When I was in grade school, at the request of my parents, the school guidance counselor agreed to perform a series of scholastic tests to see if I would be a better fit for more advanced classes. Several days later the counselor decided to run the same series of tests again, then two weeks passed and they were run a third time. Then came a letter to my parents, which requested a private meeting. I still remember waiting in the school hallway during lunch period outside the guidance counselor’s door, anxiously waiting for the test results while my parents were discussing them.
Then all of a sudden it was my turn, and I was quickly ushered into the office. To my surprise as well as the delight of my parents, I scored years ahead of my current classes in the areas of English, Science, and Technology. Unfortunately, my parents refused to allow me to advance to those advanced classes simply fearing that I might be separated from my own age group of peers. Instead of advanced classes, the school guidance counselor suggested that I might be a good fit for a study group at a local college where I could be scholastically tested, and studied by professors and educators.
My parents agreed, and I was chosen, along with a friend of mine from the same school, to participate in the college research study. At the time we were the only two students picked from our school to attend.
When I arrived, the research classroom at the college was strange, almost alien to me. It was set up similar to a kindergarten, with aqua blue carpeting, plain walls covered in high gloss white paint, and bright fluorescent lights. There were toys in containers in almost every corner, and a low-standing white table with a box of markers sat in the middle of the room. At first appearances, it seemed as if I might have been assigned to the wrong study group.
A teacher greeted us as we walked in. Adjacent to the main classroom was a hallway with two small rooms off to one side, both brightly lit with a large window in the door.Â I was immediately ushered into a small cramped room, furnished only with a table and two chairs. The room was plain, it’s walls covered with wooden paneling and hastily applied varnish, and reminded me of an interrogation room from a 1980’s police detective movie. There was only one door, which barely had enough room to open fully before making contact with the back of one of the chairs.
The table was against a large panel of one-way glass. I knew right away that there would be an unknown party observing the proceeding quizzes, and tests, and other lessons, and I made the mistake of stating my observation to the examiner.
“You’re not like the others”, the examiner said, impressed yet at the same time pessimistic, motioning his hand in as if to signal someone to join us in the already cramped room.
Almost immediately the door opened, followed by a small handful of college graduate students, many of which were in their late 20’s. The students, they came in, observed, asked me questions about my schooling, and wrote various things down on paper. I was given various things to read as well as some activities which loosely resembled IQ testing materials. Repeatedly the examiner and the students asked for my thoughts and opinions, furiously writing down everything I said.
If I said I didn’t know, someone would remind me that there were no wrong answers. I was glad when they left, they brought nothing but troubling anxiety.
The experience was bizarre and one which I had trouble understanding the necessity. I simply could not comprehend why adults would take such an interest in my childhood thoughts and opinions of school work and learning. For several weeks I spent Fridays after school visiting the research center. Sometimes I would bring in a homework assignment to complete, other times I would be given a puzzle or maze to solve. On one occasion I spent the entire time discussing and drawing electrical diagrams. It all seemed overwhelming and bizarre to me at the time, and looking back on it now as an adult, I am still at a loss for an explanation.
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