A Letter From A Gifted Student

My Dear Teacher,

I looked forward to going to school for a long time. When my deep and never-ending curiosity and unimaginable questions wore out the grown-ups around me, I simply said to myself “My teacher will be able to answer all of my questions when I go to school…” When my imagination made the grown-ups laugh, I assured myself that my teacher would understand me.

Teacher, you once called my mom and told her, “He’s different and challenges me often… He does not seem to be listening to me sometimes but can answer my questions. He gets bored easily and wants to move all the time…” You also mentioned to my mom that you were sometimes tired. Then they took me somewhere and gave me a test with miscellaneous questions. I tried to explain the answers of their questions to the man and woman over there… Then we went there once again with my mom… My mom explained to you that I was a gifted based on the test results.  I did not understand teacher; what does potential mean? We did not learn it at school, and I could not ask it either to my mom or you… At the end of the day, I do not want to bother any of you with my questions!

Well, I did not understand what it was but let me tell you a bit about myself. I do not know if you ever recognized but I am sensitive and fragile far beyond you can guess. I have big feelings that I try to handle. My tongue is not enough to express them, but my tears come to the rescue to tell about the overflowing emotions. I am a kid, so I love and know the language of tales the best. Let me put things together like a tale for it could be the common language I share with grown-ups. You know the story of the Girl with the Red Hood, right? Remember the wolf there. I can feel sorry even for the wolf in that tale, or even for the fact that the witch in the Snow White is a bad person can break my heart. I also feel sad for the seven dwarfs asking myself why they are that short. I think of them often as they must be really upset about being a dwarf. I often reflect on motherhood in a childish manner when I hear about Rapunzel’s mother who locked her up inside a tower in the middle of the woods… Whenever Keloğlan’s[1] mom  calls his son as “my bald son, my bare head son”, I feel a pang of sorrow in my heart. Why would she call him like that only because he does not have hair? Teacher, whenever you give a classmate a compliment or caress her head, other classmates fix their eyes on both of you. Even if I am the one who is being complimented or caressed, I feel sorry for the others.  There is a cat with kittens next to the exit gate of the school. As you would know, I feel sorry both for them and other animals coping with challenging conditions in the world. They say the glaciers are melting and this also makes me so sad. I feel as if I have a big heart and would like to squeeze everyone in there. My feelings are so intense that I feel they can only fit in a big heart.

My dear teacher, I can learn quickly but my emotions are still the emotions of a kid. And I am so much confused by this. Sometimes grown-ups define me as precocious. I guess it is a good thing, but they get confused when I cry. In a sense, my mind is like an oversized dress that is worn on my emotions. Its skirts get in the way while I am trying to walk. I can make wise comments but not being included in a game may hurt my feelings. Being intelligent does not help there.

Teacher, sometimes I ask too many questions. That is because I am hungry for learning. I do not mean to question your knowledge; my mere purpose is to learn. At school, the same stuff is being told repetitively. I want to learn about the trees by touching them. I want to feel the sun on my skin in good weather. I want to see and understand math in nature. I want to witness a plant grow… Everything is in the books, that is right.  But isn’t life something that is explained beyond books? Only for one day, can we have an outdoor class?  I love it when the sun shines like gold on your blond hair.

I cannot be successful in every subject matter. Just like everybody else, I may have more talent in certain fields, and I may not be that good in others. I may not be able learn the multiplication table very quickly or I may not be able to draw well. Memorizing a poem can be hard for me. I may fluff my movements just like the dance show of April 23rd[2]… I do not want to upset you. So please do not expect me to be successful in every single field! I also have a request from you. I do not want to be the teacher’s assistant all the time. I am more than happy to help my friends all the time, but you are the teacher. To me, this is a challenging task that needs to be accomplished. At nights, I sometimes dream about my failure and wake up in sadness. I would like to be your student only, not your assistant.  

Teacher, I love dreaming. When you tell us about something, I end up having great ideas and would like to share them with you. Do not be scared that the general order of the classroom will be compromised. I can tell them to you whenever you would like to listen to me. But please spare some time for me. Because my dreams are like a forest that gets greener the more I tell about them. Who knows, maybe there will come a day one of those trees are going to yield nice fruits for the entire humanity.

Dear teacher, did you know that I am so scared of making a mistake. I even prefer not to do anything in order to avoid mistakes. Words fail to explain to you my efforts and exhaustion to do my best all the time. You are a grown-up so you might have forgotten all about these ages… I am a perfectionist and I need your encouragement and support when things do not turn out to be perfect. Making mistakes really upsets me. Please tell me whether you made any mistakes when you were at school. Were you sad about it?

By the way, I might have forgotten to tell you. Noise and crowd bother me sometimes. That is the main reason why I cover my ears when it gets noisy in the classroom. I cannot understand how such a noise does not blow one’s brain off.  Do not be surprised, that is how I feel. It is as if my head gets bigger and bigger, just like when I was a baby.  I occasionally need to be alone and enjoy silence. Would you understand me when I cover my ears? I guess you would, because you already know the reason for that.

I love you teacher. I know that you want the very best for all of us.  But please do not have high expectations from me. Please do not disregard my capabilities and wishes as you want the very best for me. As a matter of fact, I have a request from you. Could you please explain all of these to my parents? Because they seem to be loving future me who is thirty years older than I am. In a sense, this is like embedding a circle in a square. It does not match exactly the same way…

I know that you have a child and your spouse is a teacher too. I know that you have responsibilities to your own home. I presume you must be very tired. Grown-ups say it is hard being a teacher, especially at this time. But I do not know any other time. My grandmother tells me, “Leave the iPad aside. Go play with your friends! Were we ever like that?”  Phone, iPad and computers have been all around me since I was born. I cannot imagine the time they were not present. I am trying to understand what you are telling me. Am I doing something wrong? Please help me, what should I do?

I am a kid. Observe me well, direct me and please try to understand me. I guess I am different but I only know myself so I cannot understand differences. Actually, I sometimes understand them. For example, I do not want to respond to my friends when they say something bad about me, for I do not want them to be sad. I know how much it hurts when they say it to me.  But my uncle says I should respond as blow for blow. Otherwise I could be an underdog who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. This is one of my differences. But is this difference a bad one? Would you protect me so that I do not become the underdog who wouldn’t say boo to a goose? Would you please teach me how to act?

You are so important to me. I always love to see you in the mornings even though school is boring. I love everything you teach us. Was school boring in the past also?  Perhaps you can give us an assignment so that we can tell you about our dream school. I also wonder about my friends’ opinions. Who knows, perhaps one day we can start learning more and start exploring ourselves at a school that is alive.  

Do you know why I wrote this letter to you? They say I am different and being different scares me a bit. Do you understand me, or can you try to understand me? Perhaps by this way another soul revives in this huge world. You always tell us that we are like saplings. Would you plant me in the most suitable soil or help me reach that soil?

I am so grateful to you and I love you…

Dr. Uğur Zat

[1] Keloğlan is a fictional figure in Turkish folklore and literature. Kel means “bald” and oğlan means “boy”.

[2] 23 April National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in Turkey. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, dedicated April 23 to the children of the country to emphasize that they are the future of the new nation. On April 23, 1920, during the War of Independence, the Grand National Assembly met in Ankara and laid the foundations of a new, independent, secular and modern republic.