Thursday, April 07, 2011

Moms and Test Days

Test days were special days. Even if I tried to pretend otherwise, bedtime came early the night before. When your mom is a teacher, you always get a good night of sleep before the standardized test, whether you like it or not.

But those mornings were so special. Regular days meant sleepy eyes and cereal with Lis, usually Life or Cap'N Crunch or a bowl of Cheerios with a snowy blanket of sugar sinking into the milk. Generally I'd read both sides and the back of whatever box was before me, the Trix Rabbit being the precursor to blog writers. But test mornings meant special breakfast and special time: Waffles. Pancakes. French toast. Eggs. Extra time with Mom, who must have rearranged her two-hour curling iron, blue eyeshadow and newspaper routine to make it an event.

It felt like vacation.

There was talk about doing our best, peppered with bits of advice like fill in the bubbles all the way and take your time. I don't think my perception was that any single academic endeavor meant more in my school career than the yearly test. In high school when someone told me it didn't matter because it didn't go on our transcripts, I just stared, incredulous.

Surely that was wrong. There was a special breakfast for this thing.

I remember waiting for my parents to open my results each year, nervously sweating it out to see if I hit the 99th percentile again, wondering why they couldn't just add one more percent to round things out. In years when I "slipped"--I remember an 11th grade dip into the 80's in reading--I felt like a scratch was made on that inscrutable and omnipresent "permanent record."

I'm glad to know now that no such catalog exists. If only I would have known that in 5th grade when I got a citation for the toothpaste that ended up on my group-mate's desk. I was sure that would keep me from ever getting a job.

I'm sure the starchy carbohydrates in my belly fueled a valiant effort, but more importantly I know that the words and time gave me confidence to show what I could do. Test-taking became an opportunity rather than a worry. I got reminders about expectations, but they were wrapped in love (and bacon).

Today we began the test at my school. My perspective is so different and (admittedly) things have changed so much since the mid-eighties when I made my pancake-driven charge into the great world of the bubble sheet. NCLB and other legislation have put so much importance on the test that education has shifted--and maybe not for the better.

But this morning as I drove onto campus I caught myself wondering about the breakfasts of the kids who made their way to class. I can't help but think that there is still a whole group of moms out there who are fueling student achievement, and I was grateful.

1 comment:

  1. I remember test time my junior year of high school. I thought to myself, "I can't score any higher, so why bother even trying? I'm just going to fill in random bubbles."

    That year I got called into my counselor's office to explain my horrible test scores. I felt soooo horrible - I'd never been called into anyone's office before! Needless to say, the next year I tried my hardest on those standardized tests!