Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

The afternoon was fairly typical...I picked up my youngest two from school and the usual afterschool hullabaloo commenced.  Backpacks dumped, coats shed, and both of them fighting hard to be heard over one another as they told me the excitement of their day.  My daughter, being the intellectual of the family, usually tells me which multiplication family she mastered that day, or how close she was to knowing all of her spelling words for the week, or

Typically I'll be half-listening to all of this while cleaning something, cooking something, or handling the stress of her brother when he can't get a word in.

Today her words stopped me in my tracks.

"Today in math we got a big packet full of practice problems to help us with our state tests!"

My response was to simply breathe deeply and count to 10.  I would not show my emotion in front of my innocent 8 year old who has yet to experience State Assessments.  We are opting out our 12 year old, but I "compromised" on our daughter, and vowed silently to make hubby dearest see just how ridiculous the process really is.

So when she announced her math work for the day, I simply answered with a vague "Oh?  You did?  Super."  Okay, maybe there was a hint of frustrated exaggeration in my voice.

"Yep! And [my teacher] said we all need to get 3's and 4's when we take it." (For those unaware, the NY state exams are graded with 1's, 2's, 3's, and 4's - with a 4 being the top of the grading scale.  For those also unaware, the NY state exams are also good for nothing else except for my child to practice properly filling in a bubble, to practice sitting quietly for a completely unreasonable length of time for an 8 year old, ...oh yes, and the scores are used as part of the teacher evaluation process.)

I've tried to be good this year.  We've had this teacher before, with my oldest son, and we butted heads most of the year.  I should say her and I butted heads.  For whatever reason, hubby and she got along famously.  I dreaded princess and her 3rd grade year when she was placed in the same class with this teacher, but tried to remain optimistic thinking perhaps the teacher found my son to be a struggle with his learning disability.  And by all rights, until today, I thought I was right.  The year thus far has gone really well.

Sensing I could easily lose it, I wanted to be completely sure I was getting the complete story, so I asked princess to repeat what had happened and what was said.

"We got a big paper with a lot of problems to practice for the state tests, and she said we all need to get 3's and 4's."

I thought I would be livid hearing that this had happened.  Instead I was heart-broken.

I asked the princess if her teacher told her why she had said that to the class, and the response I received was a slow shake of her head.  No reason was given.  My response was just to tell her, "Ya know what princess, it's okay if you don't get a 3 or 4 on those tests when you take them.  You just have to do  the best that YOU can do, and don't worry about anything else.  Dad and I really don't care what your grade is on them."   Her eyes widened.  "Really?"  Yes Really.  Those tests are not important to your grades and we don't care how you score on them if you are doing your best work.  She responded by racing over and wrapping her arms around me saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Seriously?  Are our schools beginning to stress our kids out this much over these exams already??

Later in the evening, at dinner, the princess and I relayed the entire story to hubby. By now I was slightly relishing in the fact that he was beginning to FINALLY see what I've been talking about for the last year.  After the story, princess looked at me and said "if the grade isn't important, then why do we have to take these tests?"

My 12 year old, in all of his rookie opting-out wisdom, leaned over and whispered that "it was a test to know how well the teachers were doing their job."

Her reply was merely to ask "So then why don't the teachers take the test themselves?"

A mere 8 years old, and she's a genius already!