The Value of Standardized Tests: There’s More to Our Kids

This is it. That time of year around our country when pencils hit the paper and the stress gets real. Numbers are burning through brains and forms are being filled out in mass. Tax time? No- it’s standardized testing time! Kids everywhere are furiously filling out bubbles in silent classrooms as their teachers anxiously hope that those sweeties choose correctly. After all, every ounce of teacher-worth could be created by what the percentiles of those tests come out to be.

Each year, when this time rolls around, I must remember that I am the head of an academic institution, while holding the personal belief that these tests hold only minimal value. With that in mind, I send some form of the following letter to our families before their kids enter the assessment gauntlet…

Hello Parents:

In the next couple of weeks, our students will be taking the standardized test in math, reading and other subjects. I want to share a few thoughts with you as we head into a week that can often cause students stress (we don’t want that:).

  1. The scores from the testing will tell us something about your child, but they will not tell us everything. A completed scoresheet does not know these wonderful kids the way we do, and it definitely does not know them the special way that you parents do. It won’t measure their creativity, their drive to finish things and the heart that produces that huge smile.
  2. We always want you to have tools and information to help you as a parent. Hopefully, these scores are another tool to indicate academic areas in which we all may be able to help your student grow. We must remember, though, this is not the only tool. We use it, gain from it, and put it away.
  3. Our staff will use these scores to find trends that will help us better serve your kids both now and in the future. We want each part of what they show us to contribute to how we make school (and life) successful for them!

I hope that this year’s testing is pressure-free and stress-free for your children. When they arrive, we will make certain to greet them with big smiles and treat them the same way we do every other week- like the sweet kids that they are!

When I was in grade-school, I had a few things going against me when I sat down to take tests. #1- I wasn’t too brilliant. Maybe that came once I got married, because I sure chose well there. Anyhow, #2- I could not have cared less about the tests! I made characters and shapes out of my bubbles and I’m sure if any teacher looked over my shoulder at my answer sheet, their inner thought bubble said, “What is he DOING?!”

Today, the pressure for students to score perfectly and begin “building a college resume” can be so intense. Kids as early as sixth grade are joining clubs, volunteering, and meeting with coaches to find out how they can one day get into the best colleges. Both college and high school students are trying to find any advantage they can and many schools report Adderall as their biggest drug problem. This “study drug” is prescribed for attention deficit disorder, but often students sell it to one another since it helps a person stay alert and awake for extra studying.

Meanwhile, there is little emphasis put on genuinely developing the character of our kids as they grow. The boxes, bubbles, essays, and percentiles are just a tiny part of that full child. Each of them is so much more than that, as good parents and teachers are fully aware. God made them each so uniquely and there is just no box that we can put them into. There are kids with courage, honesty, creativity, and ingenuity who will score low and change the world. There are also kids who will score at the top and struggle in life because of character issues.

Soon, your child will get their standardized test scores back. Use them as a tool- learn something from them, and find some ways that you can help your child grow academically. Then put the tool away and move on. There are many other great tools to use to help our kids and there are millions of things that make our kids amazing… much more than any dots they color in on a test.

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Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

I couldn’t BELIEVE the things my parents would NOT let me watch when I was a kid.  In my mind, EVERYONE got to see all the best movies and they basically had run of the television in their homes.  I remember how badly I wanted to watch some of the coolest action movies when I was a wee lad.  Well, that was a no, and now I know why.

As Renee and I continue to try raising independent kids who can confidently think for themselves, I am careful to remember that there is a balance in doing this.  We want our children to grow to be strong, wise, and ready to face what life has for them.  We also do not want them exposed to dangers that may permanently or irreparably harm them. Continue reading Exposing our Kids to the Right Things: Everyone Else is Doing It!

Being Available to Our Kids: Dad, Can You Help Me?

