As longtime readers may know, it took years for me to realize that when teachers told me my son was "doing fine," that merely meant he wasn't making trouble.
Making a ruckus, teasing, acting out, constantly getting out of his seat--none of those things are fine because they disrupt the class. Fine meant my boy did not stand out. Fine meant he played a role in maintaining status quo, it did not equate to educational growth.
A teacher's agenda for your gifted child does not necessarily match your own, especially if that means extra work for the teacher. Of course this is not a blanket statement about all teachers, and whatever your child's special needs, when a teacher does go that extra mile to help him or her, no doubt your gratitude is beyond words (also beyond a Starbucks gift card, but both are a nice touch). And we all know the pressure is on the teachers to help each student achieve a minimum level of proficiency a la No Child Left Behind, not to help each child reach his potential. (That is a blanket statement; it's our guiding national policy.)
I digress. My point is that it sometimes feels like teachers are talking in code when it comes to the education our high ability kids.
So "fine" means not a behavior problem in class, not making extra work.
"Challenges himself" can be interpreted in a similar vein. A child that challenges himself doesn't need a teacher to take that extra step or do additional work to take him to that next level. How convenient. And, of course, the idea that a gifted child is always seeking out new challenges is a stereotype, especially given that by 3rd or 4th grade and many highly gifted kids have merely tuned out, but that's fodder for another post.
What teacher talk have you decoded when advocating for your gifted child?
Read more musings of parenting gifted children.