Ideally, it seems to me that for End of Grade tests (EOGs), you would want children who are well-rested, well-fed, on time for school, and prepared but not too anxious or stressed. It really shouldn't feel that different than an ordinary school day to them. In an overly exuberant effort to accomodate the well-rested, well-fed, and well-prepared requisites, I think the change in routine likely guarantees an increase in stress and anxiety. Why can't EOG days be "just another day at school" with a simple reminder to get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast? These are some of the comments I have heard this week from my kids...
"Mom, I need you to buy me a seat cushion for EOGs. They told us we might be more comfortable if we had a seat cushion for testing." Are you freaking kidding me? Don't these kids sit in those same exact seats every day all day at school? I never took a seat cushion with me to take the SAT. If I could get into college with the SAT results from my ass sitting in a hard chair, then you can take EOGs cushionless as well. That said, perhaps I would have gotten into Harvard or Yale with a seat cushion? I guess I'll never know.
"My teacher said that we should eat breakfast at home, and then go to the cafeteria and get the free EOG breakfast when we get to school." My kids do not qualify for free or reduced school meals, yet on EOG days, they can get a free breakfast each morning. I'm all for kids being well-fed on test days, but a free breakfast for all of them? Is that really neccessary? It seems like it just further underscores the "THIS DAY IS DIFFERENT THAN ALL OTHER DAYS. REMEMBER THAT. DON'T EVER LOSE SIGHT OF HOW DIFFERENT TODAY IS. IT IS IMPORTANT. DO YOU HEAR ME? IMPORTANT. AND DIFFERENT. BUT DON'T LET THAT STRESS YOU OUT." mentality of EOG days. If my kids want or need a second breakfast at school, that's fine. I'm perfectly capable of paying for it though, and I don't think every child in the school necessarily needs to be eating breakfast in the cafeteria to get through an EOG day.
"Today we have the reading EOG, so we have to do another math packet tonight since the math EOG isn't until tomorrow." Seriously? My child has done nothing but math packets and online math tests every hour of every day for the last month, and you can't give her one day off during EOGs? What happened to no homework during EOG week so that you can relax with your friends after school and let go of any stress from the day? I am seriously contemplating sending the packet back with a sticky note attached that says, "My child knows this math. She is DONE."
"We can't have water bottles at school for EOGs. We used to be able to keep them on the floor but not our desk, but this year we can't even have them on the floor. We can't take any electronics either. Even our teacher can't have her cell phone. She has to turn it off and leave it in the office. We can't have anything electronic at all." You might as well yell at them, "EVERYTHING WILL BE DIFFERENT. PREPARE FOR THE EOGs AS YOU WOULD PREPARE FOR THE HUNGER GAMES. BUT DON'T STRESS. REMEMBER. WE DON'T WANT YOU TO BE ANXIOUS."
EOG week checklist:
two breakfasts - check
seat cushion - check
iPod, iPad, phone, and Kindle safely tucked away in your bedroom turned off, batteries dead, not plugged into a charger - check
all water bottles emptied of water, removed from your backpack, placed in the kitchen cabinet - check
anxiety, stress, angst, apprehension - check
We're all set.
Dear Common Core State Standards Initiative,
Your mission states, "The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers." If I merge your mission with the curriculum and homework my children have had over the past month, I have come to the logical conclusion that the one and only skill my children need for success in college and careers is that they can pass a Common Core end of grade test. Funny... that's not what I do in my career. Is the working world changing? Do I need to beef up my common core test taking skills to keep myself marketable should I lose my job? The skills I see necessary in my job are the ability to think on my feet, coming up with solutions other than those presented to me in a multiple choice fashion, being able to communicate clearly using both written and verbal communication with my colleagues and customers, and writing computer programs using my logic, mathematics, and programming skills. Are my children being taught any of those things? I hope so. I'm honestly not sure though.