“Hey Dad, can you help me with something?”  I didn’t realize when my 10-year old asked me this question last Saturday morning that the answer would take up the rest of the day and hurt both of us in different ways.  I was folding laundry when she called me from the other room, because well… laundry.  Anyhow, she came out and told me that she had a problem with her earring.  Before looking at it, I thought, “Why would she ask me?  Does she know that I formerly had not only an earring, but also dashingly stylish blonde highlights in my hair?”  What else does this girl know about me?  She said that something went wrong with the back of the earring when she was taking it out, so I turned her ear around to find that the earring back was literally INSIDE her ear lobe!  My tummy turned, because I basically get light-headed at the sight of blood… or an earring stuck inside a lobe.  I calmly told her that we would take care of this and that she would be fine.  I internally said, “OH MY GAWSHHH!” Continue reading Being Available to Our Kids: Dad, Can You Help Me?

Confidence in Kids: You Can Buy the Milk This Time

“Make it a point to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable every single day.  You’ll be amazed by how empowered you’ll feel.  And naturally, if you pass this lesson along to your kids, you’ll help them become confident and empowered too!”  Read on as Natalie Charrette, 8th grade teacher and Vice Principal at Bay Christian School, shares how she taught her kids to overcome fear of the unknown.

Instilling confidence in our children, now grown, was always a parental priority for my husband and I.  We always made it a point to role-play different scenarios to teach our son and daughter how to speak clearly, look a person in the eye when talking and shake hands firmly.  We taught them to listen more and speak less.  We conversed often about stepping out of their comfort zones and when feeling in doubt, ask questions within a conversation.

When our son, Tyler was in junior high, we attended a neighborhood party, which he begrudgingly joined, although it wasn’t an option.  We gave him the mature task of conversing with an adult at some point during the evening, to which he just gave us the “yeah right” look.  Part way through the party, as my husband and I were mingling we noticed Tyler, surrounded by an unfamiliar family.  A mom, dad and kids were all talking and laughing with him.  My husband and I looked at each other inquisitively and wondered who this family was… or who our son was for that matter!  A little later, Tyler joined us in amazement at how well that question thing went.  “So, this dad asked me if I played sports.  The next thing I know we’re in a full conversation.  I just kept asking him questions, then his family started talking to me.  Before I knew it, we were all laughing together.”

Mission accomplished, our son learned a new skill that made him realize that speaking with adults and people you have never met is not as scary as it seems.

When our daughter Michaela was nine years old, I told her we were going to swing by the store to grab some milk.  She smiled and nodded in agreement until I parked the car in front of the store and handed her some money.  “Why are you giving me money?” she asked.  “So you can buy some milk,” I responded.  Next, it was a back-and-forth with her attempting to convince me that she just couldn’t do it.  I continued to coach and encourage her that she could.  After all, she had accompanied me on plenty of shopping trips.  “Just come with me,” she pleaded. “You’re a big girl, you got this!”  I insisted.  Finally, she hopped out and went off to buy a gallon of milk.

I will admit, I sat there anxiously.  “What if?” I kept asking myself as I peered into the grocery store windows, watching everyone enter and exit.  Although in reality she was only in there 8 minutes (I counted), it seemed like an eternity.

Sure enough, she bee-bopped out with a huge confident smile on her face and a gallon of milk in her hand.  “That was easy, the lady at the checkout was really nice” she grinned.  I just smiled and said, “Great job, you can keep the change.”

Another lesson learned.  The sooner we can accomplish the uncomfortable or scary things in life, the sooner we will discover our God-given talents and be able to use them for great purposes.  God’s plans for us are often much bigger than our own, pulling us away from our safe space.  However, the more willing and trusting we become, the wider the doors of opportunity will open for us.  These are lessons that can build confidence for both us and our kids!

Natalie Charrette is an always-laughing wife to Chris and proud mom to Tyler and Michaela.  She is also the 8th grade teacher and Vice Principal at Bay Christian School in Concord, CA.  In her spare time, she is the owner of Simple Steps Organization, where she finds joy in helping people organize their spaces and their lives!

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Natalie with her husband Chris and two kids, Tyler and Michaela (Michaela is drinking her coffee with milk).

