• HeatherJoy Bagnall

Precocious, Non-Compliant, Gem

Precocious: from the Latin,to ripen fully and early. Not always has this term been used in a positive light. The precocious little child...

Non-Compliant: one who fails to act in accordance with a teacher's demands. Also, not a term generally used in a positive light. How often do non-compliant students receive a write-up or a call home But, why are they non-compliant?

Gem: a child. Again, not often used as a compliment, often used in sarcastic comments such as, that kid is a real gem…

How many teachers when asked if they want a precocious, non-compliant gem in their classroom would say, “yes!”? Yet, these are the students who are bright or talented in vastly different ways. They may do very well, or would probably do well if they weren’t daydreaming, doodling, concocting stories, or claiming boredom.

There is a history of these students. As early as 1868, philosopher William Torrey Harris, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1889 to 1906 sought educational services for gifted students (National, 2018), (Watras, 2012). What has followed includes research on intellect, social and emotional intelligence, rigor and relevance, federal and state recognition and funding of gifted programs, federal and state decline in funding of gifted programs, discussion of student voice, racial divides, culture, questions about what defines ‘gifted’. It also includes legislation including but not limited to No Child Left Behind (2002), Race to the Top (2009), and Every Student Succeeds Act (2015). Kaul et al (2016), used the term “overlooked gems” to suggest future research in enrichment programs. How many of these students are there? Hasn’t this issue been solved since 1868? And, what do these students have to say about being precocious, non-compliant, or overlooked-gems?

Imagine... Upstate New York. Vast farmland. Walk backward from today to 1980.

A precocious, non-compliant young male of today.

At 4 years he was not talking and is incredibly uncoordinated. By the time he was in first grade he tried taking a cab from town, when he left school one day, to an airport because he needed to go to California. Reading and spelling were nightmares, as was nearly anything to do with schooling from day one until he was pulled at 14. His teachers often called him a behavior problem. He did not know how to correct teachers without hurting their psyche or sounding like a know-it-all. One even went so far as to run screaming out of the room that he was a “mystic” and was afraid of his powers. She didn’t see him get up and put his textbook in the wrong place and then have no idea where it was. He is a nutty professor type: the kind of kid who does homework and never hands it in or carries a failing grade all year long and then earns a 90+ on finals without studying. He was the introverted kid that wanted to sit alone at lunch to read and regain some of the energy that was spent trying to be participatory to make teachers happy. Eventually, he was labeled a loner and instead of getting to know and respect him, he was called a loner, bullied, mocked, and physically and emotionally abused. One quick set up by another student and the world almost lost him. That is a story for another day. He is now 16 and working to enter a college biomedical engineering program. He spends free time researching physics, math, and paleontology and decreasing his solve time on his many 3D twisty puzzles… because he wants to be below a 3 second solve time...

A precocious, non-compliant young male of the early 2000’s.

At 5 weeks he was sitting up. At 6 ¾ months he was walking, and by 3 he was running away from “boring school.” Those kids didn’t like novels!! Oh, the horror! Kindergarten was skipped, first grade was “full of babies” he had little patience for. By the age of 6, in second grade he was determined to quit school, go to college, get married, and have a baby. As a high school freshman he took as many Regents exams as he could, he learned the information on his own, because his principal at the time told him that if he hit mastery, he could graduate. The principal underestimated the young man, laughed that he did not think it was possible, and refused to graduate him. At 15 he left school for an early entrance college. At 19, nearly finished with a bachelor’s degree, his only concern is how to make a living so he can raise children.

An early 1990’s precocious gem:

A young elementary student feigned illness to get out of boring classes. She also walked out of class in early elementary school to tell the principal that she was bored and ask how he was going to fix it. She is now well-employed and has a big problem, two young, precocious gems of her own. In rural, upstate, New York she is respected yet told she is intimidating.

A 1990’s non-compliant, precocious gem.

She was a high school stop out. A stopout is a child who leaves high school but returns for graduation. This child left at the end of 11th grade to attend college because she was bored, and bored children look for things to do. Her mother states, “she needed a challenge or she was going to end up in trouble.” She returned to high school in June of what would have been her senior year to graduate. The principal proudly exclaimed during the commencement, “Congratulations on your early release!” At which point the man standing next to her mother asked, “What’s she been in jail for?!” Where is she now? She is now well-employed and has a big problem: two young, precocious gems of her own. In rural, upstate, New York she is respected yet told she is intimidating at work.

A precocious gem of the early 1980’s.

This girl was unable to read and struggled in social situations. She was tested endlessly in middle and high school for additional learning disabilities. Her music teacher, in her senior year, helped her get to college and told her she was something special, she just needed to find her voice. Her guidance counselor, when she asked for help with college selection, told her to marry a nice farmer and have babies. Then he went back to helping the upper-class members of the grade, those with parents who were doctors and lawyers. She became a 1st Gen, the term for the first member of a family to attend college. Still bored and wanting to move on, she worked nearly full time & complete 28 credits in the fall of her junior year. She then completed 29 credits in the spring of that same school year and moved to D.C. She is currently a doctoral student and is well-employed, and yes, has a big problem. She has two young, precocious gems of her own. In rural, upstate, New York she is respected yet at work, she told that she is intimidating.

2019… there are 4 more specific children to focus on. Their stories are incomplete. In all honesty, they didn’t fall far from the trees of the parents above. Gifted programs are too few and far between. Parents today are fighting the same fight as the generations before … to Educate Each Precocious, Non-Compliant, Over-looked Gem. Do not deflate these children and their inquisitive nature. Do not expect or demand students to act and learn exactly like the others in the class. Respect precocious and non-compliant children and build relationships with them. Be the teacher or the leader who is a positive able to look at that child and say, “teach me.”


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