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?