics.

    Althought I had excellent grades and low grades during my BSc. (I studied only what I considered interesting for me), I had a grant to do a MSc. in Space engineering…

    Althought I finished my MSc. and I started recently my PhD in physics (in an Ivy league university), I had to stop for some months due a deep depression.

    …and then I remember how the school stole all my creativity, how the university stole all my passion, how during my MSc. I didn’t found someone to share my interest, and how recently, after 6 months of my PhD. I was told I’m broke and I need to be fixed….

    Honestly, I’m a bit lost…

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh Xavier. I’m so sorry to hear this. I hope that in some small way my blog can help you understand some of the reasons for your struggles and that you can feel a little sense of understanding and community here.

      1. xav1977 Avatar

        Thanks for your reply Paula!

        Actually, the university psychological counselor, suggested me maybe is ADHD plus depression. I did the ADHD test in my hometown and it was negative… and perhaps I’m highly gifted.

        Recently I understood (and thanks to many of your post) why I need ear plugs since I was 10, why I need to wear sunglasses always, why I’m so sensitive to colors, flavors, sounds… Is like have superpowers, isn’t?

        However, now is time to forgive me for all this years I was not myself. Time to know me better, to learn I’m not broke and I don’t need to be fixed (supervisor words…). Time to accept who and how I am, and time to know I won’t be normal… and this is good.

        I’m a bit lost due the lack of mentors but as Hemingway said “man is not made for defeat,…a man can be destroyed but not defeated”. Time to wake up!

        Keep up the good work!

        1. Paula Prober Avatar
          Paula Prober

          Yes, superpowers!

  16. Elesha Burkart Avatar
    Elesha Burkart

    I would say yes, here in Australia exactly like ths in my generation and now my childrens its terribky disheartening

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Elesha. I’ll be writing about a new book that offers some ideas and some hope. It’s The Boy Who Played With Fusion by Tom Clynes. There’s a post coming in a couple of weeks.

  17.  Avatar

    For the most part my elementary school days were happy because we had money for gifted programs then and some really good programs in the 70’s. But I remember a time when I and a few others had completed all the requirements for sixth grade half way through the year. Back then a teacher was allowed more latitude in the classroom and he made up curriculum for us and we loved it.

    High school was another story and very boring. I barely made it through. With poor grades I didn’t even contemplate college. That year my fathers job took him to Japan and since I was considered a minor I had to go. When I returned I applied to a university, the day classes started. My SAT scores got me in. I loved college.

    My daughter wasn’t as lucky. She was bored from the get go. I remember her wanting to learn science in second grade. It wasn’t taught until forth grade, and when she got there it was too basic for her and I could see the disappointment in her face. Too little too late.

    I began supplementing her education and later she homeschooled and unschooled. She is now in a university and thriving. She likes to learn for the love of learning now. I am so happy for her.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I know of teachers who do their best to be flexible for kids. When I was a teacher in the ’70s and ’80s, it was so much easier to do that, I think. It’s so sad to hear the stories of gifted kids in high school who don’t get good grades because the work isn’t challenging and then don’t continue onto college. I’m glad you got there! And so sad to see eager learners like your daughter frustrated with school. Thanks for telling us your story.

  18. Amy Voros Avatar
    Amy Voros

    Reblogged this on Creative Catapult Coaching and commented:
    Test. Does this go?

  19. Sam Avatar

    Hi, my name is Sam, I’m seventeen yrs old and I live in the Netherlands and I can relate to your post. I don’t have time for a lengthy reply though, so I’ll end this one here.

    Thank you for this post
    Thank you for all the other posts as well

    If you ever need help with anything, feel free to ask. I’m probably interested in it anyway

    De groeten

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi Sam. Thanks for letting me know that you like my blog. If you’re looking for a contact in the Netherlands, you can contact Noks Nauta. She works with gifted adults!

  20. Kayel Avatar

    This really struck a chord with me because my educational journey really has been all over the place thanks to my giftedness. In elementary school I had teachers call me a distraction because I finished too tests early and had nothing to do, would try to steer me towards picture books when I’d already moved onto chapter books and would say I had “so much potential” as they pulled me from my friends and placed me in Gifted and Talented programs that only gave us more busywork handouts instead of actually teaching us anything new.

