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Test Taking

2011 February 24
by prgiff

It was final exam time. My sister Annie, in second grade, had an art test. Annie drew beautifully; she labored over the paper, drawing infinitely small squares of black, green, beige and yellow. In the center, was a small oval circle.

“I can’t imagine,” her teacher told my mother. “She cried the whole time she was drawing.”

My mother knew immediately; she pointed out the linoleum floor, the cat in the center.

“Ah, ah,” the teacher said. She and my mother had tears in their eyes.

Down the hall, my fourth grade test was an English essay. I wrote what Annie drew. Our beloved cat Mittens with the six toes, had willfully stayed out all night. He must have been hit by a car, and waited on that cold night until my mother opened the door for him. Mittens’ ending was the saddest Annie and I had ever experienced. And my paper was so streaked with tears I wonder how Sister Raymonda ever read it. It was only then that I thought I might get a bad mark on the test.

I do remember what Sister said: “Mittens was a lucky cat because you and Annie loved him.” I remember telling Annie that.

All these years later, I feel the warmth of Sister’s hand as she held mine. “Take the test home,” she said. “It’s only a test. Not important. But you might want to save what you said about Mittens.”

I think of the tests the children take today…on any day, children have lost beloved pets, have sick mothers, stomach aches, terror over the test. So many variables. Yet, teachers can’t dismiss tests anymore…at least not those standardized tests, that cause such stress in teachers and children…and that mean so little.

What is happening in education?

4 Responses leave one →
  1. March 1, 2011

    Hi Mrs. Giff,

    First, I cannot explain how your novels have helped my writing. Reading books like Water Street and Lily’s Crossing is a lot of fun for me, because no one writes timeless characters like you; it help remind me to keep characters adventureous.

    And about the standardized tests–I agree. I’m a homeschooler, but when I was in public school the teachers seemed to teach based on the testing instead of just… [i]teaching[/i].

    The story about Mittens was sad. My friend’s cat died today, and it made me think of her.

    God bless,


  2. Nikki permalink
    March 6, 2011

    What you say about tests rings true with me! I teach economically disadvantaged 1st graders, and its heartbreaking the stress they deal with every day. I get frustrated by the amount of time we spend testing and how much we talk about testing as teachers, when in reality the tests often do not show an accurate picture of our students — specifically because of what you mention here! On any given day we have kids who don’t get enough sleep, don’t have enough to eat, are emotional, have parents who are fighting, in jail, neglectful or cruel…and then they have to come to school and take a test which will be scrutinized by people who don’t know them and the tough things they are dealing with. :-(

  3. demetria permalink
    March 14, 2011

    i love the part in the book when Sam finds out part of the he’s was looking for and what he was trying to find out want happend that night when he was with mack and what did the newspaper mean when it said Sam is missing.but by the way the book was heart breaking and good :}.

  4. Bethanni permalink
    June 25, 2011

    I loved the book I read it in only 2 days because i was so hooked. i love the part when he first saw the newspaper clipping and it sais he was missing then it tells you at the end what truley happens and your shocked because your mind was probly thinking way different then what really went on.

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