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Sunday, May 29, 2016

High School SAT scores

Oh spring. It comes with so much promise and then becomes such a time over multitasking that it's very hard to stay on track with any projects started before Pesach.

Well, today on this Memorial day weekend I returned to my Marie Kondo work for the first really good chunk of time in a while. I'm up to the stage of getting rid of papers, and our office floor has been covered for months now with all of my files, letters, papers etc. from old school work, to bills, to drafts of my writing, letters and more.
This is just a sampling.
There is more, so much more!

It's been very slow going. While I've put in a few minutes here and there I feel like I have an emotionally easy enough time sorting through old medical things or bills, but when it comes to the more personal things I'm not sure what to do. Today I opened a bag of old letters from all different people in my life. All of them -- all of them -- felt painful in some way. I suppose at least in part it's because these letters are from my college years when I was scared about the future, unsure of where I was going, that these are hard to look at. I read a few, then couldn't take it anymore, but decided at least for now to to keep them. These are part of my history and I haven't decided yet whether I need to let this history go, or if I need the story available to be retold. Just don't know.

Then I found a file of my old SAT scores, report cards etc. I went to show some of it to U. Maybe it's partly because I was sharing it that I had the reaction that I did. I flipped through page after page of reports from teachers I had, both those I liked and those I didn't like, and classes that I was good at and classes that were hard. Sure, the ones I liked best had the drop down comment, "talented", but there were comments too about incomplete work, not following directions, poor test scores even on a take-home test and finally I just started to cry. Reading these little slips I started to feel the crushing pressure of all these adults judging me according to what they wanted from me and they were things that didn't show who I was. The only reports that felt safe were from band class and writing class. But physics, math, even Spanish and AP English, I wasn't what they wanted to be.

Since becoming a teacher I have always reflected back on myself as having been a pretty good student. I wasn't labeled with a disability. I didn't misbehave (much). Yes, I was stubborn, but usually the teachers I think of fondly thought past that. So it's taken an act of imagination to see what it might be like for children that really really struggle in school.

Now, though, I see that I was being judged and that so many people saw me not living to my potential or, maybe more accurately, not living up to theirs. In this report card writing season I'm now seeing my own relationships with students in a new light. The judgement we put on them is very very powerful.

The good news for myself is that as I've gone through my files I've found some good things too. I love my letters of recommendation, cards from people I know love me and results of some of my most recent work in adulthood. What a relief to be an adult now and too feel OK with whom I am and what I do. What a relief to not having to be figuring out who I am from scratch anymore.

So the professional question to leave this with... how can we as teachers and parents make our children and students feel appreciated the way I do from those good letters and not crushed with the judgement I felt in my report cards. 

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