Thursday, May 28, 2015

Love is a Battlefield

They say love is a battlefield…. and so is education.
Education is love AND a battlefield.

The equipment isn’t there, the numbers are great, the man power has been taken, and the missions seem to be changing if not impossible.

And if education is a battlefield,
then the End of Grade Testing is the American Revolution.
It can be the turning point for schools everywhere.

Never mind if schools have large numbers of students who have inadequate nutrition, missing attendance, and little home support.   Never mind, children who have learning and attention challenges.  Imagine every noise as a distraction.  Imagine words and letters reversing as you try to struggle through lines and lines of reading that don’t make sense.

One thing about war, it’s unfair.

I know the battle well.  I volunteered to serve.

How many times have I, as Commander and Chief, barked orders at my young soldiers:  'You better pay attention, or you won’t pass the EOG.  You could be sitting here next year’.
Fear makes us say stupid things.
What my heart was saying, ‘I know you are smart, but your whole year rides on one test, and I don’t want it to show anything other than OUR hard work’.

I privately cried for two days before Connor started third grade.
Plain and simple I was sending him into war with few weapons.
He wasn’t a fluent reader.   He couldn’t sit still.   The pace would be too quick.  His confidence was low.
I wasn’t sure his chosen Commander in Chief(s) were the right fit.

This had all the ingredients for a losing battle (ok... we were probably about to get a Liam Neeson butt kicking).
Forget the kids, I was the one with the belly ache on Open House.
I overheard one parent say to another ‘Third grade is hell’.

I thought it was pretty poetic.

Still, there is a saying… 
in battle the military is only as strong as the other institutions supporting it.  
With each passing day, that statement rang true.  
I came to appreciate the organization and the hard work of all of Connor’s educators.
They had to help me do what I couldn’t do alone.  

The battle started out pretty harsh, we took a few hits.  
My child froze the day before the beginning of the year EOG.  He didn’t answer ONE question on the 30 question practice.  ‘Why?’,  he said with big blue eyes filled with tears, ‘it looks like Chinese.’
Yep, that was a bullet to the heart.
The battle wounds were nursed by us all.  There were miscommunications, meetings, tears, calls, and more tears.

The state does not realize, some students need much more time and intervention before reaching specific benchmarks.

The thing about warriors is, they don’t give up.  
The teachers, the parents, the child… marched ahead.  
We were down but never out.

That is why it felt pretty darn good to finally realize, that we were winning the war.  
The day we achieved a grade level status was so exciting.  It was like we won The Battle at Galveston.  Who knew?  Everyone gave their very best, and there were some pretty incredible results.

So excuse my language but really, the EOG can bite me. 
I don’t care about it.  
I don’t even have to tell Connor ‘to do his best’.  He had teachers who have taught him to do his best, who have only taken his very best.

Dear teachers, 
THANK YOU for fighting for your students.
Thank you for giving children precious gifts they can never understand and that can never be measured by one score.
THANK you for being brave enough to go into the field without the support you need.
Thank you for helping my son be all that he can be.

I want to share my story because attention all teachers:  we need you.   

You really do make a difference.

Take a look at this growth in 16 months:
This is a video (a bit long) of Connor reading in second grade.  Although, this is a beginning first grade reader.  We were happy to see some more emerging skills getting stronger.

November 2013

This is a video of Connor reading the same reader and a grade level reader about the Everglades (fresh read in this video).  I had to pay him $5.00 to tape.  Hey, I wanted to record my fluent reader emerging!

April 2015
And we are proud.

You rock little man.

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