Rebel in Training

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I opt my kid out of standardized testing.

Yep. You can, you know. Did you know? Probably not, but you can.

Emily has two parents who both know how poorly constructed standardized tests are, as well as how they are effectively designed to track students into tiers of education. I call this the "We wouldn't want any poor kids to be in AP English - General English is good enough for them." mindset.

I also do not believe in punishing or rewarding any single teacher based on how well my - or any other kid - takes a test. Standardized tests don't assess quality of teaching, AT ALL. They assess how well a single kid takes a single test on one single discrete day in time.

Teachers shouldn't teach to tests. Good pedagogy speaks to this. We have boatloads of educational research to support this. And yet what do we ask teachers to do when we tie their job security to how well a class of children test? Um, duh. They teach to the test.

Pearson helped write NCLB. It should shock no one that they are making billions of dollars off of the standardized testing that has followed. Race to the Top is no better. Common Core is laughable, with it's design to fail built in the fabric of the design. The SAT and ACT will shortly be going the way of the GRE as more colleges concede that these scores are no true barometer of a student's potential success in college.

As an educator, the only way out of this stinking quagmire that I can see is to withhold my child from being a data point. No data, no stick to beat the teachers.

Emily knows all of my concerns about testing. She is both relieved and occasionally embarrassed about her mother's deep commitment to this opting her out.

But here is what I didn't see coming. Emily has started informing her peers...who inform their parents.

We had four other children opt out this week.

My school psych colleague smiled when I told her this yesterday. "Oh, I am going to hear about you!", she said, laughing.

I know. I know that I have become the over educated parent who won't shut up about this. I know.

I don't care. My kid is not a data point to be used by Pearson to make more money soaked in the anxiety vomit of young children. My kid needs all of her instructional time focused on curriculum, not hours going over how to take the tests, or in assemblies exhorting the children to DO THEIR BEST ON THE TEST BECAUSE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!.

Alfred Binet, creator of the very first sort of standardized test, wrote prodigiously on why this should never be generalizable. Yet, here we are.

Join me. Opt out.

* They don't even hassle me anymore, the way they once did, because there is no argument valid enough to ask me to allow my child to be used in a manner that I find suspect and unethical. They will hassle you, though. Principals will call you. School Psych people will pester you. They will lie to you to get you to acquiesce. Teachers are forbidden to even discuss an opt out option with parents, on pain of being fired.  This is a sickness and it needs to stop. 

Can you pass that dish of oppression?

Monday, October 13, 2014

It is no secret that my politics are.....quite left. I AM that left wing bleeding heart liberal that gets demonized in the press. The fact that my spouse is a bit more left than I am makes for an interesting parenting experience.

Now, aside from the lack of godliness in the home ( which I am sure indicates a lack of "values" or whatever the hell else won the republicans the last election)- there is a decided "anti-establishment" theme to many of the books in our home.

Look, there is the Marx reader ( my husband's), See there Alfie Kohn's books on the failings of the American educational system, Behold "Lies my Teacher Told Me" on my bedside. Our child had no regular alphabet in her room - she was looking at the "Alternative Alphabet" - featuring "P is for Peace and Y is for Yoga". You get the point.

So when our daughter comes home from public school with a cut and color Columbus day ship and asks us if we are going to have a Columbus day feast to honor Columbus - you get two dumbfounded adults scrambling for a response.

Terrance's response: "Daddy isn't into Columbus. I don't do Columbus day."

Oh, very helpful. Thanks ever so much. That was quite illuminating.

I bring out the children's book "Encounter" by Jane Yolen- which we read, and re-read at this time of year. Being an early childhood person, I tend not to answer my daughter's questions with the same cut and dry responses my husband uses. I want to engage her thought process and get her to think critically. Terrance thinks that this is a bullshit approach.

So we talk about what the experience of the Native People's must have been like. That discovery isn't the same when you discover something that belongs to someone else. It would be like me walking into her room and "discovering" her Playmobil house and claiming it as my own. Not very heroic.

"That's stealing.", she says.

"Yes it is, honey. That's why daddy and I are uncomfortable with Columbus Day. He may have been very adventurous to sail over the ocean to find and see new things- but he was very unkind to the people he found living there already."

