Thursday, April 18, 2013

Learning. (This post is super wordy. Sorry.)

I am currently taking an e-course created by Jeanne Oliver.  Jeanne is amazing and inspiring in so many ways.  She is intelligent, thoughtful, funny, artistically gifted, a lovely writer, loving, honest, open, motivated.  She is also abundantly generous, and regularly has give-aways for her classes, and products from her own line of clothes and accessories, as well as products that she uses and recommends.  I was lucky enough to win this latest course, called, "The Journey of Letting Go {Creating Beauty from Ashes}".

A badge from The Journey of Letting Go e-course by Jeanne Oliver
Each week she puts up videos in which she discusses her philosophies, thoughts, ideas, and how they apply to the course content.  Then there are videos demonstrating different techniques and materials, and projects to use them in.  SO FUN!!!

In one of the "philosophy" videos for this course, she talks at length about taking responsibility in your life and relationships, and being honest with oneself and others.  Much of what she said really struck my heart.

I have been finding many opportunities lately to practice using open honesty to remedy situations.  In fact, we had a "Thing" in our family this week, and her timely discourse on the subject of taking responsibility helped me to figure my way through it.

The skinny of the Thing is this:  The New York State Educational Department has implemented new (soon to be nation-wide) standardized testing for children in grades 3-8.  My daughter is in 7th grade.  She heard through the grapevine that some parents were choosing to opt their children out of this testing for various reasons. She was piqued, did some research, and presented her findings to her father and myself.

We initially put her off, saying, "What's the big deal?  You are smart and always do well on these tests.  Just suck it up, do your best, and get through it." Nice, huh?  (Do I smell a Parents of the Year award?  Or did I forget my deodorant???)

She didn't give in.  She insisted that we do some research for ourselves, and we would see what she was upset about.  She was morally opposed to the whole dang thing.

So I did some research.  I found a lot of compelling evidence both for and against the testing.  I also did my usual Facebook poll, as I have done in the past when I was looking for a swath of viewpoints on a particular subject.

In the end, I decided that I would send the principal of the school an "opt out" letter which was adapted from a letter that was sent to me as a template of sorts.  The original letter had been written by a parent who was very familiar with the education system, and he shared it with the intent of educating and giving the tools to other families who felt the same way.  There is a copy of the letter after the break at the end of this post.

We heard immediately from my daughter's principal.  He respectfully let us know that we could opt our daughter out if we chose to, but that she would be required to sit quietly in her chair for the duration of the testing.  No reading.  No talking.  No sleeping.  Just sitting.  Quietly.  If you know my kid, you understand how truly difficult that would be.  The tests are 1.5 hours each for ELA on three mornings this week, and then 1.25 hours each for math on three mornings of next week.  It may not sound like much each day, but it would get old for her in a hurry.

So, the Thing in our house continued.  We talked and talked and talked, and finally decided that at this time we would acquiesce, and retract our opt-out declaration.  I am a weak social anarchist.

*le sigh*

After that, we were able to settle down and get back to regular stuff.  My research on the NYS standardized testing was concluded, and I was able to continue with my usual momma/ wifely duties of grocery shopping, laundry, workouts, animal care and (YAY!) my online art lessons.

The whole time, though, in the back of my head (and sometimes the front), were nagging thoughts about how I had handled the situation from beginning to end.  I was embarrassed.  I had conflicting emotions over whether I had researched enough, given it enough thought, given it TOO MUCH thought, and why I had backed down when I was cornered. (Okay, not really cornered.  Counseled.  That is more fitting.) 

I decided that this would be another great opportunity to take responsibility, be honest, and thereby allow the situation to unfold and resolve in a peaceful, satisfying way. 

So I wrote another letter (see also after the break at the bottom of this post) to the principal of my daughter's school.  And then I wrote this blog post about it.  And I feel much better about it.

Of course I am not perfect, and a lot of people may disagree with me, but I am really trying to put myself out there, including my faults, and take comfort in knowing that I am not just a bystander.  I am reaching out, learning, making connections to other folks in the hopes of enriching each others' lives. That is so important to me.
A work-in-progress of a class project (color and additional embellishments will be added).  I was inspired, for sure.