This morning, we began PASS Testing in my classroom. Every 5th grader and 8th grader in the entire state of South Carolina sat for an excruciating amount of time to prove what they had learned in the subject of writing. This was part 1 of 2 this week and then we will sit for 3 more parts in May. This is what we've trained for all year long. Teachers all across the state, me included received very little sleep last night because we were contemplating what was the one last thing we could teach in the 5 minutes the next morning before tests were passed out, the one last thing we could say that would turn it around for students, the one word that would give them the confidence to make it through and do their best. My students were ready, but there are so many factors that are beyond my control that affect their ability to test. The angry words between a parent and child in the car on the way to school, the lack of sleep because mom and dad were fighting, the unhealthy breakfast or lack of breakfast because there was no other food in the house - and yet, I'm responsible for the scores of these students. Talk about pressure. I had one incident that threw me for a loop today, but I cannot tell you about it. But, anger and frustration and refusal were all a part of the equation. My hopes for the student went right out of the window and all I could do was stand there and watch. I couldn't say a word to calm them, couldn't have them take a break, I could just be the outside observer. Frustrated, yes! Angry, yes! Angry that all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the year went up in smoke today. Angry, that I couldn't change the outcome.
The entire time this was going on in my classroom, in Louisiana a completely different story was playing out in my family that I had no idea about until 1:30pm.. My precious grandmother Ruth, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's was giving up her fight. My daddy called my husband, who then called to tell me what was happening. And all of a sudden, the PASS Test didn't matter. What mattered was the relationship I had with my family and how badly they needed me to encourage, support, and lift up during this difficult time. My time with my grandmother flashed before my eyes - the trips to the fishing camp, chocolate covered graham crackers in the cookie jar, Coca-Cola Classic in the fridge, the world's best ham and cheese sandwiches ever! The Christmas gifts that were lost, spending the night with cousins, the cartoon glasses we fought over in the cabinet. The only roast beef, rice and gravy I'll eat, the soggy French fries just like I like them, sitting around the table at Sunday dinner. The South Louisiana accent slipping up when she was tired or around her family that I haven't heard in years due to the slow decline.
I last saw her right after Christmas when she was in the hospital and she wasn't able to have a long conversation with me. She didn't know who I was, but she did know who Cheney was and knew that he was probably hunting. I sat by her bed and held her hands and hoped that my last memory would be one of her vivacious and full of life. Living away is a two-edged sword sometimes, I'm fortunate that I haven't seen the final months of her disappearance, but at the same time, I feel like I should have been there. Tonight she still holds on and she may for a few hours or a few weeks. We'll wait.
As I've reflected over this for the last few hours, I thought back to the student from this morning, and had to remember, that yes, even though his testing was shot - there is so much more that I've done for him. I've built a relationship that maybe someday in the future he can look back and say, "Mrs. L cared for me when no one else did." So a new perspective, yes!