That’s a Real GT Characteristic.

Once a year, parents get to meet with their child’s teacher to check his progress. This annual conference lasts ten minutes and happens every fall.

Then, most parents don’t see the teacher again until … the following year. I don’t know how they survive without – at least – chaperoning a field trip, or volunteering at the book fair, or helping out during a class party.

I treasure the ten minutes like it is pure gold. Bill and I went together to Shane’s fifth grade conference.

Shane’s teacher this year is a man who has been teaching since I was in fifth grade. Experience is awesome, but this man also has infectious enthusiasm. I’ve learned more from him in visits to his classroom than I could have ever imagined possible. He is wholly engaging and passionate about his work, and absolutely brilliant. He loves history, and tells fascinating true stories to make history come alive in the classroom.

So when we talked to him about Shane, I had real respect for his opinions. He showed us Shane’s grades – a system I have yet to understand – and we talked a lot about math. Shane completed a survey before the conference, saying that math was his biggest challenge this year.

“It’s interesting that he struggles in math,” Bill said, “because he loves numbers.”

“You can have a great appreciation for art,” said his teacher, “even if you can’t paint a beautiful painting. How do you know he likes numbers?”

“Since he was a baby, he’s been interested more in numbers and statistics than anything else.” Shane’s favorite picture books were all numbers books – something that took me years to realize – with Bicycle Race being the one he loved best. “He still opens a book to see how many pages it has before reading it, and books with numbered lists are his favorites.”

“So he likes statistics. Have you tried giving him almanacs, books like that?”

“He loves them,” I told him. “He likes Weird But True, Guiness Book – all of that. He reads two or three different years and compares what happened in 2010 with 2012.”

“That’s a real GT characteristic,” the teacher said. And he went on to tell us how he liked statistics when he was a kid – how he’d read almanacs and newspaper sports pages, soaking in the numbers.

When I told Shane later that his beloved and brilliant teacher also liked numbers as a child and suggested that Shane had “a real GT characteristic,” the pride on Shane’s face was unmistakable.

Shane tried to choke it down, but someone had identified yet another piece of Shane that marks him as brilliant. He absolutely glowed. Quiet as he is, and different as he is from his loudly gifted brother, it’s wonderful for him to realize that there’s more than one kind of “smart.”

I love seeing that flash of pride in him. I hope he discovers it more and more often, all by himself, until the glowing is permanent and shines through everything he does.

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