    By middle school, we’d moved and the school district was much better but I still had teachers that were exceptionally suspicious of me. One of my teachers called me up to his desk during study hall and had me define some words and elaborate on some of the concepts in my paper he was grading. It wasn’t until later I that I realized he’d suspected me of plagiarizing. That one still hurts. I had another Language Arts teacher who didn’t believe I was actually reading the books I was doing my book reports on. We were allowed to read our books if we finished tests or classwork early, and she’d see me with a new 200+ page novel (not a YA chapter book) every week or so and I think she thought I was trying to impress her or something. She actually made me bring in a copy of my library history to prove that I was, indeed, reading books on this level and had been doing so for months/years.

    By high school I had figured out how to get As without really trying but my grades would falter in some classes because I wouldn’t turn in homework or reports if it didn’t meet my own perfectionist standards. Teachers liked me, they’d give me an extension, I’d hand in what I thought was subpar work and would get a B with a little note written in the corner that it would have been an A if I’d handed it in on time. I know it was meant as motivation but all it did was reinforce my disappointment with how easy it was to excel. There was no challenge or growth, just a lot of memorization and repeating facts that were spoon fed to you.

    I thought college would be better but after two weeks or so I dropped out of my English and math classes, took the CLEP for them and got a semester’s worth of college credit in one afternoon. I attended 5 different colleges before finally settling down, churning out the work that was expected of me and getting the degree society says I need to prove that I know things. Though I’ve certainly had my struggles with it, I’ve always known I was gifted and I was lucky enough to not have many social struggles because of it but it did make me mighty jaded. It’s hard for me to be under the leadership of a professional who knows less about their industry than I do. It’s hard to help friends out with certain situations because I can clearly see what the issue is and I’m making the mistake of thinking they can too. The world can be a lonely place for people like us but at least I can take solace in knowing that I’ll probably always win Trivial Pursuit!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh Kayel. Your experiences will be familiar to many readers of this blog. I hope that you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. I hope that my blog and others like it will help educators and decision-makers change the schooling system. Thank you for sharing your struggles.

  21. Elise Avatar

    I still remember a teacher asking me to explain the word ‘antiquated’ that I’d used in a write up. She wouldn’t let me explain how I knew that it meant ‘something was old’ and I wasn’t copying it from anything. I had read it in a magazine and known what it meant from context, and then used it. I tried to ask what the difference was in using a word I learned from a magazine rather than our vocabulary lists. She got a little mad and instead told me I was plagiarising and made me re-do the entire thing. I can still feel the hot burn of shame as she eviscerated me in front of my classmates. I was 10.

    Another time I was penalized for, during silent reading time, reading all the books that lined the edge of the classroom. My teacher didn’t like that I couldn’t write predictions for any of the chapters in our future novel studies. Seriously. This is something I got in trouble for, note sent home an everything.

    Meanwhile, children were vicious and I was an awkward, enthusiastic kid who didn’t understand that being better than the most popular girl in school didn’t make you popular, it made you bullied. Knowing the answers to the bonus questions made you a know-it-all. And also? Bullied. … I did not have friends.

    Man, elementary school was rough. And it was so much worse as the third child out of four, and the only gifted one. I was made to feel (unintentionally) horrible as I started to catch up and surpass my elder siblings. I was held back from advancing early so that I wouldn’t be in the same grades as my siblings so that they wouldn’t feel ‘dumb’ and I get that. But home life has a huge impact on academic life, which is not something I truly realized until years later.

    On the whole, I just remember feeling this unspoken pressure from parents and teachers to blend in and hide my giftedness so as not to make others feel bad about themselves. It can be very isolating being in school. I eventually got put into a pull-out gifted program and was one of two students, out of a class of four hundred and fifty. My parents were not on board with this ‘special’ treatment.

    My deep social obliviousness helped a lot in negating the impact of being bullied and ostracized, so that was a perk I guess? Most of the shame I felt for being smart, came from my home. Not on purpose, but simply because my parents had no clue what to do with me, and equality among kids was prized over exceptionality.

