Thursday, November 05, 2009

One Day. One Test. One Score... (The 2009 Edition)

If you've been following my blog, you know that the Specialized High School Admissions Test has been a pet peeve of mine from the blog's earliest days. It bothers me that lazy, half-interested kids who happen to be good at taking tests get invited to the specialized schools while some kids who bust their butts and love learning don't because they don't ace the test. It bothers me that some kids feel that schools which are very excellent and rigorous are "second best" because they don't carry the "specialized" label. I have no idea what kind of message it sends to our kids that "one day, one test, one score" determines four years of one's life. College doesn't work that way. Jobs don't work that way. Yet here we are, deciding four very crucial, formative years on the basis of one test.

Well, here it goes again. This is my last chance to post here at NYC Educator before the test (this weekend!), so I'm going to use the rather bigger stage this blog gives me to talk about this year's gang of darlings and the SHSAT.

As usual, a few of my kids will probably get into a specialized school. I'm usually pretty good, though not perfect, at predicting which ones. As usual, a few more of them will probably come very close. Of those, one or two will have total meltdowns over it. Some of them won't get in and won't much care.

I want to tell them that it doesn't matter as much as they think it does, while simultaneously telling them to do their very best on the test. I can tell them about friends of mine who went to unfamous high schools and colleges in the middle of nowhere and are now doctors, lawyers, and nuclear submarine commanders. (I really do have a friend who commands a nuclear submarine. I can't think of a job that's much more kick-ass than that.) I can tell them about friends who went to very prestigious, exclusive colleges and now make even less money than I do (yes, it's possible). So much of life is a crapshoot. So much of what happens is unexpected. Someday, I want to tell them, you will meet people who have never heard of Stuyvesant High School and wouldn't care about it if they had. Someday you will meet people who didn't have to "apply" to high school; in fact, most people you will meet didn't have to. It's so hard to understand that when you're thirteen and so much is being made of this test and the high school process, and I don't even know if I should tell them that.

(Maybe not until after the test.)

So I'll remind you all, if you teach eighth grade or if you know eighth graders, be extra nice to them for the next few days. Maybe for the next ten days or so, because the TACHS is next weekend. If you teach them, give them the weekend off from homework. Give them some nice, quiet, easy seatwork on Monday after you give them a chance to vent. They're still children. And then tell them, nicely, helpfully, in your own way, that one day, one test, and one score does not, in the grand scheme of things, mean so very much.
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