I am so tired of the giant packets of practice tests that my children are expected to spend hours on each night. I don't like telling them they can't run out and play with their friends because they need to do more practice tests online. I honestly don't believe my children have had any education outside of test prep for the past month. My third grader is spelling-challenged. Does she have spelling words to study this week? No, of course not. She has to prepare for the end of grade tests next week. It is a good thing spelling isn't needed for success in college and careers. Whew! Hoo neads speling skils wen yoo can pik the anser in multpul choys?
If an entire month of test prep is required to pass these tests, then something is wrong with the previous eight months of schooling.
When I was in fifth grade, I remember one of our big projects of the year was a state report. We were each assigned a different state, and mine was Rhode Island. I researched the heck out of Rhode Island. I worked diligently to research all the facts about the state, organize the information in a way that made sense, and present it to my teacher in a carefully prepared folder with drawings, maps, and graphs. Now, I may not remember anything about Rhode Island thirty years later, but I can put together a heck of a research report in my job when needed. Those were the valuable skills I took away from that assignment.
My kids... their future bosses will be way impressed with their multiple choice test taking skills. I just know it. I'm not sure what career path they will take, but their resumes will be chock full of impressive test taking techniques. They will never show up to a meeting without their sharpened number two pencils.
End of grade testing starts on Monday, and I can't wait. I can't wait for it to be done. over. finished. I want my children to go back to learning something... anything. Maybe they will even have time to read an actual book instead of a reading comprehension passage from a test packet. Imagine that... comprehending a whole book? What a novel idea.
My children go to a great school. They have wonderful teachers who are doing their best within the confines of the Common Core Initiative. I don't fault their teachers. I'm sure their teachers would love to actually teach something... anything.. other than test prep skills.
This is Elise's third year of taking end of grade tests, and the pressure, test prep, and emphasis on the test has never been at this level in previous years. It is out of control.
Common Core... something needs to change. My children need to read fantasy books, go on field trips, do science experiments, play math games, do book reports, write biographies, discover history, hold classroom elections, create salt maps, and learn about Rhode Island outside the confines of the Common Core Standards. It just isn't working.
I so often see families out riding bikes together, the kids in their helmets that are required by law here, and the parents cruising along helmetless. I don't understand that. Why are your children's brains more valuable than your own? Asphalt and cement can crack any skull, not just those of children. Who will take care of your children if you crash without a helmet? Wear a helmet. This is the helmet that is allowing my husband to be here at home doped up on pain meds rather than lying in an ICU or morgue somewhere. Wear a helmet.
Our shitastical day started yesterday just before noon. My friend was walking down the hall toward my office, so we could go have lunch. My phone rang. I answered it and heard something along the lines of this, "Ann, this is Jon. J.C. and I were out riding, and he lost control of his bike. He was unconscious for a while, but he is awake now. The ambulance is here. He doesn't know where he is or what happened, and I think he may have shattered his cheekbone, and wah wah wah wah wah wah." His voice turned into the Charlie Brown teacher. I don't even know what else he said to me. I yelled, "WHERE ARE YOU?" I half heard the directions and ran out of my office. I ran through the lobby of my building and out the door. I knew my car was parked a million miles away, and time felt so critical. I saw a car pull up, likely someone picking up a friend from my building for lunch. As the guy waiting opened the door to get in, I ran over and said, "Can you give me a ride to my car? My husband was in an accident, and I need to get to my car." I don't think I gave them a chance to answer before I jumped in the back seat and gave them directions to where I was parked. And no, I have no idea who these men were who I just carjacked. I got to my car, thanked the kind strangers, raced off campus, and then couldn't remember if he had said "turn left, then right" or "right, then left". I opted for left and then noticed another of his biking buddies at the intersection that would have been "right, then left". He was stationed there waiting for me. It felt like an eternity to make a U-turn. I got to him and just pointed ahead like, "That's where I'm supposed to go?" He somberly nodded yes. I drove along the unfamiliar road, wondering if I was supposed to turn off somewhere, hoping I would find them. When I came upon two fire trucks and ambulance at the scene, it wasn't hard to know I had found them.