    School, bah. It’s fun to learn things, but I’ve found school to be less about knowledge and more about jumping through hoops.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh Elise. I wish I hadn’t heard the things you’re describing so many times. But I have. I’m so sorry you went through this. I suppose some teachers don’t realize the impact they have, even so many years later. And it’s so hard when both teachers and parents don’t understand. I hope my blog can provide some solace. Thank you for sharing with us.

  22. bella Avatar

    I share the same experience as most. But I always hated being called gifted and then being separated from the rest of my peers to go to “gifted classes”. Where if I were to stay with the regular students I would be forced to learn skills to keep myself stimulated waiting for everyone to catch up. I felt being segregated was the worst idea because it further made me stand out, and it wasn’t until more of my peers were identified later in school I always had this label used against me. The worst is that this label was only ever seen as “smart”, quantified to a number like IQ in a world where test results meant nothing to me since I could just show up and get A’s. I finished high school early to get out of an institution where I was wasting time being slowed down by everyone else striving for something as insignificant as a number on a paper. I was disappointed that post secondary education had turned into this machine to turn out useless degrees for people who regurgitated text books so I refused to continue on this hamster wheel. I thought the “real world” would acknowledge my gifts and push me to my fullest potential. I am fortunate to have some people around me to push me and see my potential but I realize that they are rare and often the exception. I wish this gifted label were changed to something that others are less intimidated by. The idea of being someone who sees the bigger picture and is sensitive and extremely passionate would have been a better way to explain my gift to myself and the world as a youth; something to be seen truly as a gift and not making me seem intimidating or someone to take advantage of because things came to me so easily. The most valuable skill I am still working on is how cope with the fact that most people will never be as passionate or sensitive as I am. To not see things in the negative light that the world is full of slow, lazy, underachiving, narrow minded, selfish people who will never do or feel things with the same degree of passion as I do. It’s coming to terms and understanding that something that is only 50% for me would be 110% effort from others and to not exhaust myself going the extra mile when most people would only do a short sprint.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thank you, Bella, for these details. I do remember when I was teaching gifted kids in a pull-out program how they had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, they loved being with gifted peers and being intellectually stimulated. On the other hand, some of them would get teased for leaving classes or they’d be rejected by the other kids. Or they’d feel guilty about the label. Ideally, teachers would be trained to know how to meet the needs of these kids and class sizes would be small enough so teachers could individualize more easily. By using the rainforest metaphor, I’m trying to give people an alternative to using the word “gifted” and to find an easier way to describe themselves. I’m sure many readers of this blog will relate to what you’re saying here. I hope that you can find a couple of other rainforest-minded folks who match your sensitivities, passions and abilities.

    2. KtCallsita Avatar

      I found out a few years ago that my mother would not allow my teacher to put me in the pull-out classes because she felt I needed to work on my social skills. I hated being left behind when all my friends went to the pull out class – it was a bus ride to the local junior high. I sat by myself and walked in circles on the playground while they were gone. I tried to make friends with some of the other kids, but the reality is, that it’s just a ton of work to relate. At that age, I coped through a lot by being a teacher’s pet, catching on quickly, and working hard. I also got into a lot of trouble with my friends during a free time because we wanted to see “if we could” do lots of things with little regard for school rules. I was fortunate that I had two rainforest-minded friends at a young age, and even though we had a love-hate relationship most of our childhood I credit them with most of the best things that I gained from my public education.

      I still struggle to understand and not see the big picture as a negative one. I have to continually remind myself that there are many normal people who do good things and work hard to make the world better.

  23. luckykid Avatar

    I’m writing from Asia. I don’t remember much from my kindergarten times, but when I was in elementary school from 1st to 4th grade, school was a really horrible experience for me. I loved doing assignments and always did any extra workbooks my older brother had on behalf of him, at home. My parents encouraged me and were happy that I liked learning. However, I got reprimanded in school for completing my workbook so far ahead of the class. I always scored well in tests and my books were always stolen in 4th grade, probably to prevent me from studying or well I really don’t know since to this day, I never found out who the culprit was. But I continued to top the level and whoever it was stopped stealing my books. Then in 5th grade I met a really wonderful teacher who encouraged me and signed me up for all kinds of academic competitions. I devoured competition materials voraciously. But I guess I was still weird to my friends, who told me that about 5 years later.

