Standardized Testing Almost Destroyed Me


Standardized Testing Almost Destroyed Me | @mamamissblog #visuallearner #playmatters #kindergarten

This recent article.

The little girl pictured.

It breaks my heart & brings it all rushing back.

I see myself & my struggles all throughout school…having my dad help me…crying all the time…wondering why I didn’t get it & everyone else did. Why was I so stupid, why me?!  I always sat in the back of class hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on me.  I remember the tears distinctively…sitting at my dad’s desk doing flash cards over & over until late in the night, crying myself to sleep.  My wonderful dad, he even developed a special visual/spatial way for me to study that stuck!  I got it once it was explained visually to me but I don’t remember ever having a teacher that noticed that, or that took the time to explain things a different way to me, except for my father.  I was a number in school, I HATED school.  Well  – except for art class, that I LOVED.

As a spatial/visual learner, I prefer using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others.

Feeling “dumb” always was in the back of mind, I hated tests, ALWAYS did poorly, always failed – I guess that’s why I always felt stupid.  And then having both my mom, and dad of higher education & extensive academia backgrounds, both with their PhD’s, and both teachers (college professors) by trade (plus both siblings with straight A’s and in the TAG program), I felt I had a lot to live up to.

And, I felt I was always failing.

And from this article, this paragraph really hit a nerve inside me…

“In the midst of all of this, I walked past my daughter.  She looked up at me, her face red from crying, I could see that tears had been collecting at her collar “I just can’t do this,” she sobbed….  It took just two days of standardized testing for her to doubt herself, quickly trading a love of learning for the shame of incompetence.  Later on when I picked her up after her long seven-hour day, she whispered into my shoulder “I’m just not smart mom. Not like everyone else. I’m just no good at kindergarten, just no good at all.”

It wasn’t until my late twenties, a far time from kindergarten, that for some reason I had that sense of an “I can do it” spirit, that arose from somewhere, that gave me the nerve to apply for and pursue higher education.  And just think, it was completely different back then – I didn’t even have standardized testing at FIVE, in kindergarten.

I’m so happy that I went to college & became myself.  I gained an immense amount of confidence during those years & realized I wasn’t at all dumb, I just wasn’t taught the way I needed to be taught, with a spatial learning style.  I thrived in college at 27, and actually felt more connected to the teachers as my peers.  I sat in the front, the closest I could get to the teacher, hoping to get picked for a question.  I began to love myself, and love education.  I wasn’t intimated to ask questions – like I was in lower education – I knew they respected my questions and thoughts & never felt like I was being pushed aside for the masses like in high school/elementary school.

And, you know what’s ironic – truly ironic?!  Because at some point I decided that maybe, just maybe, hmmm let’s just see, I wonder if I’m as “dumb” as I think I am, or as dumb as those tests made me feel.  Well, I wasn’t!  I even became valedictorian in college – ME?! –  VALEDICTORIAN!  what?! what?!  I still can’t believe it myself – I graduated with a 4.0 that I maintained the entire time in college!  How did someone that struggled (I mean, tons of tears struggled) throughout her entire years of elementary/high school, barely scraping by with passing grades, achieve this?!   Through the way that I learn – the right way for me – visually/spatially – through design (my degree is a BFA in Fashion Design btw) – not through standardized testing.  Through physically doing it, designing it, cutting it, measuring it… not by reading a question about doing it, by circling dots on paper.

Standardized Testing Almost Destroyed Me | @mamamissblog #visuallearner #playmatters #kindergarten

Standardized testing/common core testing tears on pulls out, yanks on, & drags across the room, my heart strings and my core.

I’ve been there, I lived it, I was that little girl, misunderstood, feeling dumb, feeling of absolutely no value.

I get it – and it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I REALLY get it.  I think that, common core testing alone, may hold a good percentage in my mental homeschooling reasoning graph (well, besides 549 other things that keep me up at night).

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  1. I LOVE this story! I want to focus on how WELL you’ve done. How HARD it was, but how you’re an OVERCOMER. Despite what you were being taught or told, you made it. I’m sharing this story with other mothers who are looking to inspire their daughters and sons. Elementary, middle, and high school is not the be-all-end-all. There is so much MORE to life. I’m glad you found your passion. You excel at what you do now. Power on mama!

  2. Melissa — This is also a huge part of why I’m planning to homeschool my son. Even though I was good at standardized tests, even when I was young and proud of my scores, I knew that it wasn’t fair. That I had something in my brain, separate from the rest of my intelligence and traits, that made the tests easy for me, and that other kids who were just as smart as I was were struggling on the same tests I was acing. Then I taught SAT prep classes when I was in college, and the first thing we always told the kids was, “The SAT only tests how well you can take the SAT.” I could raise their scores by so many points in eight weeks that it really made a difference for those kids, but they were the same kids who’d scored so much lower two months ago, with the same strengths and weaknesses, except for maybe a little more confidence after learning from the class that their score didn’t define them. It makes me so sad that a whole generation of kids is being put through all of this testing, when they should be exploring and learning. So thank you for writing about your experience — I think the only way any of this is going to change is if more and more people raise their voices!

