SCHOOL is in session…Oh My God! Don’t Panic! Writing is not THAT Hard! ***PART II***

Okay…We had a session about putting a short essay together, which we broke down into sentences and paragraphs…Now comes the bloody zinger…WHEN a test grader has you write on an assigned topic.  These are a pain in the butt–especially if you DON’T know anything about the topic you have to read about in order to write the essay.  PROBLEM one:  A lot of these forms and booklets used  for standardized testing are printed by a company called NES out of New York.  Whoever writes the question doesn’t care what is actually taught in the classroom because such testing is a HUGE money-maker for the company selling the district the booklets and the forms.

Now parents…And also people who aren’t parents but sweated bullets (and chewed their nails to the quick) all through school:  How many times did you receive a passage to read about a subject you knew NOTHING about, and the reading passage did NOTHING to illustrate clearly what it was actually discussing?  I’ve seen these questions.  They look something like this: “According to paragraph three, what was the effect that the fishing nets had upon the ecosystem upon which hermit crabs do rely?”  THIS was on a JUNIOR HIGH test when I was in school years ago…Depending on the state and the material given to be taught all year, that might not even have been covered.  Some may know nothing about the hermit crab or the fishing industry.  Some may not know that as hermit crabs grow, they need larger empty shells to occupy and hide in.  To top it off, paragraph three was so vague that all it said was that “…Some other external factors” affected the habitat where the crabs were living.  They had trouble finding shells.”

IT DOES NOT MATTER!  Tell your kids it DOES NOT MATTER…Again that same simple rule for writing applies: It is NOT the content they are looking for as much as the “mechanics” of the sentence and the paragraphs which contain them.  If this is the case, this is how I would have answered that question in Junior High

“…The makers of this test just had me complete a reading assignment about hermit crabs and the fishing industry, yet they left me more confused because the passage is not clear on how the crabs are truly affected by these fishing nets since the nets were never directly mentioned.  I would assume that many of the larger shells that they need to move into as they grow are being destroyed during the fishing process.  Thus, it leaves the creatures as prey for larger creatures in the sea…”

“…Since I have not studied this topic, and the passage given only makes a few concrete statements, I will have to guess as to why this is even being addressed at my level of study…”

I basically went on to point out that this is not studied until the 10th grade and that the only thing that I could surmise is that this was a passage with a question inserted deliberately to cause students to be placed in remedial courses because many cannot answer questions on material that doesn’t apply to them and/or has not been covered yet.  I got a perfect score but it still  caused a bit of concern–but everyone understood why I wrote it like that…Again, they can only grade you on MECHANICS–not content. If they graded on content, they could flunk everyone and get more money for remedial classes to cover that part of the test. I would have never graduated in that case because I was always too blunt and too free–not to mention very forceful with my opinions when I felt justified.

I think it is still a safe bet to teach your children to write in the way described above on questions they cannot possibly connect with in this instance.  If they can master the art of telling it “like it is” then there shouldn’t be a problem.  Raising a child to be an independent thinker should be the goal of every parent.  There are some teachers that will try to give such a student problems in this state.  They will tell you to put that child on medication (for which they can lose their license in many states since they are not doctors) and will hassle the child if they don’t agree with what is stated and are trying to force your child to conform to THEIR ideas of how they should be as human beings.  In a way it’s a form of bullying.  Do not tolerate it.  Never let a teacher use personal bias to penalize your student either.  Call him or her on the carpet every time–even if you do it in front of the superintendent or the principal. Furthermore, let other classmates parents know what you did to protect your child if they express concerns over the same behaviors that their children are relaying to them.  The more the parents stand up to these people, the better off the child is.  Their “expertise” does not qualify THEM to literally ‘raise’ your child into the image they want–and SOME of them (not all) do try to do this.

On the other hand there are wonderful teachers that will get alternative material for such a child and encourage it.  When you find a teacher like that and will call you up to tell you how great your kid is doing, that teacher is worth his/her weight in gold. Don’t go commando on him or her–especially if they are the new teacher because he or she is not just there for the paycheck and there are many teachers who have many years of experience that work the same way.  Many are still trying to make a difference despite the restrictions that their districts and D.C. are trying to place upon them.   How many times do parents get called into the school and it’s always a negative?  This is unacceptable also.  I’ve seen some who only focus on the negative behavior without telling a parent what they are doing to REDIRECT the behavior.  Parents should know to ask that question. This is especially true if you are the parent of an ADHD child like I am.  ADD parents should ask the same thing when confronted by a teacher.  Also do not sit down in a conference if the teacher is standing up. Remain standing. Body language is important here, and it tells that teacher that you will not be a submissive parent if you feel that he or she is wrong.

My son always made great grades.  Problem: He would finish before everyone else and would have to have other things to do because he would go around bugging everyone–including the teacher if not kept on task on SOMETHING.  His teachers eventually got him advanced reading materials and extra assignments so that his mind could stay occupied and it worked.  This kid made the Dean’s List his first semester in college–but now that he’s making $$$ he decided to put it off.  I’m still trying to convince him to go back and finish!   IF you have such a child–do not get bullied into medicating him either.  Again, that’s about $$$ too–and it really won’t enable the teacher to “control” the child which is what they are hoping to accomplish.  Engaging the child and keeping him on a task is better in the long run and it is far more rewarding..My son with ADD also struggled, and what helped him was music classes.  Once I put him in that his grades skyrocketed–especially in math…It works!  It’s strange having two kids with different issues like that.

Now I realize I touched on several items here, but you really need to talk to your kids about what to do with assigned topics that they are not familiar with.  Teach them how to refute effectively in their writing and you’ll have an independent thinker for life!  Above all, I strongly support  30 minute free writing workshops for students who want those short chunks to help them get the hang of it.  It’s more fun than those god awful tutorials they make kids stay for and much more effective, I think…

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