Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inside the bubble

I am a monster.

Or I'm a sheep ... which, I guess, could be a monster if it was all matted and rabid and charging at you in a wooly frenzy.

I am also firmly on the wrong side of history.

I'm not exactly sure if I can be all three. But that's how I feel – like I've hit the bad-parent trifecta -- each time I scroll through Facebook and see all the posts exclaiming the virtues bestowed upon those refusing the state's standardized testing.

The slogans are brief but powerful: “Strong parents.” “Strong kids.” “Refuse the test.”

Yet, while the history pioneers' kids are sitting around reading leisurely for the three hours my kid is using to color in bubbles with a Number 2 pencil, I'll be shrugging my shoulders and lamenting my position in the flock.

It's not that I don't care. Or that I think everything's fine. I know there are problems.

It's not that I think standardized tests are an important part of the evaluation process. I do not.

It's not that I don't value teachers or care about their plight. I do.

It's not that I think everyone should be learning at the same pace or the same level, or be carbon copies of each other. That's the plot of a novel, not real life.

Maybe it's that I just find it hard to believe that it matters all that much in the final outcome.

You know, in a "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it," kind of way.

I remember the first time I sat down at a desk to fill in all those bubble circles. I'm not sure how old I was … they called it the Iowa Tests back then … but I remember it felt exciting to be doing something so totally different.

“These won't count for your grades,” said the teacher as she handed out papers and sharpened pencils. “But you must take them seriously.”

She made it plain as day that we weren't to be making pictures of dogs with droopy tongues or play tick-tac-toe with our answers no matter how we were tempted.

And how were we tempted.

I'm not sure what happened with the scores some computer must have spit back. My mother probably crumpled up the results and threw them away. Or perhaps she packed them in some box that is mouldering in the cellar. All I know is she never told me about such measures of intellect.

“You're not as smart as you think you are,” was all she'd ever say. “Remember that.”

Honestly … I don't know what happened to most of the information that came home in our backpacks, never mind what was supposed to be etched in my brain. It can't have gone missing.

But it was there. It just needed a little cosmic recycling and a few hand-outs brought home by the kids. Soon the bits and pieces loosened up and started to move around in my mind. All of it becoming more limber.

I sand off more of the rust with each passing page. How long has it been since I've diagrammed a sentence? Did I ever really understand the difference between commutative and associative properties?

Happily, I doodle alongside of her. Feeling accomplished as I ACE all of her fifth-grade problems.

... Or not, as the expression on my kid's face makes apparent when I finally look up.

“That's NOT how you do it,” says my daughter. “It's like this ...”

She snatches my pencil. Erases my existence on the scratch sheet. Starts again.


And I do see.

I see that my kid understands.

I see that when she doesn't understand, she seeks help from someone who knows how to explain it differently.

I see she can prove me wrong.

And I see that there's a whole lot of things I can't fix. … Things I maybe shouldn't try to fix.

That win or lose, good teacher or bad, developmentally ready or not …

Here she comes.

I know my kid has got this, I don't care what the test says.

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