Natassja Cole gives her verdict on the pros and cons of being on the G&T register
How do you feel when people refer to you as gifted and talented? Sometimes I feel a pressure to achieve because teachers, my parents and even my school friends know that I can get good marks and seem to understand what goes on in lessons pretty easily. I think other pupils and some adults too, misunderstand the label though… Some people think you don’t have to work as hard because you are gifted and talented whereas actually you have to work harder to achieve sometimes, in order to live up to people’s expectations. Mostly the pressure is good for me though. It keeps me working hard. It’s not necessarily a negative thing.
Do you understand what teachers mean when they describe you as being gifted and talented?
I see it as them thinking of me as being able. I have the potential to do well and as long as I am not lazy, I can achieve. I think it helps teachers to set my predictions for the exams. Some of my predictions I thought were slightly low. But that’s OK. I like proving people wrong. I like a good debate too; perhaps that’s why I want to be a barrister.
What difference do you think being gifted and talented makes to your learning?
In some classes I’d have to be honest and say it makes no difference. I work in exactly the same way as anyone else in the class who isn’t called gifted and talented. I really love history and it’s a lesson where everyone works quite hard and the teacher expects us all always to do our best, work hard in the lesson, contribute to the discussion. Other pupils comment that I often get the best marks and often they ask for my help with their work. Some help I gave another student enabled her to get a C and I was chuffed by the way I’d helped her to achieve. In most lessons you just get on with it though. Even when I’m not focusing that hard I seem to take stuff in. I suppose I’m just lucky that way. I don’t really think of myself as G&T; I get just as nervous when I get results back, as everyone else. Sometimes I surprise myself by getting the results I do with less work than I know some of my other friends have done.
Do you like or dislike other people knowing that you are G&T?
Sometimes I like it. It is nice to know you’re clever, a bit of an ego boost. The disadvantage of other pupils knowing is that they take advantage and often want your help with their work. My school doesn’t make a big public fuss and use the term gifted and talented a lot in assemblies or anything but I feel the way I am treated in school is good and maybe that’s because teachers know I could do well. There are lots of people in my school who I would call G&T too, in other ways, not necessarily in class. I don’t want to be seen as better than them just because I get good marks in tests.
Do you perceive yourself as G&T?
When I was at primary school there was one girl in my class who I thought was really clever. My one aim was always to compete with her. Looking back I realise that it probably motivated me in a good way. I respond quite well to a challenge. There is always going to be someone cleverer than me wherever I go. I don’t see myself as exceptional. I have to be driven… have some kind of motivation, so competition is good for me.
Do you feel any pressure being a G&T student?
When I’m older I want to be a human rights barrister. I’ve thought about joining the RAF and doing my legal training with them. My dad is against my joining the RAF but he just wants to see me achieve the best I can. I feel I get more pressure from my dad but again only in a good way. He’s really intelligent but he didn’t go to university. In a way he didn’t use his talents instead he worked his way up. So I feel a pressure to do well from him. He wants me to achieve things he didn’t. It leads to lots of debate! I feel an expectation rather than a pressure from teachers to get the grades but this can be motivational. Without pressure I get lazy; I need pressure to achieve but not to the point where I feel suffocated. Pressure is good when it encourages without pushing too much. I lose focus if expectation or pressure isn’t there. One of my weaknesses I think is self-motivation. I have natural self-motivation in some subjects, but less in others. I especially love political history. I love reading books too. Everyone else sometimes moans if we are expected to read a certain book but if I have an empty day I happily read a whole book. When I was quite young and off school feeling ill, I read Alice in Wonderland in a day. My parents were amazed!
Does being a G&T student bring advantages?
I get to do extra subjects. I have taken Spanish GCSE this year by attending after school lessons, as well as continuing my studies for French and German GCSEs in Year 11. I should leave school with three higher-grade language GCSEs. I kind of collect languages. Most students at my school leave with one. I do AS-level critical thinking in registration time and I really love this too. It’s really helped me in other subjects, especially history. Thanks to critical thinking I have learned study skills that I can apply elsewhere. I did statistics GCSE too. I couldn’t stay after school for the statistics sessions because I had a part in the school play and I was rehearsing so my dad got me a tutor. I don’t think staff treat me advantageously. I am a very sociable person so I get on with staff because I like chatting. Sometimes you can have a good gossip with teachers! I think getting on with people is a real talent too. Not all clever people seem to be able to do this. I do get asked to do quite a bit in the school, eg readings in assemblies. Hopefully this will add to my CV in the future because of the fact that I get involved in so much. I have big ambitions, so hopefully that will help me get places too. To be a barrister you have to be the best of the best. One of my dreams is going to Oxford or Cambridge.
Does it bring disadvantages?
Only that there are not enough hours in the day. I end up having to choose what to be involved in and can’t do some of the things I would like to. I really wanted to do the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award after school but there isn’t time to do everything! I chose quite academic subjects for GCSE and I really miss some subjects like drama and feel I’m missing out when the drama students are having fun. One other disadvantage is that you get noticed by teachers quickly if you are out of line! If you are chatty in lessons teachers pick up on you more than other pupils sometimes. Sometimes just for a day I would like to be less able and a little more anonymous!
Does being told you are able affect your plans for the future?
I have big plans for travelling, then university then bar exams. I’ve chosen subjects according to my career plans. At one point I wanted to be a director, then a singer, then an actor but then I got into my academic studies and I think my talent is there.
Natassja Cole, Year 10