Thursday, December 11, 2008


It snowed today. I love snow. I love that when you look up into the snow it seems that time slow down a bit. Snow makes us focus on the little things. Every needle on every pine tree and every branch of a leafless tree is made more vivid with a dusting of snow. That light blue-grey color the sky turns and that distinct snow smell. Yes, snow has a smell.
Its nostalgic for me. It seemed no matter my grandpa's age, no matter the time of day, he was always right there to help us build that first snowman. With his help it was always the biggest snowman, taller than the time. We'd find things in his shop for his eyes and his mouth, and put a scarf and hat on him and twigs for his arms. The first Christmas after grandpa passed away we all went to Iowa. Christmas had always been in Iowa growing up, but for the past couple of years we'd stayed in Kentucky. This particular Christmas it felt very important that everyone be in Iowa, at home. It had snowed a little, and all the grandkids, even though we were grown, went outside and built a snowman. We made it the best snowman, as big as us, just like grandpa would have made. We found things in the shop for the face, twigs for the arms, and then we found grandpa's old work coat and put that on our snowman too. Grandpa would have been proud.
I think about grandpa all year long. Every now and then a little something will creep up in my day that will remind me of him, a smell, a saying, a laugh, a gruff but friendly voice. But for some reason when the snow is falling at Christmastime, I feel his absence even more. I look up into the sky, watch the snow fall and feel time slow down a bit, if just for a little while.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I volunteered to proctor for Tennessee's state testing. Basically there are lots of rules about the teachers not being allowed to touch the tests, or help the students and blah blah blah. Anyway, I was put in a first grade classroom. We have discussed in a few of my classes how ridiculous it is to attempt to put a young child through any test, let alone a standardized test. Part of the reason there is so little research in child psychology is the difficulty in testing.
I felt so bad for these kids. It doesn't matter if you're one of the "smart" six year olds or a little behind, which at the age of six is really not a big deal. All of them suffered through this test. I mean, the ones who get it get finished quickly and then still have to wait the full timed portion before they're allowed to go on, so they get bored and you lose their attention span and patience and then when they're allowed to continue they do badly because they're tired of sitting in a desk for three hours. The ones who don't get it are so frustrated they start crying because they feel the pressure of doing badly, they're afraid of the test. This affects the "smart" kids too because maybe they've heard the pressure from teachers and parents to do really well and if they run out of time, they literally can't force themselves to just guess. They can't. I don't know how many times I stood with one of the kids at their desk telling them for five minutes that they just had to guess because we had to go on, their time was up. They just stare at the page, they try to keep guessing, sounding out words, counting on their fingers, whatever it may be. They can't let themselves guess and possibly get it wrong, they have to try to the very end. Its too much pressure for a six year old. There's no reason for them to go through this.
For one thing, the test doesn't measure what they know. Maybe the responses from the first twenty minutes measures what they know. After that you've lost them. Granted they get little breaks, but a five minute break that then leads to another twenty to thirty minutes of testing is not sufficient. This measures nothing of a six year olds achievement or ability or knowledge. And the amount of reading they were supposed to do on their own! Are you kidding me?! They had to read an entire page of a story, then answer questions (which the testers must not realize is yet another page of reading) and then attempt to comprehend what all of it means in order to answer the questions. Its enough to bring a kid to tears, literally, I witnessed it. It makes them not want to go to school. Its the saddest thing I've ever seen, and its horrible that the teachers are fully aware of how ridiculous it is and they have no control over the situation.
Who makes these decisions?! I would love to see the person who implemented testing 1st graders come and attempt to test them himself. Its exhausting and its a waste of time and money