    In middle school, nothing changed. Things were still not very good. I did not enjoy school much, but still continued to do extremely well so no one thought I ever had a problem. But I was really rather unhappy in school where school hours were from (7:30am to 3pm so I spent a lot of time in school with little time of my own) though I had a few friends. And then in 8th grade, I just exploded. It was the hormone raging period, and coupled with it that I found out I was gifted. It was really a period of finding out what exactly is the purpose of my existence in this world and how I want the rest of my education to go. It was tumultuous to say the least. In 9th grade, I couldn’t take the pressure cooker school anymore and I went to a really slack school, where I only had to attend classes for 5 hours a day, most of which the teacher doesn’t even teach so I had so much time to explore my own interests and do my own work without caring about school, so I was rather happy then.

    And then I decided to study abroad and things have been nothing but amazing since then. It was probably a combination of me growing up after my roller coaster 8th grade, I became considerably more mature, facing academic challenge (being given only 2 years to adapt to an entirely different curriculum in an entirely different language is really a challenge even though the content might be easy) and having supportive friends.

    Academic wise, I sailed through school, but not without effort. I guess I’m lucky in a sense that even though I might not agree, I am happy to just write whatever the teachers expect to see in order to score well. The biggest takeaway from all my schooling for me, is that I learned how to be in harmony with any system in place while keeping my independence and working on my own goals. The amusing thing when I always look back at my school years (which is actually not that long ago, I only graduated from high school a year ago but seemed like ages ago) is that I once imagined myself to graduate high school early and enter university at a younger age than normal, but what actually turned out in the end is due to my decision to study abroad, and am studying in another country now, I am entering university 2 years older than most people. And I have no qualms with that. I am at peace with it, and I suppose it is in agreement with the idea that chronological age is but a number.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thank you for giving us a peek into your experiences in Asia. I wonder if studying abroad and learning more languages would be a good solution for many gifted kids. For so many reasons. It sounds like you’re finding a way to carve your own unique path.

  24. Estelita Lara Avatar
    Estelita Lara

    It’s so sad to ear that exists the same problem all over the world. What’s the matter? Why people don’t understand this?
    I’m from Spain and I write a blog too. It’s about my life with my kids. They are gifted and, although some people begin to try to understand (sorry about my english) most of people do nothing, don’t understand, thinks they haven’t any problems…Somebody says that in USA all is better but when I read things like this I see that it’s the same.
    Thank you very much for your text. If you don´t mind I would like to share it in my blog (translated but with your link)

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’d be happy to have you share this post in Spain, Estelita. Thank you for your comment.

  25. andysuth Avatar

    Its true. Many, many recognisable mechanisms there. Still, 25 years on they ate things I encounter daily. Or maybe the consequences of them.

  26. holbart Avatar

    When I was little, I was most aware of the adults in my life and deeply wanted to please them, especially teachers. I did the good girl shtick. It’s taken awhile to figure out if I was simply an high achiever or truly gifted because I was so intensely focused and because I wasn’t as intellectually curious as described above. Looking back, I don’t think I had the freedom to be curious. Being the good girl was the safe road. My family was so stressed. My stepdad, biological mom, and half sister were all hospitalized due to how stressful things were at some point in my early childhood. So much of my childhood was about not adding to that craziness. I created strict rules around myself to feel safe and kept my focus very far into the future.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Holbart, It sounds like you used your giftedness to survive the trauma in your family. Makes sense that you didn’t have the “freedom to be curious.” In many of our dysfunctional families, the smartest thing is to take the “safe road.” Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  27. Jen Merrill Avatar
    Jen Merrill

    I just buried myself in a book. Looking back, I’m kinda surprised that teachers never really said anything to me, but why would they? I was “fine.”

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Ah yes, they say all of our gifted kids are “fine.” Argh!!! Thank you, Jen, for being such a strong advocate.

