Thursday, September 01, 2011

School: I don't really care anymore

Yep, I said it. I don't care.

It's almost as if an alien has invaded my brain over the past ten years and scrambled it all up. I was not raised to think like this. I was not educated to think like this. My children made me do it. Wait, correction: my child made me do it.

Brynn is in an ultra-competitive class at school -- a class that we chose to put her in because it is partial-Spanish immersion and I believe that learning a second language is more important than almost anything else she'll learn in school. Besides reading, everything else will come. She'll figure out the science, the math, the social studies. But the second language? We have to make a concerted effort to teach it to her, so, in that sense, immersion fits our ideals well.

In general, Brynn's classmates read, write, and do math well above grade level. Not all of them, but most of them. It is a skewed bell curve, for sure, skewed waaaaay to the right. Brynn is a smart kid. She reads at or slightly above her grade level. While math isn't her strongest subject, she can do word problems with the best of them. She is curious and bright -- she loves science and she really loves to read. This summer she devoured every chapter book she could get her hands on.

But, in her class, Brynn feels dumb.

Her feelings seem familiar to me, and maybe that is why I am reacting so strongly.

Knowing that your kid feels dumb is gut-wrenching. I can't stand it. I just want my kid to be happy and confident. I want her to work hard, to do her best, to enjoy learning, and to be happy. I want her to figure out what she loves to do and I want her to have a chance to do it. And I really want her to have that second language, so I won't pull her from immersion unless the cost of being among the competitive kids begins to outweigh the benefit of learning the language.

Mostly, I want both of my kids to be happy. That's it. Is it too much to ask?

So tonight, as Brynn was feeling defeated because she is "only" reading at and slightly above her grade level, this is what I told her:

Brynn, I don't care what some dumb, unreliable reading test says. All I care about is that you understand what you are reading and that you enjoy reading. Do you understand what your textbooks say?


Do you enjoy reading books?

Mom (with that adolescent tone...Mo-om!), of course I do.

Then forget about the test. Forget about what "level" your classmates are reading. All that matters is that you understand what you are reading and that you love to read. That's it.

And then we chatted for a bit and before I left her room I tested her to be sure she remembered what I'd said. It took her a second, but she remembered. "All that matters is that I understand it and I enjoy it. That's it."

So there you go. That's the story of how I became a person who doesn't care how her kid scores in school. I care that she works hard, that she does her best, and that she never stops wanting to learn. I don't think her elementary school years will determine where she goes to college. In fact, I don't think it matters if or when or where she goes to college. That's kind of a big statement from someone who teaches college.

I just want her to be happy.

Funny, but that sounds so...American.


Robby said...

Amen, Sister!

Hillary said...

Thanks, Robby!!

Theresa said...

Having these same issues. I like your attitude - John has your same attitude, elementary school is not going to determine her college years. I hope you are both right. I am on board with you and I see a happier little girl for it! Theresa

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of unschooling? This might be something your family would be interested in. It is about learning in a natural environment.

Hillary said...

That sounds intriguing! I'll have to look into it. Thanks!