Wednesday, May 14, 2008

School,Snakes, & spiders

That last question is going to be ignored for now, what with the madness of what hits the public schools every year about this time -- testing. Testing scores have become all important during these No Child Left Behind (i.e. no child left without being squeezed through the mold) years, more important than creativity, process of problem solving, discovery, and individuality.

I am with 21 fifth graders, almost all of whom are second language learners. In addition to, or rather, instead of some of the other regular curriculum, they receive 35 minutes of English Language Development education each day. That's a side issue. There are too many "mandated" items in the curriculum to fit into a given school day.

One of my students was very tired yesterday, the first day of testing. He laid his head on his desk, and after 20 minutes had not answered one question on the test. Then he claimed had to go to the bathroom. I walked him out and took the opportunity to ask what was up.

"What's up, Lucas?" I asked.

"I'm sleepy."

"Yeah, I can tell. Why are you so sleepy?"

"My mom couldn't get someone to watch me last night, so I had to go to WalMart with her when she went to work. I got tired of looking at all the stuff in WalMart, so I had to find a place where I could sit and wait until she got off work."

"When does she get off work?"

"Eleven o'clock."

Since WalMart is about 20 minutes from their home, this child did not get sleep until nearly midnight.

Today Lucas was still sleepy.

"Did you go to WalMart again last night, Lucas?" I asked.

"No, my cousin came over and I watched TV until midnight."

"What do you watch that late at night?" I asked. "I can't ever find anything interesting to watch that late."

He couldn't answer me.

This is one of the children for whom the test will tell us nothing except how poorly he does on tests when he is so tired he can't focus. He is supposed to have a learning disability, but some of it may be due to a parenting disability.

And then there is Miguel. He just moved here from Mexico, doesn't speak a word of English except for those words that sound like Spanish words. He was given the test, all in English, and carefully looked over each question and bubbled in his answers. He might as well have emulated Joe,who didn't bother to look at the reading passages or the questions. He just filled in his bubbles randomly, and finished the test in 10 minutes (why so long, is my only thought), while many of the others took 90 minutes or more.

The state must get its scores, no matter how tough it is on the child, no matter how invalid they are. No child left untortured.

Two days of testing done; three to go.

As to the snakes and spiders, I'm taking care of those things myself these days. There we were, our Friendship Garden Quilting guild, stitching and bitching away this evening (so one of us loves to say, enjoying feeling boldly risqué), when one of us announces with a bit of excitement, "Is that a snake?"

Yeah, right. This girl is the one who sees a black widow spider behind every web.

I look, and sure enough, there is a snake crawling brazenly across my green Jackson Pollock workshop floor. I do a swift mental calculation. Nope, these ladies will not do anything about the snake that is barring their way from the exit, and if I do nothing, I will be stuck with them all night - not to mention the fact that I'd have to check under the cushions of my sofa every time I wanted to sit down. Not that I mind about my friends staying all night, but after a day of torturing students, I will enjoy some quiet time alone, without a loose snake to become paranoid about. So I go over and pick up the yard-long garden snake behind the head, something I've never done before. All my other snake handling experiences have been when some snake lover handed me his pet to hold, and they were all much smaller. This one immediately coiled around my hand like a boa constrictor and squeezed. Rather unsettling. I took it out and flung it onto the lawn where it bounced and disappeared in the darkness.

I wonder if it will wander back inside again. I hope not.

Earlier one of the ladies had, with great vigor, announced the presence of one of my regular companions, "Spider! Right over here!"

Now this one I believe. "It's one of my pets," I say. Spiders abound in my rural location.

After the snake incident which had forced me away from sewing on my 15-foot long table runner, I thought I might as well deal with the spider while away from my sewing machine.

I looked in the indicated spot. Web of the black widow sort, but no spider. I moved a box, and Mrs. Black Widow crawled up the wall into a corner. Not having the same appreciation for black widows as I do snakes, I smashed her with the corner of a CD case.

Now my quilting guild is thinking of sewing elsewhere.