  28. Natalie Avatar

    I was always the smart one at school. I hardly ever studied and passed with flying colours. I was teased relentlessly. Teachers thought i was difficult and argumentative. Mostly i was bored.
    And now I’m 34 and people still tease me for having such a huge vocabulary, winning the weekly quiz so regularly and “knowing everything”. It never stops.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Welcome to my blog, Natalie. No one will tease you here.

  29. Olesya Konovalova Avatar
    Olesya Konovalova

    My Kinder feels that way about school curriculum. It helps being in Virtual Academy so he cam learn all the things he is really interested in. He drags his school day – he often says I already know all that. Why do I need to do it? The assigned teacher, who checks on him once in a quarter said not to rush anything so we keep dragging Kindergarten while learning all about jet engines, dinosaurs and marine animals. Solar system was on his agenda when he was a lot younger.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      He’s right. If he already knows it, why does he have to do it? Have you found Virtual Academy to be a good resource? Would you recommend it to other parents? Thanks, Olesya.

      1. Olesya Konovalova Avatar
        Olesya Konovalova

        Virtual Academy is pretty strict with their curriculum because it follows California standards. So we just do a lot of extra reading, watching, going to places of his interest. All this doesn’t count towards progress in school. I’m thinking to switch to homeschooling so we have more time for real learning experience.

        1. paulaprober Avatar

          Do you know about http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org? They have great resources for parents. They also have many parent and professional bloggers sharing ideas.

          1. Olesya Konovalova Avatar
            Olesya Konovalova

            Thank you for your suggestion. I’m always making effort to help my kids with their curiosity.

  30. Lori Avatar

    I was never identified as ‘gifted’ in school. I only spent a few days in first grade when they moved 4 of us into the 2nd grade class room (better readers) for the year for over crowding in public school. Then I attended a private school connected with Missouri State where we had only 30 students in a class room with a teacher with a masters degree and two student teachers every semester. I read the Hobbit in 3rd grade in a week (in competition with the teacher to get it read first). I was lucky.
    My children were not as lucky. My now 11 year old, sixth grader was recognized in the first month of kindergarten as a voracious reader. She and another student moved to the top 1st grade reading group at semester (very lucky she was caught early). It took a year for all the testing to get completed but by middle of her first grade year she had at least some gift class opportunities. We are also fortunate that the the kids do not need to be bussed for gifted class. She is on ‘cloud 9’ now in middle school and has an hour of gifted EVERYDAY!.
    My 7 year old was not so lucky. Although he kindergarten teacher recognized he was bright, she was new to the district and just offered him extra work, slightly advanced etc. He HATED kindergarten. He would come home everyday complaining that he learned nothing. He was well behaved at school so no one thought twice about testing him. He did finish kindergarten at a 5th grade reading level but that is all. Since I knew his 1st grade teacher I stressed that he needs to have gifted testing. By mid year, the 1st graders took the standardized testing and my April 26th (in Kansas only 4 days short of the cut off), boy, topped the reading test they took – by over 10% over his peers. NOW they finally start the arduous process of screening for gifted. It took almost a year but he is so happy now and loves his two hour, twice a week, gifted classes.
    Again, we are very lucky to have any gifted opportunities AND not have to be bussed to them. I just wish that kids could be identified earlier so they do not feel so stuck or hating school from the get-go.
    I hope that both my children will not have the same struggles as those of us who had to endure ‘main stream’ eduction.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Lori, I’m glad to hear that your kids have received some services, that their educational needs are met some of the time. Thank you for telling us your experiences.

  31.  Avatar

    This is exactly what my son’s experience looked like. And it was so difficult for me to understand what was going on or to know what to do about it because I was inexperienced and ignorant about the school system in general, and I knew nothing about gifted. I feel I have just experienced this again in grad school, where after spending hours and hours and hours researching and writing papers, the only feedback is on the correctness of APA format. NOT what I intended to be concerned with in going back to school. Now in my mind, the whole system is broken from beginning to end.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this. I wish I didn’t hear so many similar stories. I think we need to find ways each of us can impact the system in our own small ways, or maybe in big ways, to get it working better for our rainforest minds. Thank you for sharing.

  32. Jackie Avatar

    I felt like I wrote this.

