The very last breakout session that I attended at the TGAT (http://www.txgifted.org/) was one entitled “Pascal’s Triangle”. I like to go to as many Math related presentations as I can because, frankly, Math is my weakness when it comes to understanding what I teach. I had already attended the presenter’s previous session on “NIM Games” which was very good. Saturday was “Family Day” so there were children and parents moving in and out of the session, including one very tall gentlemen with mussy hair and an approximately three year old with identical hair. They both sat down at the closest table to the front while the presenter kindly said, “This may be too difficult for your son.” The father looked at his son, then the presenter and said, “We shall see.”
The session began, the presenter had a depth of knowledge of his material and a great way of eliciting responses from the students that “elevated their learning”. He had posed a particular question, and I watched the three year old raise his hand in a fairly confident manner. The presenter called on him and this tiny flute-like voice carefully spoke his answer. It was to the point and ‘right on the money’. Our presenter was not taken aback, because, you see, he was used to the surprises of the gifted child. He had taught thousands of them in summer programs or during the school year. He complimented the child as if he were a middle schooler and moved on with the lesson. Three or four times, this tyke spoke, while the others in the room were absolutely glued to what he had to say. Meanwhile, the father was smiling down at his prodigy.
There were five year olds, seven year olds and older children who participated in the discussion. Even a 12 year old (probably) who seemed to have an edge to his answers that sounded like, “I’m always the smartest” respected the tyke.
This may have been the first time that I have sat near a child prodigy, a profoundly gifted individual, an individual who’s body of a three year old contained a mind at least nine grade levels above in mathematical ability. This is scary to me. Not in the way that most people think, but for the child and his father. Students like this must have a different setting for their learning. Parents of a prodigy must be acutely aware of the social and emotional issues their baby will endure – I’m not sure this parent knew. From his proud smile, I don’t think he did. Perhaps, I’m wrong. Did he bring his child to show him off, or did he bring himself and his child to learn more about this unique thing called ‘being gifted’?