Gifted and Talented
Back in grade school, I got admitted to the “gifted and talented” class. Once a week, I went off to the school library for an enrichment session. It was supposed to give us a leg up in our education, but in reality, it was really just a nerd recess.
The best part about the gifted and talented program was getting to play on one of the school’s few computers. A lot of days we just played computer games. Some were ostensibly educational, others were just fun. The go-to favorites were “The Oregon Trail” and “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” Of the two, I much preferred Carmen Sandiego, since I preferred World Geography to American History. That, and I didn’t have to worry about dying of dysentery.
In addition to playing games, we also did some programming. Mainly we used BASIC. I got a lot of practice at it, especially after my mom and dad bought a Tandy 1000HX for our living room. Though programming on an Apple was quite a bit different than programming on a PC. My Tandy had better graphics than the school’s Apple ][ E, but it didn’t have LOGO. Unlike BASIC, LOGO was designed for graphics. Long before I got to use Photoshop, or even MS Paint, I used LOGO to draw on the computer screen. There was this little triangle, called a “turtle” even though it looked like nothing of the sort, and I could give it commands to go around the screen and draw shapes. And while the graphics were crude even by late-1980s standards, LOGO programming was one of my favorite school-time activities.
Sometimes, if the computers weren’t available, we did more low tech activities. I spent a lot of time drawing. During one summer enrichment program I did, I spent several weeks drawing a picture of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. (Star Trek: The Next Generation was my favorite show back then; I told you I was a nerd.) There was a teacher there — I wish I could recall her name — who helped me with drawing the pencil portrait. In fact, she even drew a few bits and pieces, more than she should have. Still I learned a lot about art from her, like the fact that the eyes should go in the middle of the head, rather than the top third. This concept alone made my drawings look a lot less childish. And since I still retain an artistic streak to this day, obviously some of her lessons stuck.
Even though it was more of a recess than a class, the gifted and talented program at my school helped me a lot. I never realized the extent of its influence till I started writing this blog post. I hope that, with the modern emphasis on standardized testing, schools are still making room for their gifted and talented students to learn to shine.