Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • My elementary school had a Gifted & Talented program. Up until the end of 3rd grade, all I knew about GT was that it seemed to include the more awkward 4th and 5th graders in the school. They put on an annual theatrical performance each spring that I recall being a heady mess of music and lights and costumes and that made no sense.

    The GT room was sandwiched between a row of three 2nd grade classrooms and the music room on the second floor. We didn't go in there--it was for GT kids only--although we caught glimpses of it during events like the all-school carnival, which transformed classrooms into fun houses for one Saturday every fall, or if we were on morning attendance duty, collecting slips of paper that recorded the names of the absent and the tardy and contained the crucial tally of hot lunch orders. The off-limitsness of it, combined with the odd reputation the GT kids carried, made it seem like some sort of arrogant, pre-adolescent secret society. I'm sure I believed that you'd need either a password or a really good excuse to get in the door.

    At the end of my 3rd grade year, our teacher announced that we'd be going to the GT room for an "exercise." It was my first time being in the GT room when it wasn't draped in some sort of garish carnival outfit--crepe paper smothering the ceiling, plastic bags with lethargic goldfish lined up on tables beneath the windows--or when I wasn't deeply concentrating on my mission-critical duty to collect the daily attendance and hot lunch slip from the GT teacher, a wire-haired, slender woman who wore ankle-grazing skirts and long necklaces. It seemed bigger than the other classrooms. Brighter, as though the windows had somehow secured a premium lease agreement with the sun. There were rows of long, flat tables in the room rather than lift-top desks like the other classrooms had. An upright piano sat in the corner, near the chalkboard. There were framed posters of semi-famous works of art on the walls, the kind where the name of the artist appears above the name of an art gallery (usually located somewhere in the Southwest), both in big font on a large, white bottom margin.

    I was nine years old and I wasn’t stupid. I knew this “exercise” would determine who would be selected to join the GT program next year. I was ready to do really well on whatever test the wire-haired teacher gave me, and do it really fast. This would inevitably prove that I was not only gifted (perfect score), but I was also talented (perfect score, fast)--although I couldn’t help but feel like this should have been obvious to everyone already.

    The wire-haired teacher passed out a ditto. She assured us that there were no right answers to the questions, and we were encouraged to take our time. The ditto had a thick line drawing of a gumball machine at the top, with a few loose gumballs drawn below it.

    “Imagine you have two gumballs,” the ditto read. “What could you do with them? Write your ideas on the lines below.”

    This was absurd. I could think of only one thing to do with gumballs: Chew them. Why were there so many empty lines on the ditto? I wrote “Chew them” on the first line. I thought some more. Blow bubbles with them. Swallow them.

    I remember finishing early and watching, with confusion, as classmates filled out their own dittos. Some had flipped them over and were continuing their lists on the back. My list was short. Did everyone else know something that I didn’t about the physics of gum-chewing, or the journey of chewed gum through the human digestive system? Did I maybe get a different ditto from the rest of the class? What was happening?

    I was not selected for the GT program. There was no formal announcement or letter--in fact, I had forgotten about the whole experience entirely until one day, in 4th grade, I noticed that a few of the more awkward kids in my class left the room together at the same time every week. Later that year, I saw them all in an elaborate performance of music, lights, and costume that was put on in the school gym. The wire-haired teacher was playing the upright piano in the corner, just below the stage. The performance made no sense.

    I don’t remember doing it, but I’m sure we all clapped at the end.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.