Traditionally in January and February of the academic year, private schools are already looking at the next academic year.  We are busy learning the intentions of our current students so that we can begin enrolling new students in March.  Parents are inquisitive about next year’s starting date so they can plan vacations, and 5th graders shadow in the middle school so they won’t be quite so terrified about what’s ahead.  All of this anticipation is exciting, but it can cause us to lose focus on the current academic year.

     And if there’s one distinctive characteristic of gifted people, it’s that we are great starters, but we tend to want to move on to the next adventure before the first is done.  It’s why I require two semesters of a 3.2 GPA or higher for admission into our honor society.  Some of my gifted will do the first semester each year and then blow it in the second.  I want them to see that they have to stay the course for the prize ahead.

     The inherent danger in planning for the future too soon is the lack of desire to continue if the future is not what we expected.  For instance, a student who learns in January that he will not be returning in the fall sometimes quits right then and there.  It is a form of protest because he doesn’t want to leave, but the family is moving… or they cannot afford to continue… or he has done something to lose the privilege of private school… or his parents just don’t care for our program.  Whatever the reason, he is miserable.  And you know the old adage about those in misery:  Misery loves company. 

      Yesterday (Feb. 10) it was 95°!  The song birds greeted me as I left my house, and I knew spring was on the way.  What?!  It’s February!  Spring fever will come even earlier than it usually does.  How does a teacher of gifted fight the constant barrage of events that threaten her students’ focus on the spring semester?  First, I must acknowledge it.  I, too, loved the warmth on my skin and the chance not to wear a coat.  Second, I need to remind my students of the goals/prizes ahead.  We have state competitions in several events, and we have huge end-of-the-year trips for those who maintain their 3.2 or higher GPAs.  Third, I help those not returning to see the value of finishing well with head held high, rather than slinking out in an embarrassed manner. 

     I must admit that I cheat a little, too.  I stack the spring semester with all of the most rewarding and exciting events.  Then I require the kids to maintain an acceptable GPA or face extra-curricular restriction, a punishment that forfeits all the “fun” stuff if the “necessary” stuff is not done well.  Consequently, I hear all the time, “Why did the year go so fast?  I don’t want it to be over!”  That’s more reward to this teacher/administrator than a two-week vacation!

      Parents, if your child has learned that you will eventually do the chore he started but didn’t finish, I need you to know that you are working directly against me.  It’s not the “thought that counts” here at school; it’s the product.  I know it’s easier to just do it rather than fight over it with your teenagers, and they know that, too.  That’s why they fight you.  Pretty smart, huh?  Finish the good work you began by helping your child know the value of a job well done.  Your future son or daughter-in-law will thank you!

-          Michelle