  33. singlemoeder Avatar

    Thank you!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      There’s a great woman in the Netherlands who studies gifted adults. Have you found her? Her name is Noks Nauta. Her website is http://www.noksnauta.nl (for those of you who need to read her in English, if you google her name you can find her English website) I hope you can meet her!

      1. singlemoeder Avatar

        Thanks, I will. there is a nonstop shortage of time here though – having 2 young kids, my company… and plans for leaving the city etc! I also like Elaine Aron a lot. she has been a great help too. LIKE YOU!

  34. singlemoeder Avatar

    Hello Paula, I see my comment has not been published . Is it too negative or do you feel its inappropriate? By i love you i mean i am so happy you write this blog with all the recognition and it means a lot to me and many others. I am sorry if I havent expressed myself well .

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Oh my gosh! I did click publish to your comment but I don’t see it. It was a lovely comment. Was it maybe in another spot on the blog? I’ll see if I can find it and try and republish. I don’t know where it went. I thought I saw it go up. So sorry. I was very happy that you love me!!!

  35. Sarah Avatar

    This is absolutely one reason we homeschool my daughter. She’s 5 years old, reads 4th grade level books, out spells my 9 year old, has a hobby of writing stories, regularly completes math one to two grade levels ahead of her peers, all with the attention span of a 3 year old. What in the world would become of her in a traditional classroom?

    1. paulaprober Avatar


    2. Jackie Avatar

      That is how I feel about my 5 year old. Not quite to the same extent she is 5 in a Christian school where I sent here to reinforce what she’s already learned.
      Can read at a 2nd grade level learning math, can read a clock and she’s “learning letters and sounds in preschool” all for the sake if teaching her to sit still for more than 5 seconds.

      1. paulaprober Avatar

        Thanks for sharing, Jackie. I hope my blog is helping.

  36. Tisha Clinkenbeard Avatar
    Tisha Clinkenbeard

    I experienced this “phenomenon” in grammar school and in college – both bachelors and masters. In grammar school it earned me the respect and support of my 3rd grade teacher who enabled me to read over 300 books that year and then the bullying of my 4th grade teacher who made fun of me regularly in class to the point that it affected me physically. In college while trying to earn my bachelors I struggled with depression (later being correctly diagnosed as bipolar II) and then in my masters I just accepted that it was easier than I expected and rolled with it as I was working a very demanding full time job traveling at the same time. Support is what is most needed and counseling to deal with it when it adversely affects you. Recognizing it is important – maybe not knowing why you feel bad but just knowing you do and seeking help.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Tisha. I agree. Counseling can be very helpful, particularly with someone who understands giftedness. More and more people are getting training at SENG conferences and through online webinars, thankfully. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts.

  37. Cait Fitz Avatar
    Cait Fitz

    I sat in the back and read books 🙂

  38. apeacer Avatar

    I remember during my first year of college, one of the professors handed out study guides for the exams. I outlined them, looking to understand the question, which I believe I did. When I showed up for the first exam, I looked at the paper and they were the exact same questions on the study guide. I was pretty shocked because I assumed there would be something more challenging or even just a little different than the study guides. I just wrote the outline because I believed it covered everything the question asked. All of the exams were like that. I finally figured out that many professors just wanted you to regurgitate what they said. Once I accepted this, I did better, yet I still had my stubborn moments (including in an incomplete for an extra class I decided to take my final semester). A few years later, I applied and was accepted to law school. I took to some classes and others seemed out of reach. I tried enrolling in the tutoring program and accepting all of the help they offered. Unfortunately, my grades were far too low and even though I sat front row center in 90% of my classes, I was dismissed after my first year, even after filing an appeal where I told them I understand what I need to do. It’s hard to balance those academic experiences with my knowledge of my giftedness (I was given enrichment assignments in first grade and officially identified in second grade going through various pull-out or accelerated programs). Despite being dropped from law school about a year ago, I still want to pursue a PhD and I’m looking for an avenue to do so. Thanks for writing the blog and I look forward to more entries.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      You’re welcome. I hope my blog helps you understand why you might have had trouble in law school. I wonder if it had to do with not having been challenged academically before. Or maybe not being good at regurgitation. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  39. astoryfrom1986 Avatar

    As a teacher this blog is very important. Since I’m one of those that tends to reject the idea that I myself am gifted, especially because I can see it every day in my students. It is important to see in impact that differentiation has on students. It can’t always be gifted kids being pseudo-teachers for kids who don’t understand as quickly. We as teachers need to let know our students deeply enough that we can enrich their education and help them know that their interests are interesting and possibilities are endless for learning!

