Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In a word: STRESS

I hate that word, especially when it comes to my kids. My son is 11 years old today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUDDY!) It just kills me that he came home from school yesterday, his face drawn tight with tension, and his big brown eyes sitting in a shallow pool of unshed tears. "I'm just so stressed, Mama."

It seems both his personality and the merciless tack of the NCLB crap are taking their toll on my not-so-little guy's self-esteem. He explained that a lot of work has just "gotten away from him" and he is so afraid of ending the year with a bad report card. Like is father, DS can be a bit scatter-brained and disorganized. That's how assignments slip through the cracks. He is also in the gifted program, which is a pull-out program, and that means he has to initiate requests for work that he may have missed. Okay, we can work on that. But the pressure that is generated by the whole "gotta pass the test, gotta excel on that damn PSSA..." above all else (including learning). That is crap! Plain and simple.

I know that he as arrived at that age when things like grades and success matter in more tangible ways. I know that I cannot protect him from stress and pressure and all that comes with growing up, especially the oncoming train wreck known as adolescence. We had a great talk about things and came up with a plan for handling the end of the school year, but I deeply resent the extra pressure that NCLB has created for the kids. Even more, I loath the attitude that so many administrators are taking--"Gotta save my ass so these kids had better perform!" I won't even go into the hell my kindergardener went through last year--when a 5 year old stresses out about an 89% on a math test?!!!! What 5-year-old should even know what a math test is, let alone and 89%?! I mean, come 5 years old, she can barely count to 20!

Sorry about the rant...just had to blow off a little steam. It's just that DS is such a laid-back guy, so when I see the stress actually get to him, it tears my heart out. He has a lot to deal with right now--potentially moving to a new state, changing schools, moving away from friends...And no clear plan yet. Oh yeah, and we just had the sex talk, too! Poor kid...


  1. Poor kid. I hope he gets through the year and enjoys his summer!

  2. I hate when my kids get stressed out. They're just too young to have to go through that. It's great that you worked out a plan for the rest of the year. I think that's the strongest weapon against feeling overwhelmed.

    Poor little guy. We don't have NCLB here, but we do have provincial exams. I always ignore them for the elementary school years and tell the kids they don't matter (they don't have any impact on their grades). But by JH, the provincials are combined with their actual final exams.

    Let's hope all the kids have a great, relaxing summer.

  3. Amen, gals! He'll have a great summer. I just wish I knew where that summer would be! Latest possibility is Georgia. But we could also be staying here. Too many unanswered questions...Blahhhh!

    He asked me point-blank how I would feel if his report card wasn't as good as it usually is. He was really worried about that. I told him that I understand what a transition he has had to make this year and that I love him no matter what. I would be disappointed, but not disappointed in him. It's about the learning, and one thing his is learning is how to deal with those personality quirks that can work against him when it comes to getting school work done. It's not laziness. It's organizational skills.

    Ahhh, I love that boy fiercely!

  4. I won't even get started on this whole issue, but I'm pretty sure you know my thoughts!! ARGH'ing right along with ya!

    I do hope he is able to become a little less stressed so he can enjoy these last few days of school and look forward to vacation, without worrying about his grades.

    Was gonna type something else about NCLB and PSSA's, but I'm biting my tongue...or holding my fingers! :)

  5. Wish him a Happy Birthday from us!!!!!

  6. I'm with you there, LA! I could go on a 10,000-word rant, but I'll control myself. Promise! And I will give the little man your birthday wishes--thanks!

  7. Oh boy, I can't even imagine Mara being at that point....I don't want to imagine it. But I do remember "stressing" about tests in 2nd and 3rd grade during those "minute" timed math tests. We had a given amount of time to do 100 questions, and if I wasn't meeting my own expectations.... watchout! Plus, I was the girl who cried in 8th grade when I got my first "C" on a test. Oh boy, did I cry!

    Oh another stress note, Josh takes the MCAT on Saturday. He's been studying since Christmas for this, and we're stressed out of our minds. Keep him in your prayers because OH BOY, you'd better believe we've been really praying for this one!

    p.s. give those little ones a squeeze for me. It's so hard getting ready for a move, but I always loved it....until high school.

  8. I have an 11yo too (also a May birthday), she's in a good school and I'm pleased with her teachers. I don't see where NCLB though has done anything for her. I'm more interested in what she learns than how she does on any standardized test. Eleven is way too young for that level of stress. Learning to be responsible is fine, but too much emphasis on results can be harmful.

  9. "...but I deeply resent the extra pressure that NCLB has created for the kids."

    Oh, absolutely. It's ridiculous.

    I do hope your little guy had a good birthday.

  10. here in the south it is PACT or some such. The problem with standardized tests and putting that much pressure on the kids is that it causes a lot of them to not do as well as they would in class. Some kids don't do well on tests as it is. Here they teach everything geared towards taking these tests and what is supposedly on them. They don't teach reading, writing and 'rithmetic like we learned in the good old days.

    None of my kids stress about the tests because they know that isn't what's important; as long as they put their best effort forward and it shows, then I can't hold anything back from them. Of course since two of mine are teenagers and they are involved in so many other things, it makes it harder to stay focused on the studies.

    But I feel your pain and hope Georgia works out - you would be closer to me and I could meet you finally. Looking forward to being at the Decatur Book Festival the end of August.

    Happy belated b-day to the little guy and thoughts that your kids have a blessed and wonderful summer. Good luck with whatever happens to moving - E :)

  11. Nicole, considered my little ones "squeezed"! And I'll be thinking about Josh this weekend.

    Paul--absolutely! That should always be the point, what and how they are learning, not how they perform on an often ill-conceived testing instrument. I know we have to have some way of measuring and assuring accountability, but this has become more of a tool of discrimination. Until we have a more reliable system of measurement, we have to consider the stakes. (inching toward my soap box...resist! Resist!)

    Elisabeth--I think you're right about the what they are teaching. We have some awesome teachers at our public elementary school, but it's exhausting for them to have to justify what they do all the time. But thank Dog they haven't thrown in the towel! The less imaginative, less skilled teachers just tend to teach to the test for sheer survival.

    Thanks for the B-day wishes everyone!


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