Tuesday, June 4, 2013

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Tristan’s Test

I have never held much stock in standardized testing. Perhaps this is because I have never done well on them. Despite the fact that my undergraduate grades were strong, and my recommendation letters were wonderful, I still felt insecure about my application because I didn’t do well on the GRE. I ended up only applying to graduate programs that didn’t ask for a GRE score. In high school, I was placed in remedial English because of standardized testing. This is something that I find ironic considering I now hold advanced degrees in English.  Standardized testing dictated the trajectory of my education. Sometimes I wonder where I might be if I’d never had to take those tests. Or perhaps done better on them.

When I discovered that Tristan (my six-year-old boy) tested two grades above of his kindergarten class, I had mixed feelings. I know that he is bright. He communicates easily with his peers and adults. He can read very well for his age. One time I came home to find him reading Chariot’s Web by himself. He then asked me questions about the characters. But most of all, I can see it in his eyes. He sits quietly sometimes and looks and listens, his eyes searching side to side like they are finding the answer to some deep question. I could see it last night at his piano recital. As others were playing, he searched their bodies and the movements of their hands, his little blue-green eyes understanding, learning, and accepting. But perhaps I am noticing things that are not there. Perhaps he is only special to me.

Testing well above his grade level is wonderful. It really is. It shows that all those evenings that I sat next to him on his bed, or at the dinner table, or on the sofa, reading to him, asking him to read to me, helping him add, subtract, and sound out words, and reminding him that school is about hard work, have really paid off. Or at least I think it does.

How will these tests define his educational identity… his future? Will his trajectory be superficially impacted…much like mine was? Perhaps this is more about me than him. Maybe I am a jealous that he has a father who was willing to sit beside him in the evenings. One who is eager to help him learn. If my father had been around, would I have had a stronger educational framework?

I’ve always wanted to give him what I never had. And now that I realize I might have, it gives me mixed emotions. Maybe the real issue is the fear that I have had since Tristan was born. Somehow I’m going to mess this kid up. Perhaps people will someday say, “Tristan was a real smart kid. But then his father screwed things up.” I’ve been given this wonderful little person. It is my job to help him turn into a smart, caring, understanding, and social conscious adult.

Am I qualified?


Anita said...

None of us are qualified! Parenting is a leap of faith and all you can do is try to do your best. You are a fantastic dad, and the time you spend with your kids shows it. You are making the effort to be there, to teach, and to help. We're ALL going to screw our kids up in one way or another. It's just a given. But, you are aware of what your childhood was like and you are trying to not make those same mistakes. That's a huge step in the right direction. It also helps a lot that you have an AMAZING wife to help you along the way!!