It’s funny how some things stick in your memory like Gorilla Glue, and others vanish before the week is over. My daughter and I were talking about I.Q. and memory and motivation, frequent topics among teachers. All combine to create a good student, but a lack of I. Q. or memory can often be compensated for by motivation and hard work. I’ve seen it happen time and again.
What surprised me about our conversation was my vivid memory of having my own intelligence tested when I was in the fifth grade. I think I’ve mentioned it before in other blogs. It still intrigues me. Why do I remember that event in such detail? Was it the test itself?-I remember being nervous about getting everything correct, and pleased that part of the test required drawing a person, something I could do quite well. The man who administered it?-He was totally bald and his head had an odd red pattern on it and he frequently rubbed his head. The results?- I was “officially smart”, and felt that I no longer had to prove it. The aftermath?- there was a flurry of activity and meetings after my test results came back-discussions about moving me to seventh grade, talk of new challenges, and questions about money for college- heady stuff for a little poor girl.
I guess what made such an impression was that my world was never the same after that. I think our brain must automatically mark those “watershed” moments. Before the test I was a happy, goofy girl who loved to read and draw and play in the fields. After the test I became the “smart girl” who had to be responsible for her brainpower and use it wisely. Unconsciously perhaps, the adults around me began to see me in a different light and I was suddenly “too smart to behave like that” or “too smart to waste time doing THAT”. I was expected to live up to my test results not only in school, but in life. And unfortunately the thing in my life that was suddenly considered a waste of time was drawing.
I think that is what concerns me about a lot of the testing we do now. It’s not the test itself that might be damaging, but the label that comes with the results. Even a good test and good results can change the way we perceive someone and change our ideas about their future. We have to be so careful to make sure testing helps us aid and motivate students to live up to their hopes and dreams, not just our own.
Would I have been happier as an artist? Probably not. But I also spent a lot of time floundering because I didn’t have the skills or motivation to become a doctor or architect or attorney, occupations I knew my parents admired and coveted on my behalf. I think it pleased my mother when I enrolled as an English major and planned to teach high school students before going on to become a college professor. However, I think both of my parents were surprised and even a bit disappointed when I settled for teaching “little kids”, a decision that I personally have never regretted for a moment. A friend laughingly called me “over qualified for the job”, but I don’t feel that way at all. I feel that I need all of my brainpower and life experience and patience to give these kindergartners a good start in life.
I’m doing what I was born to do, I hope you are too!
(That little blond with the headband, close to the flag pole, is me.)