 

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Raising Responsible Kids: The Fistfight That Taught Me a Parenting Lesson

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It was my first year on the job as principal when these two eighth graders got into a fistfight.  It may have even been my first month.  I was so excited about beginning in my new position, that I hadn’t even considered there would be problems along the way.  I’m far past that stage now to where I typically beware of slipping on a stray banana peel if some issue hasn’t popped up by 11a.m. each day.

I’ve discovered over the past several years that we don’t have many good old fights at our school.  The few that we do have just involve pushing or name-calling, kind of like a skirmish in the NBA.  But this day involved actual haymakers and it was clearly instigated by one of the two kids.  To shorten the story, Student One turned a quiet recess snack time into a game of “let’s see what happens when I fire a ball at Student Two’s head?”  Well, what happened was that Student Two quickly changed that game into “let’s fight” and the gentlemen were soon in my office.  They were red-faced and looking as if they had both just run the mile at P.E. Continue reading Raising Responsible Kids: The Fistfight That Taught Me a Parenting Lesson

Leaving a Life Legacy: What Will My Quilt Look Like?

There was an empty seat at our Christmas dinner table that year.  Grandpa passed away on August 17, 2008, leaving a huge vacuum in our tight-knit family.  Grandpa was not just any “grandpa” to me.  He was the Best Man in my wedding, my roommate for 14 years as I grew up, and my mentor & friend who taught me that there has never been a better golfer than Tiger Woods.

Eight of us sat around the Christmas tree, remembering that the year before it was nine of us.  Mom and Dad had special gifts for us three pairs of “kids-and-spouses” to open at the same time.  Mom was sure to mention that these must be opened last.  We all held the gifts and curiously opened them together once all the other ones had been unwrapped.  Then we froze as each of us, along with our loved ones, began to cry.  Inside the beautiful wrapping was a quilt with a note that said in part, “This quilt, made of Grandpa’s shirts, pajamas, bathrobe and jeans, was made with our love and tears for all of you to treasure and remember.  ~Mom & Dad”

I am looking at the quilt right now.  It is like looking at different parts of Grandpa’s life.  I can remember different experiences and memories with him in each square.  The brown and yellow plaid shirt is the one that I left at his house one time.  He liked it, so he adopted it as his own.  The bathrobe reminds me of his last Father’s Day, sitting in Grandpa’s room watching Tiger dominate the U.S. Open with an injured leg and listening to Gramps joke and laugh with me, my dad and my son.  The gray wool shirt is the one he would often wear to church to dress up.  Grandpa loved God and everyone knew it.  The jeans are tired and worn out.  He mowed, painted, nailed and built.  Grandpa was a hard worker all of his life.

Grandpa’s quilt represents a life well-lived by a Godly man.  Each fabric is woven with years of experience and Godly wisdom that my family and I can model.  When I grow old, I wonder what my quilt will look like.  The decisions I make today is the yarn that knits those squares.  If I am to pass on a meaningful legacy and heritage to my children, my choices happen now.  I just pray that my quilt is as rich, full and inspiring as Grandpa’s.

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Teaching Good Choice-Making: When I’m a Parent and I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

For a kid going to school in the morning, you’d think there would be a few necessities: clothes, lunchbox, backpack, shoes to name a few.  But I realized a few months ago that my daughter may not have the same qualifications as me for a successful day of learning.

We all got in the car to leave and headed off.  We weren’t late, but I had a meeting at school that day, so there wasn’t extra time to stop for coffee or anything like that.  The drive was pretty normal and sports talk radio was on for all to enjoy or ignore.  Then about 12 minutes into the ride, Reese informed me of this little tidbit: “Dad, I don’t have my shoes.”  Have you ever really not known what to do as a parent and a million choices of what to do go through your mind at the same time?  That was me at a stoplight while wondering how she did not notice that she was walking out to the car in bare feet. Continue reading Teaching Good Choice-Making: When I’m a Parent and I Don’t Know What I’m Doing