As I got out of my car, one EMT and Jon walked toward me to intercept me before I got to the ambulance. They warned me that there was a lot of blood but that the EMT's were cleaning him up. They told me he was talking and joking but was still disoriented and asking the same questions over and over. His face was a bloody mess (literally a bloody mess... not using "bloody" like Brit slang), but he said, "Hi Hon... so I guess this is really happening, huh?" His biking buddies said they would drive my car to the hospital, so I could ride in the ambulance with him. I was thankful to not have to drive any more. My legs were pretty shakey.
The ER visit was a blur of wondering whether he had broken his cheekbone, eye socket, and/or jaw, his neck in a neck brace, waiting for pain meds and the results of CT scans of the head and neck, lots of spitting blood out of his mouth, x-rays of the face, shoulder, and elbow, stitches in the arm and eye lid, and a whole lot of time spent getting wounds cleaned. I sat there nauseous and shell-shocked. It was hard to look at him. Actually, it still is.
When he went for x-rays, I went to the cafeteria to get some lunch. I was hoping food would help settle my stomach. Also, I knew I needed to call his parents, so I had to catch my breath to get my head wrapped around that. I ate some pizza and then made the phone call. I had gotten his dad's cell phone number because I knew I would have an easier time talking to his dad than his mom. I'm a mom. I knew I couldn't talk to the mom. In my head, the phone call was going to go something like this, "Hi John. J.C. is OK, but he had a bike accident, and we're at the hospital. He has a concussion, but he is awake and alert and talking. He landed on his face, but they are cleaning it up now." There was no way to give the news without worrying them, but my goal was to minimize the worry. Instead, the phone call went something like this, "John... <sniff, sniff>, It's... uh... J.C.... <sob, sob> we're in the ER. It's his face. He has a concussion. It was a bike wreck. <choke, choke, sob, sob>." So much for not making them worry. He got the general gist which was, "Get here now" and asked which hospital. I hung up and realized I should warn them about his face. I called back and said, "Please warn his mom that his face looks really awful. She needs to know that before she sees him." Then, I hung up and realized that I was pretty sure I never even told them he was conscious. I texted them this, "Sorry so choked up on the phone. He is awake and talking. Was disoriented at first but seems on track now. He is going to be totally fine... Just quite injured but no major head injury or anything like that."
I really should not be the communicator during traumatic times. My hands were trembling so much when we first got there that I could hardly type on my phone. My email to my boss and JC's boss to tell them we would be out the rest of the afternoon was this: "At hospital w jc. Bad bike wreck. Concussion... Face mangled." Nice. I'm sure they loved receiving that one. The one to my mom was no better. It had the subject line "Please get kids" with this text, "Nina bus. Addie any time. At hospital with jc. Bad bike wreck concussion maybe shattered cheek bone. Maybe jaw issues. Can't talk now."
Be glad if you aren't on the receiving end of my emails during a crisis.
He was discharged around 3:30 with stitches, lots of gauze and tegaderm all over his right side, and instructions about concussions, but no broken bones. He has all his teeth as well. After dropping off prescriptions, we were able to get home in time to meet Nina at the bus stop. We knew Nina was going to be the one to have the hardest time with the news, and she was the one I had to tell first. She was a wreck. She has been crying anytime someone mentions him or something reminds her of him. It is tough. She is a sensitive soul. Then she and I went to pick up Addie and told her the news. The girls didn't want to see him, but I felt like they needed to. They needed to know he was basically OK. He held a towel up over the right side of his face to talk to them. They both burst into tears again. Addie said she never wanted to look at him again.
Yesterday was truly awful. Neither of us slept much last night, but today has been better. The pain meds are managing his pain well, so he is up and moving around. Nina and Elise are both having fun on Girl Scout trips, so they haven't had to see how much additional swelling he has today.