And Emily - as always - absorbs this information to the best of her ability. And says:

"Can I stay up late and eat popcorn?"

Fight the power, honey, fight the power.

Originally published in October 2006

end of summer

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last sundress of the season. And snazzy clear blue frames.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

While I haven't been here, I have been here.

Busy with a new school year, all of my energy is focused outward to students and Emily.

This is good. I am better when busy. I am happy when I am busy, even when that exhausts me in other ways.

Many things don't change, for despite my fearlessness in many aspects of my life I remain a creature who needs stability. I struggle against the dailiness that I need, but don't want to need. My rebellions become small, nearly imperceptible to outsiders. Yet they are there. I nurse those tiny coals, keeping them in my mouth like Raven.

I change my sheets every Saturday and sprinkle lavender oil over them. I patch the duvet that should, by rights, be at the end of it's life...but I keep it. It is grounded in a different time. I ignore the feathers that creep out and into my hair every night.

I make small steps into a social life. I befuddle and dazzle others who have no idea what the whirling dervish I become means, and I am unable to explain my need to be liked, to be understood. To be Known.

I fret about the research I am not getting done, but console myself with the quality of my teaching and service to my department.

Summer is easing. The dreams which crowded me in the summer have let up enough for sleep.

The cicadas were singing tonight. I find the buzzing cacophony soothing.

I age. I realize that I know nothing, and that the totality of my experiences are so small.  My body betrays me in small, intimate ways.

I wrap myself in decorations and continue on. There is no other direction. Backwards is my Ragnarok and I have been exiled.

Selkie Nature

Sunday, August 03, 2014

I am a Selkie, a changeling woman.
You may capture me, but I will always long for something,

Something cold and salty and feral.

I will stay for loyalty, for my half selkie children

Until I can bear it no more and slip my seal skin back on

and slide back into the dark sea.

Industrial Park

Thursday, July 24, 2014








Monday, July 21, 2014

My blood has begun to feel like molasses. Thick and viscous, it pumps through my body while simultaneously clogging the works. I feel like a human in slow motion with every movement a monumental effort, only to have my body stop mid action.

 I wake in the morning through sheer force of will.

My brain has gone into some sort of hibernation. This is frustrating because I have things to do. Thinking Things. Things I like. My brain has teamed up with my increasingly slowed down body to conspire against me. There is a rebellion in these bones.

I don't care for it.

I sulk. Balefully.


On Saturday I woke from a weeks worth of increasingly distraught dreams.  Not nightmares, which have the predictability of my archetypal characters, but dreams of loss, anxiety, sadness and tumult. 
Each evening, a new cast of characters - each less expected than the last - would saunter into my unconscious to have their way with me.

I woke, each time,  deep in melancholy.

I have always been a lucid and active dreamer.  This, however, was getting ridiculous. I was becoming wary of sleep. I didn't want to see those people. I didn't want to relive those losses. Rejection, abandonment, loss - over and over and over, every night.  For every step forward, I was being pushed backwards off of a precipice.

Exhaustion will force me into a defensive and reactive position. My sleep must be protected.

With little else than intuition, I decided to make a dream talisman. This decision was made, spontaneously, as I went out for my bike ride.

I had the vaguest idea of what I was looking for, and no bag to carry things I improvised and used my yoga top. A smooth flat , black rock was the first thing that called to me. I knew I needed a red clover, and a small pine cone too.  I wanted a feather from the mother duck I'd watched in the woods this spring, but could find nothing left around where she had nested. A cluster of wild strawberries found contributed a leaf. A silvery spike of grass; a small white flower and some willow - A white yarrow, a sprig of beech. A cluster of juniper berries came last - all shoved down the front of my yoga top.

I ran upstairs so Terrance wouldn't ask why I had a bunch of things in my shirt. He thinks that I cling to sanity in the best of times, so this would have convinced him that I'd booked a seat on the crazy bus.

I found a little purple gauzy bag  and added my treasures. I added some fur from the heavily shedding Coco and Jackson. They were happy to help in exchange for a bit of dried strawberry.

As I placed it at the side of my bed, I only said "Please don't let me have those dreams again. I can't keep reliving that."

For the past two nights, no dreams.

Yet the weight inside my body remains. I am a golem, freezing midstride, equally befuddled and flustered at my inability to move forward.

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