    • Yes! Yes, Jessica!! I agree!! “exploring and learning” – that is where it is at. There are so many times where I have the intention to go a certain direction in the morning with teaching V&T at home & then as we are eating breakfast V asks, mommy, do blue & yellow make green?! And then we end up down a different path, I create a printable to learn, we head outside to learn; we learn through art, math, science. Because of that way of learning, V can tell you all the primary & secondary colors and even some tertiary colors off the top of her head – she didn’t learn it from circling dots…she learned it from DOING IT – through science & math & art!! THAT is what I love about HS – some days I just let them lead the way – she doesn’t even know she’s learning it’s all so fun – that’s the way education should be :) xx

  3. I found this post via pinterest and I want to applaud you for sharing your story! Standardized testing is one of our biggest reasons for choosing to homeschool our children. We know that all children are not the same, nor do they learn the same so why do we continue to test them all the same? I have never felt that testing gives a true picture of what a child knows or doesn’t know. They has got to be a better way! I have known far too many intelligent people who just can’t take tests.

    • Thank you thank you Samantha!! I agree – in this day & age things have got to change! As I get older & my kids get older all these things/emotions come rushing back. Maybe that’s what it will take – my generation to start having school aged children to have this hit the surface to make a difference?! There is still hope for change! Thank you for taking the time to read & comment :) xx

  4. Melissa, thank you for sharing your wonderful story! I agree, it takes incredible strength to expose your feelings and experiences, especially when they don’t exactly “fit-the-mold!” Kudos to you for never giving up and finding alternative ways of learning. You are beautiful, you are smart, and it warms my heart to see how much you’ve grown, especially through your writing. xx

  5. This is so painful for children, this high stakes and demoralizing testing. It’s one of the reasons I walked away from my decade of teaching high school. The last three years became a frenzy of data demands and non-stop testing and it has surely been killing every last positive aspect of school,for kids. It affects everything from discipline to attendance because kids are burned out, tired of not measuring up and being compared to their peers. We were taught about modalities of learning but upon returning to class, the demands were for more tests, tests, and tests. Our nation is doing some dangerous damage to all our children and it is quickly becoming apparent in our social lives as well. Thanks for sharing this and I thoroughly enjoy your blog. Have a lovely day.

    • Thank you so much – man, just reading all that you have walked away from & what it has become, gives me goosebumps Helen! Ugh – my mom on most days is thankful that she is retired – towards the end for her it wasn’t about teaching it was about all the administrative hooey. Which she absolutely despised – she just wanted to teach – what she loved doing. Thank you for taking the time to share :) xx

  6. Love that you had such supportive parents!

  7. Good for you for going to college and proving those tests wrong! This is an issue I worry about too. My daughter likes learning for the sake of learning right now, but once she’s in school it will be all about what’s on the test and what grade she gets. School for me took all the fun from learning and it wasn’t until years after I left that I learned to love learning again. Thank you for sharing this powerful post!

    • Thank you Emma!! It really scares me for V&T as well, because the emotions are so so raw for me. We want to do better for our children & not have them go through the torture we went through?! I think a lot of getting me through was my parents & their encouragement – so, as long as we, as parents, continue to push, inspire, teach, encourage, & challenge them – it will overshadow the negative from testing (hopefully).

  8. Thank you for sharing a success story. From an educator and a parent of a child who struggles I am so happy to hear that you broke through, though your story did bring tears to my eyes. It happens all too often in the classroom. I’ll be referencing your blog in mine if that’s ok!

  9. Wonderful post. I often feel so sorry for the kids that appear lost in a way school teaches – teaches to the test, teaches to the middle, teaches to auditory/visual learner. I got lucky – it worked for me, and it works for my daughter, but it doesn’t work for everyone. But your experience also shows that you can find your own way and become successful after all the struggles, and that, in itself, is an inspiration.

  10. Melissa, thank you SO much for speaking out and telling your story- I know it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable in your writing. But we need to hear the stories like yours, stories from amazingly intelligent people with different learning styles who were penalized by a “one-size-fits-all” system. I hate to think of the little girl (and young woman) whose confidence was crushed by the very place that was supposed to enlighten her, and am so happy that you were able to rise above it and thrive in higher education. Standardized testing is one of the main reasons that my children will never darken the door of a public school…I spent too many years working in the trenches and watching the system be perverted by these practices. And don’t even get me started on special ed…that’s a whole different ballgame :/ Bravo, Melissa! Excellent post!

  11. Very well stated and sincere. Hope this helps a lot of people.

  12. Oh, Melissa, I APPLAUD you for taking the time to share this with all of us! It takes adults standing up for kiddos to create a change. I hope this post gives everyone the chance to think about the WHY behind standardized testing. It was originally meant to help assess how children are grasping concepts/standards being taught in school. They were meant to point teachers towards what students knew and what students needed more instruction on. Yet they have become tests to be taught to (and so much more), as opposed to real assessment tools. As a teacher, and mama to a kiddo who doesn’t fit into the one-size-fits-all mentality, I worry about standardized testing. Learning isn’t meant to break the spirit, and I fear that the politicians involved in education are doing just that.

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