    Good post! ❤️

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      We need more teachers like you who understand the importance of differentiation and of getting to know their students well. Thanks for writing.

  40. Celi Trepanier Avatar
    Celi Trepanier

    Yes, sadly, I hit that wall in college, never having learned how to study or work hard. I love your writing so much because every time I read one of your posts, I discover a little bit more of myself that I had never known. Thank you, Paula <3

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      My great pleasure, Celi.

  41. poprice Avatar

    THIS! Yes. I recall vividly in grade school the day that it dawned on me that I talked too much. We were studying Vikings and I could not stop asking questions and interjecting what I knew. (One of my mother’s grandparents was Danish, so I always had an interest in Vikings.)

    That day, when the teacher was showing me such patience and I saw that my classmates were bored to tears and giving off all sorts of annoyance vibes, stung my soul.

    Also, EVERY time that I took a major-league test (SAT or GRE), I had an allergic reaction. A “use all the tissues in the tissue box” allergic reaction *during* the test. Now, with two diagnosed autoimmune diseases and fresh research on what autoimmunity does to the brain, I wonder about how much anxiety played a role. Although I was a high achiever, my “tests” never matched the scores that I made in early elementary school, where I was “off the charts” even on math.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Those schooling memories can be so painful. And certainly, those negative experiences can trigger anxiety. Especially in a highly sensitive radiant soul such as yourself.

  42. Stickybeaker Avatar

    I grew up in 70’s small town Australia. I still clearly remember telling Mrs. Ryan my grade 4 teacher that I’d read all the books. She said to start on the next level and I said no, I’ve finished ALL the books. She told me to start again. I still clearly remember the feeling of anguish that I was going to have to endure this for an eternity. I wish I could say things have changed, but my son (also gifted) was put in a remedial reading class and his writing was dreadful though his spoken vocabulary was and is excellent. His IQ tested at 120 but as it was a written test and he seems to have some kind of disconnect between what he is thinking and what comes out of his fingers, I suspect it may be a lot higher. I may be biased. Not sure. I ended up leaving school at 16, went back at 22 to do year 12 and have dabbled with mundane jobs and mental illness ever since.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, it is anguish, isn’t it. And I know, I haven’t seen any real change over the years either. Do you know about 2e kids or twice exceptionality? Maybe your son would fit that description? Parents at http://www.homeschoolers.org write about that a lot. There are pretty good resources online these days. Thanks for sharing your experiences in Australia.

  43.  Avatar

    You got it right on the nose, right down to the Tesseract questions. Bravo!

  44. Stephanie Avatar

    I experienced bits and pieces of these, but I was lucky to have a pull out program at my school where I was around children like me with a teacher who generally “got” us. I was also lucky because I usually enjoyed teaching and helping. I still do. But as I got older, I got more frustrated with having to wait for the others and teach the others, my peers, when I was already there and ready to move on.

    I am still surprised when I find out that other people don’t know things that I know, or don’t want to know everything about whatever obscure subject I’m currently into, because I love learning and I love teaching.

    1. KtCallsita Avatar

      Stephanie, I find that too! My last supervisor took me aside at a meeting when we were working on preparing training materials and he said, “Other people don’t pick up things like you do, it’s much harder for them. You need to learn to expect that.” It really opened my eyes that so many people, who share a common interest (I work in youth robotics) of education, LEGO, or robots just really struggle with some of this. I try to be more aware, but it is incredibly frustrating – especially when they act like they are really smart and they don’t want my help. (Usually teachers are good, but like professional engineers).

    2. paulaprober Avatar

      I hear that so often, how surprising it can be that other people don’t know what you know and don’t want to know everything. I’m so glad you had a pull out program. Those programs often have been what keeps many of these kids in school. They aren’t ideal because they usually aren’t for more than one day a week, or less, but they’re better than nothing. Thanks for writing.