Addison has been bombarding me with questions... "Where is the shirt that the ambulance people cut off of him?", "Was daddy having fun when he was flying through the air but then not fun when he landed on his face?", "Why did daddy sit up in the ambulance? When you are in an ambulance, you are supposed to lie down." She has that awesome curiosity that only 3-5 year olds have. Sadly, any time she asked one of these questions, Nina would start crying again.
Although JC has no memory of the accident, we have pieced together what happened. He was coming fast down a hill on a neighborhood street. He planned to bunny hop the curb at the end of the street to get on the greenway. He pulled the bike up too soon though, and his back wheel hit the curb hard and fast. The back wheel bounced off the curb and sent him flying through the air. He landed on the greenway face first and slid along the asphalt about 20 feet. He was unconscious when his friend got to him and bleeding profusely. Jon immediately called 911 but didn't know what street they were on. He ran to a house and banged on the door to find out the name of the street. While he was there, JC woke up, started moaning, and sat up. By the time I got there, he was already in the ambulance, so I didn't see the pool of blood on the greenway. Apparently after we left, the fire men used their hazmat equipment to clean it up.
I really have not recovered yet. I'm not sure when I will. I still feel traumatized by the whole thing. JC seems to be handling the emotional side of this better than I am, and the pain meds are effective in managing his pain. He is doing OK. I am not. I'll get there, but this really shook me to the core.
I have not shared any photos in the post because if you are squeamish or sensitive, you may not want to see them. I have a hard time looking at them, but I'm his wife. I will post some after the jump though for those who would like to see them.
Final words... wear a helmet. Period. Always. On anything with wheels.
Click continue only if you would like to see photos.
Yesterday was an insanely long day. I wasn't the one jumping, but I still ended up completely exhausted and fell into bed as soon as we got home. Yesterday was the regional qualifier competition for USA Jump Rope for our region. The athletes who place in the top five in each event qualify for the national competition in California later this summer. Elise was competing as a non-qualifier as she is not planning on attending nationals. It was a good thing that was her plan all along though because her age group had 28 girls in it and was incredibly tough competition. It was very hard to qualify for nationals in her age division. Elise competed in seven events:
30 second female single rope speed
60 second female single rope speed
3 minute female single rope speed
single rope speed relay (4 person team, each person jumps 30 seconds)
medley speed relay (4 person team, first person jumps 15 seconds, next person jumps 30 seconds, next 45, then one minute)
double dutch speed relay (3 person team, each person jumps one minute while the other two turn ropes)
female single rope freestyle
We arrived bright and early at 7:30. Elise checked in with the team captains, and I attended the judges meeting. One of the unfortunate things about jump rope being a relatively young sport is that you can't just hire judges for competitions. The job title of professional jump rope judge doesn't exist. Instead, parents must be trained to be judges, and every team participating in a competition must supply a certain number of judges. During judge training, I was hopeless at counting speed. My thumb just can't hit the clicker that fast. Nobody wants me out there counting these kids during speed, most especially me, so I was happy to have an assignment of presentation judge. I judge things like... Is she smiling? looking up? looking at the judge? Does he have good posture? Do her skills look strong and easy or slow and labored? Does his tumbling look smooth? Did she end with a cute pose? Is her shirt tucked in? Is her hair braided? Is his routine creative with new and interesting combinations of skills? It is a lot to focus on. Fortunately, I don't have to know exactly what they are doing. There are more experienced content judges for that. I just need to judge how they look while they are doing it.
There was nervous energy in the air as everyone waited for the competition to begin.
(side note... See the blur of purple sparkles in the bottom right corner of that picture? That is the hat that a jumper's grandmother wears to competitions. I love it! She wears a bright purple shirt, a team jacket, and this crazy hat covered in purple sequins! Gotta love the support of a grandmother like that.)
Hair was braided and sprayed with glitter, shoes were tied, and speed ropes were pulled out of bags.
