Here is a unique idea that a teen wanting to bond with his grandma, came up with. He and his grandma are avid readers who share some common reading interests. He roped in his mom in this project too and together they chose to read this amazing book by Gordon Korman. This little project helped bring the perspectives of three different generations together and much more...
The three of them had read Unteachables by Gordon Korman earlier and had loved it. So when the teen came up with the idea, a hilarious yet thought provoking book similar to this one had to be found. A brief search for books by the same author lead to the discovery of this book.
A Kindle copy was bought so that the three of them could read it at the same time from different devices. The easy of using web version as well as the device makes this project possible. Since the grandma did not live with the family, they had to find a way to keep the discussion based on the book going. A WhatsApp group was created for this purpose.
After the initial excitement of starting a new book, there was silence on the group. The reason, everyone was reading. After a little while, the grandma posted, "This book is too good. The teen asked, "Where are you in the story now? Wait, don't reveal. Let's do page numbers so that if one of us is ahead, we wouldn't spoil it for the others."
Page numbers were exchanged. The race to the finish had begun. Not to win but to find out first what happens next. The book this team says is filled with suspense and was hard to keep down. Yet all three had busy daily schedules leaving only a small amount of time for the book.
The teen posted, "I finished the book!"
The grandma replied, "I am close. Can't handle the suspense. What will the Schultz character do? The test part was fun to read. What's going to happen at the retest?"
The mom replied, "Wait you both are ahead of me. What test? I am still catching up, no spoilers please! :))"
A couple of hours later...
Grandma posted, "I finished! What an ending! Beautiful book! I must tell my friends about it."
Mom posted, "I have now come to the suspense bit, getting close to the climax. I don't have time now!"
End of the day, mom posted that she too had finished the book.
Grandma who is a retired special educator, has this to say about the book. "This is a book that must be read by parents. The book brings to light some very brilliant children who are often treated differently and expected to perform to their full potential. So much so an Scholastic Academy is created for the 'gifted'. Unlike a normal school, these children don't have extra curriculars such as collaborative events, school dances, annual day programs and all the fun that regular school life offers children. Their days are filled with advanced classes and extra classes. They are considered infallible. The pressure is immense. They don't like being there. But they don't have a choice, as they are gifted."
She continued to add that, "There is always a tendency to look up to the brilliant and with good intentions, the thought that they should be given superior opportunities to prove themselves, if not they would be bored. This just seems so intuitive. This book challenges this approach and begs for a reconsideration in the lines of - give them opportunities but don't rob them of a normal childhood."
"There is always a tendency to look up to the brilliant and with good intentions, the thought that they should be given superior opportunities to prove themselves, if not they would be bored. This just seems so intuitive. This book challenges this approach and begs for a reconsideration in the lines of - give them opportunities but don't rob them of a normal childhood."
The mom in the project, took a step back to reconsider her expectations from her teen. She says, "I felt reassured that I am taking the right approach."
As for the teen, he said, "I enjoyed this book. But I liked The Unteachables better as the climax there was even adventurous than this one." The book The Unteachables is about children on the other side of the spectrum, those who have learning disabilities and yet are really good at something. Sadly they are recognised for what they cannot do and not for what they are really good at. Worse, they are branded as the unteachables and not given any help or an opportunity to participate in any activity that happens in school.
The power that collaboration helps to deliver
Soon after, I learnt about this project, I had an interesting conversation with a parent whose child is in grade 10. She mentioned that she was considering a change of school so that he could have a little more competition. She went on to add that in her opinion he wasn't the 'good performer' kinds but he was claiming to be in the top 5 in class. From there on the inference that she made was that there wasn't enough competition to bring out the best in her son. I was left puzzled after that conversation when the book came to my mind. I picked it up to see what this grandson, mom and grandma trio had experienced.
Being brilliant and being in the top is all very nice. But life needs a variety of people with diverse skill sets to come together to achieve something phenomenal. In the book an innocent mistake leads to an above average kid to the classroom of the most brilliant set at the Scholastic Academy for the gifted. Although he finds himself lost there, he helps to kindle a sense of team spirit and comes up with practical solutions in tight situations while the gifted find themselves a little too uptight and less flexible. He brings life to a class that is otherwise too busy in back to back scholastic challenges leaving no time for leisure or friendships for that matter.
Thoughts after I read this book:
In the name of opportunity, are we trying to segregate students, discriminate against them and in the process robbing them of something so key to survival-
the ability to work together- the power of collaborating with the purpose of bringing different skillsets together?
A scientifically bent mind might need an artistically inclined mind to be able to design something far more practical and elegant to see, for instance.
Children don't differentiate against one another of their own will. What they are taught, what they observe, shapes who they grow up into. Telling them that they are super brilliant and must be with other equally or more brilliant people is telling them that anyone outside that class doesn't merit any respect. Telling children outside of this classroom that they aren't as good as those inside that gifted classroom, leads them to believe that the gifted are people who cannot mingle with them as they are the 'ungifted' lot. What kind of an impression this creates on impressionable minds is anyone's guess.
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