Monday, December 29, 2008

Connor Goes to College

About eleven years ago I got a new student named Connor, he was a first grader with flaming red hair. He was (is) a brilliant kid with an IQ in the 99.9% range, but he was not highly motivated--even as a first grader. Since I teach in a gifted program the kids stay with me one day week through 6th grade and over the years I've kept in touch with Connor's mom as he moved through middle school (yuck) and high school (yuck, too). I knew that scholarly pursuits were not high on the list, even though he was a musician and a computer whiz, so always wondered how things would turn out for him. I got an email from his mom today with this news:

....I know that the only thing that made elementary school bearable for Connor was knowing he could escape it once a week and go to the EL (enhanced learning) center. That child hated school from the very first day he went - except for EL, and a few other classes - orchestra, economics (yes, he is STRANGE), environmental ed, and a web design class. That's about it I think.

With his "barely C" average we were a bit skeptical that Connor's first choice school would take him - but it did. He applied for early admission in early November. He was told he would be notified if he got accepted in mid-January but he got his acceptance letter the week before Christmas. He's going to DePaul University in Chicago - and will be enrolled in the College of Commerce at the Loop Campus - right off the EL in the heart of Chicago's financial district if you're not familiar with it.... He's currently planning a dual major in MIS and Economics. He got a 32 on the ACT (he only took it once and didn't even bother with the SAT)....

Remembering conversations we have had about our adult brains being wired differently from our computer-raised kids - and knowing you have a special interest in that, I am also attaching a picture of Connor that I took when he was 16 months old. Thought you might enjoy it - or heck - you might even like to use it when you give talks about these newly-wired brains - you are welcome to do so if you wish....

So, sometimes things do work out for our underachieving kids. I've changed my thinking over the years and now give different advice to kids and parents. I used to say that a kid had to decide the minute they walked into high school if they wanted to compete academically. I told them that 60 kids in our high schools had 4.0 GPAs and one bad semester will screw up your GPA for good. Now I tell parents and kids that they need to find something that differentiates them from every other smart, good test scores, good grades kid in the country! I suggest our district's Signature Programs including Law, BioTech, BioMed, Computers, International Studies, IB, Engineering, or mentoring, shadowing, community service, entrepreneurships, etc.

Being smart is not enough. Being a good student is not enough. What can your child do to set himself or herself apart?