“My language arts MCAS is coming up,” my oldest announced. We were standing at the bus stop. We got back in the habit of waiting together when the iceberg next to our driveway got so big the driver can’t see him waiting in the driveway (this happened once and the bus passed him by, which was horrifying for him). As soon as I see the bus’s flashing lights, I head back in.
“Are you worried about it?”
“No, not really.”
“Good, you shouldn’t be. The test really isn’t about you so much…”
“It’ll help me get into a good college, won’t it?”
“No, no one looks at that for a college application. I think you have to do well enough on them before they let you out of high school, though.”
“Then why do we have to take them?”
“So the school system can prove how good it is to the state – it determines the level of funding…I think.”
“Did I get good scores on the ones from last year?”
“I don’t know. I forget. I am sure you did fine. I’ll dig up the results if you really want. It doesn’t matter that much to me, either. I care more about the quizzes in tests you bring home from your own teachers, and your report card.”
“Did I get in the 90s?”
“Really, honey – I don’t remember how they score them.”
I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink (my dishwasher is still broken) and my middle son sidled up next to me and said in a small voice: “Don’t be mad at me mom, but I have to tell you this. I got a 60 on one of my spelling tests.”
I shut off the water and turned to face him. “When?”
“I think it was last week.” Apparently he’d put off telling me.
“Well, where’s the paper?” I grabbed the dishtowel to dry my hands. “Do I need to sign it?”
“Yeah, but it’s still at school.” His shoulders sagged. “I’m such a failure!”
“Oh, lovey, you are totally not a failure! You’re one of the smartest and most talented and loving boys I know!”
“Am I one of them, too, Mommy?” My youngest chimed in, having crashed our private party when he realized we were talking quietly.
“Yes, of course you are, lovey.”
My middle son was still standing in front of me hanging his head, “I’m so stupid.”
I hugged him close and said, “You don’t really believe that, do you? You are not a failure and you are not stupid. It’s just a sign that you need to prepare better. We can study together…”
We had actually just finished reading The Report Card by Andrew Clements in his literature circle in school. The story is about an off-the-charts smart girl who purposely gets bad grades just to prove a point: that grades don’t necessarily measure how smart you are.
We had talked in class about that, and also if you lose a soccer game, does it mean you are a failure or a loser? No, you lost the game. I thought about a couple of times recently when I had messed something up at work. Does it mean I am a lousy employee? No, I actually got the best review I’ve had since I’ve been in this job. When we make mistakes or get a bad grade, the most important thing to do is correct it, learn from it, and move on.
My middle son got much better grades on his next two spelling tests.
Both of my older two will be taking MCAS at the end of the month.