I was at a school district meeting a few nights ago. We talked about assessments mandated by the State. This year the assessment has more than twice as many questions and includes material our particular special needs children will not possibly know. In last year’s assessment, testing in a given subject area would be terminated when a child incorrectly answered three consecutive questions. This year all questions must be posed to each student.
One mom was very concerned about the traumatic impact on her 4th grade son. He is gaining traction in school and loses ground when faced with tasks far beyond his abilities. This culminates in a major meltdown when he gets home, and he doesn’t recover for days. Of course that produces an additional burden for mom, above and beyond the usual demands, which are above and beyond those ever expected by any mom. Her question to the district personnel: “Would there be a persuasive impact on the State if we boycotted this testing?” Well, the answer came, probably not and it would hurt the district’s overall scores, funding, etc.
The struggle, repeated in many categories of life in the parent of a special needs child, overwhelms: keeping the big picture in mind (the forest) as we focus on our own child (the trees). I so often just do not give a rip about the district. Yet I know that when En reaches the age of majority, my darling daughter will probably be at the mercy of some state agency whether for insurance coverage, housing or total care.
What then, the forest or the trees?
Well, I rail against this answer: both. However, my greatest responsibility is to raise my child well. So my ambition (one of many in her life) is this: to teach her to take the test, and find the detachment to say, “someone made up a dumb test because the questions didn’t make any sense!”
For her hope and happiness, her view of the forest must embrace alternatives to “what does that mean about ME?” Sometimes, the tests/laws/(fill in the blank) are dumb. Sometimes the decisions lack thorough consideration. Yes, sometimes it really is about someone else!
In which case, I stick with the “tree” in my own home. The forest is always changing and my little tree must be coached so she can navigate that forest as well as possible. Not that she’ll escape unscathed, none of us does. I want her to be able to hold her head up, and know that she is a valuable member of society no matter what she can or cannot do.
After all, if knowledge/education can make the world a better place, shouldn’t we be further along as people than we were 500 years ago?