At 8:30, the speed events got underway. There were a lot of events crammed into about 2.5 hours, so the athletes didn't get much rest between each event. It was a HARD morning. Elise's broken ankle had the most impact on her speed scores. She seems to have fully recovered from it in freestyle and regained all the skills she had before the injury. Speed has been a slower comeback though. Her speed scores are consistently lower than they were prior to the injury. She knew going into this competition that her speed scores wouldn't be competitive, but that didn't stop her putting her heart into it.
Watching speed can be a little boring if you are five, so J.C. came prepared with entertainment for Addie.
I thought I had written down all of Elise's heat numbers. It looked like she had a bit of a break between heats, so we decided to head to the cafeteria for a snack. A bit later, I walked down the hallway, glanced in the gym, and spotted Elise doing double-dutch speed. Oops! J.C. and the other girls missed out on seeing that event. She is turning in this picture. She was already done jumping by the time I grabbed my camera.
After lunch, it was time for freestyle, and also time for my first stint at the judging table. Each judging panel has 5 content judges, 5 presentation judges, and one head judge. Assignments are made according to judging skill (or lack thereof when referring to my speed judging skills), and not according to event. That means that you are just as likely to judge your own child as any other child. As luck would have it, I was judging the 11-12 year old girls. Talk about pressure! You don't want to play favorites with your child, but you also don't want to go so far not playing favorites that you judge her more harshly than her competitors. On top of that, you are not allowed to smile, high-five, or clap for your child. You can't wish her good luck or cheer while she is jumping. You have to take off your mom hat and replace it with your judging hat. Good times. Since I was judging, I couldn't take pictures, but JC captured her on video. It has been nice to go back and replay the video to watch her as a proud mamma instead of critiquing every second of her presentation as a judge. She came off the floor smiling and happy, so I smiled a little smile in my head while I sat in my stone-faced judging seat.
When I got a break from judging, I was able to watch some of the other athletes on the team compete. Some of these kids have mad skills. They are all so fun to watch.
The day finally ended about 8:00 p.m., over twelve hours after we arrived. I think she and I were both asleep within 10 minutes of walking in the house. It was a fun day. It was a good day. It was a happy day, but it was also a very, very, very long day.
11:22 p.m. - five year old gets up (after going to sleep about 7:30), says, "I don't think I brushed my teeth very well, so I'm going to brush my teeth", brushes her teeth, and goes back to bed.
Her dentist would be proud.
As the awful tragedy in Boston and the subsequent manhunt was the captivating our nation and every 24 hour news channel, the lesser reported explosion in a tiny Texas town was the story this week that took a little piece of my heart. My father's family is Czech, and the tiny town of West, Texas, while just barely a dot on a map, is the heart of the Czech population in Texas. West was even named "Home of the official kolache of the Texas Legislature." Kolaches are a traditional Czech pastry, and West is the place to get them. In my family, it was always expected that if you were making the drive between Dallas and Austin or San Antonio, you would arrive at your destination carrying a big box of fresh baked kolaches from West. My aunt's favorite is prune, my dad's is apricot, and mine is cherry. Any drive on I-35 included a mandatory stop in West for kolaches from Kolacek's Bakery. If we had a cooler with us, then there would be a visit to the Nemacek Brother's Meat Market for sausages. The population of West is under 3000, most of them Czech. It is a tiny little town with a quaint traditional main street. Until this week, most people had never heard of West, but it has always been a special place to our family. If you were going to visit an aunt, uncle, mother, or grandmother, you came with kolaches from West in hand.
The fertilizer plant explosion this week leveled more than 60 homes, killed at least 14 people, and injured more than 200. I can't even fathom the lasting effects this tragedy will have on that community. It will never be the same. I'm sure everyone with ties to Boston is mourning for their city and the lives that were lost there. West, Texas is a little piece of my family, my heritage, and my heart, and my dad and I are both mourning for it.