  45. Marmie Avatar

    I remember a very frustrating moment when I asked the science teacher “What tells the cells to split?” in reference to a human embryo. I was criticized for my question, and the message received was definitely that there was something wrong with me for asking. I did get high grades in school, but I always dismissed them, since I had just “figured out how to get A’s.” It never occurred to me that I was intelligent or that perhaps I had a natural understanding of things more than my classmates. It is only recently that I am discovering that my “difference” is that I have a rainforest mind, with perhaps a bit of coastline and mountaintops tossed in!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Love those coastlines and mountaintops! Yeah! I think teachers don’t know what to do when they don’t know how to answer to a student’s question. I’m sorry your teacher criticized you. Thanks for sharing.

  46. singlemoeder Avatar

    I mean: you need to prove .

    I have troubles with my oldest now actually. It’s so hard to talk to those who decide but don’t understand.

    1. Little Star Learning (@littlestarlearn) Avatar
      Little Star Learning (@littlestarlearn)

      What a perfect line! “It’s so hard to talk to those who decide but don’t understand.” It’s even harder when you don’t understand yourself. I wish what I know now, I had known back when I was trying to advocate for my oldest. His entire life would have been so much better if I had understood all the choices and opportunities truly available to us.

      1. singlemoeder Avatar

        yes I feel the same way about my oldest , he is 7 , but what we go through at school now will not happen with my 2 year old later on. We thrive on our days off, weekends – there is just so much love and happiness!

  47. singlemoeder Avatar

    I just ♥ you. I was ‘reborn’ at age 39 when my little boy was two years old. Being gifted and sensitive it is hard surviving in a world where so many do not understand or know so little and then not accept you for who you are. I was the one always helping others to the extreme sacrifice of myself. I am glad I have my two wonderful kids and my own company now.
    When I was at school my teacher told my parents I had ‘fear to fail’. 30 years later nothing has changed my niece has the same experience in high school.
    At university I did not do my final public discussion/speech defending my thesis cause I was too afraid.
    My son said he will create a second planet earth where only people like us will live. The other way around world.

    Here in the Netherlands the school system is horrible. Talents and creativity are not allowed.only within the box. You get turned down, disbelief and you need to proof that you are gifted. Very negative. I am actually thinking of moving to the States so my kids can be in high school and university of my choice and thrive. And near family.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Hi singlemoeder. I was sure that I posted this comment and even responded to it but didn’t find it until I looked back through my mail. I very much appreciate hearing from you and I look forward to it! I must have missed it. There were lots of comments today. It’s so helpful having your perspective from the Netherlands. Thank you for writing and for checking about the missing comments. Sending love back.

  48. KtCallista Avatar

    All of the above! Some at different times some together. Both of my daughters were just accepted to TAG and this is one of my greatest fears for them. My 10 year old especially just told me yearerday she is so bored, except on Friday when she has her enrichment class.

    Between you and their test results I’m barely able to feel like maybe I’m not gifted, I think I need to find a way to own this title, so I can show my children how to do the same.

    I remember how hard it was to be that kid. I still remember all the trouble I got into and how I wasn’t allowed to skip math review and had to sit through another year of coloring instead of taking algebra. I painfully remember nearly failing out of college and only sticking with a major because I wanted to prove I could – now I’m doing something completely different.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Good modeling for your daughters to own your giftedness. Yes indeed.

  49. Julia Avatar

    I’m so grateful there are people like you to help us figure out that we may be different but we’re ok. I just wish I would have found you so much earlier in my life. Better late than ever… Thank you for what you do!

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Yes, Julia, it’s never too late. Thank you.

  50. byamtich Avatar

    I consistently love your advocacy for gifted adults. I hope to ask you someday about the best balance of slow suggestion and yelling loudly; the rainforest you describe doesn’t seem overwhelming.

    1. paulaprober Avatar

      Thanks, Bob. I think I err on the side of gentle-ish suggestion with humor. I think it reaches more people that way. I so appreciate your support and your own strong articulate advocacy.

%d bloggers like this: