One day this year, one of my elementary gifted students went home and proclaimed (in obvious distress) to his mom that he didn’t want to be a “smarty” anymore. Turns out the kids in his class had been teasing him about his very-apparent intelligence. In his meltdown, he expressed that he just wanted to be normal, that he wanted to know what it was like to not worry about everything so much, that he just wanted to be a regular kid and not “stick out” so much all the time.
I wondered how many of my other students wished at times that they weren’t so intelligent. What were their thoughts on the “love/hate” relationship gifted individuals sometimes have with their giftedness? As a means of offering you some insight into the mind of a gifted child, here are their responses to the prompt, “Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so smart because...” [To their credit, about half of the kids said they were glad they were intelligent. I’ll post those responses separately.] [All names are student-chosen pseudonyms.]
“I get taken advantage of. People ask to be my partner or work with me on a paper and I am stuck doing all the work. The only thing they do is make sure their name is on the paper or project.” Charlotte, 8th grade
“I don’t want to always be the ‘smart kid.’ I can’t be with the ‘cool kids’ because I’m smart. It annoys me so much. And sometimes I feel like I don’t want to be with the ‘cool kids’ because they won’t accept me for who I am.” Puff the Magic Dragon, 5th grade
“Sometimes when I ask people what we’re doing, they say, ‘You’re in GT, you’re smart... Figure it out for yourself!’ -- and I don’t like that.” Cheese, 5th grade
“I feel like I am different from other kids and sometimes I feel that they think I should be treated specially. Sometimes people point out my intelligence and make a big deal of it. I try to be humble about it because I don’t like the idea of being different from others.” Olive, 9th grade
“Ignorance is bliss. Being smart has allowed me the ability to watch the world. This isn’t a horrible situation. My regret arises whenever I want to experience the world without watching, to have flares of emotion without questioning ‘why’ or ‘how,’ to experience life to the ‘fullest’ without asking why the rain makes people sad or happy.” Zim, 12th grade
“Because I focus more on school than my social life, I am an outcast. I rarely go over to my ‘friends’’ houses, or go anywhere for that matter. Sometimes I have to ask myself if I really even have any friends. I never talk to any of these people except for the somewhat off-topic comments exchanged in class or a light conversation at lunch, and nearly all of that ‘conversation’ I am the listener not the talker. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so smart because I want to be included, accepted by a group of people who I can call friends not ‘friends.’” Jane, 12th grade
“If I wasn’t so intelligent, my parents would be more accepting of when I get a lower grade than what they expect me to get now. (All of my reasons for not wanting to be smart that I can think of involve others’ expectations of me, not my expectations of myself.)” Sawzall, 11th grade
“If I wasn’t so smart, then I wouldn’t have so much expected of me. Nobody would be disappointed with my work. I’ve come to learn that it’s part of life and you just have to do your best.” Keigyn, 8th grade
“People expect so much more of me than I can do. I’m not smart in every single category in school.” Saly, 5th grade
“Everyone treats you differently, like a geek or something like that.” Phoenix, 5th grade
“When I’m trying to work, sometimes people come up to me and ask me to correct their work even though I’m busy. Also, sometimes they throw a freak-out-fit if I don’t get good grades or if I’m not perfect ALL OF THE STINKING TIME!” Jelly, 5th grade
“The teachers stop calling on me because they know that I know all the answers.” Chang, 7th grade
“Sometimes it’s hard to talk to people. My vocabulary is a bit bigger than others. I get the ‘what?’ look all the time. I also get teased and questioned and poked and picked by teachers and kids!” Lillian, 5th grade
“I get scared for the world. Being smart allows me to see the world and what trouble we’re really in.” Alexander, 8th grade
“Kids are afraid of my very high self esteem and my intelligence and smartness so they feel insecure and make me the butt of their jokes or the reason of gossip.” Laine, 5th grade
“I want to know what it’s like to not be smart.” Ski Dude, 5th grade
“I get teased a lot. Kids assume a lot about you and people have higher expectations of you.” Wallace, 8th grade
“Other kids expect you to get strate A’s and know every answer to every question. Sometimes I get a B or B+ and there like, ‘wow, YOU got a B!’ I’m not grate at spelling, as you might see.” Annie, 5th grade
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so smart because then the teachers wouldn’t always expect so much out of me. They wouldn’t always expect straight A’s and nothing less. It is also kind of annoying sometimes when kids ask you ‘what’s the answer to this problem?’ or ‘can you help me?’ even when the answer is so simple if they would just take the time to do it.” Jill, 5th grade
What would the gifted kids in your life have to say about the not-so-rosy side of being gifted?
The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.