What Standardized Testing Taught Me

None of the Above.

That was my all-time favorite answer when taking a bubble test. Sometimes ‘All of the Above’ was equally enthralling.

I did well on standardized testing. I know, I know, surprise for a little white girl in a white collar neighborhood, right? Despite scoring in the top 25% even in my ‘bad’ subjects, I am only now realizing how deeply I internalized the truly awful lessons these test taught me.

Now I’m writing a personal assessment. This is not meant to stand for anything greater. But as a writer, as a thinker, as an adult struggling to deal with the real world it is amazing how the one lesson I took away from those tests so stunted my growth.

What was that lesson? Never double check answers. Never take my time and never for any reason follow a questioning line of thought. Why you ask? My young mind always made the mistake of questioning. I wanted to look deep into everything, study it from every angle, eliminate the impossible, then explore all the possibilities left. I liked to play with information like a cat.

And then came the bubbles and the trick questions. Where well-meaning test purposely tries to lead students off track. The problem with this was I’d get the answers right on first try. But if I did as the teachers suggested and when back to check my work (or God forbid took my time) I’d think too deeply. How were they tricking me, I’d wonder. Two cats added to two cats in a white room equals four cats, obviously…so it can’t be four cats. And my inquisitive mind would try and justify why two cats was actually the right answer…or six…or YAY All of the above. Some could have died, after all, cats can be territorial maybe they attacked each other. Or bred. Was I trying to be a smartass. No.

I was trying to make logical sense of why a test would want to trick me. And I was doing what came naturally- investigating.

I learned, though. I learned from practice tests that I scored significantly higher if I went as quickly as possible. No big deal in and of itself, but the lesson was terrible.

The belief rooted in me that there was something magical about a first try. Something quintessentially unbeatable in a first attempt that a second attempt, though it might correct some errors, would only cause more. This meant college term papers always written the night before they were due. It meant writing a novel and then being afraid to revise because the ‘essence’ of my story would disappear and leave me with shlock.

It is only this year, at 31, that I am beginning to overcome my misconception that somehow revision is damaging to a product. Funnily enough, this year is also the first time I’ve had a story published.

Now, I have no idea if there is anyone else like me. I’m sure this isn’t a common issue. But isn’t that part of the overarching issue with standardized tests? They don’t account for the ‘individual’ experience. The little girl who can convince herself that e) all of the above is the only correct answer, despite the fact at 2) 4 cats is obviously correct, gets lost in the shuffle. Not saying I’m Einstein but how would he have done with this? According to the laws of these tests, nothing would ever be invented because thought is discouraged.

This little rant was inspired by an article I read. If you are interested:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/17/mom-the-religious-reasons-my-kids-wont-be-taking-common-core-tests/?postshare=231429581271881

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Little Cracks

With no more ado…

The link to my published work on Acidic Fiction!

http://acidicfiction.com/2015/04/17/little-cracks/

 Go ahead and click…I dare you 🙂 Its my first published work so I admit I may be a little over excited.

In honor of breaking the barrier between author hopeful and published author, I posted an extra chapter to my novel Spider’s Game on Wattpad.

 http://www.wattpad.com/story/32022459-spider%27s-game-updated-tuesdays

 Now that I have showered you with links…Pictures! Since Little Cracks was inspired by a real doll from my youth, I thought it seemed apt to share the doll. I won’t say much more than that but both me and my brother were terrorized by this doll in our youth. I much like the girl in my short story, was a lonely shy little thing and even though I was terrified of the doll…like nightmare terrified…I still considered her my friend and used to sneak down the stairs into our garage to hold her and talk to her.

Creepy doll near her natural envoirment...the bottom of dark stairs.

Creepy doll near her natural environment…the bottom of dark stairs.

The author with the creepy doll

The author with the creepy doll

Close up on the cracks and demon eyes

Close up on the cracks and demon eyes

New Generation to Scare Doll Horror

A Mini Poetry Rant

I was tempted to put up poem in honor of National poetry month. But the truth is no one really wants to be subjected to that. Oh I’ve tried my hand at poetry. Even come up with a few, that in my humble opinion, wouldn’t make a reader want to gauge their eyes out with boredom, but it isn’t my forte.

Reading the good ones takes a ton of effort and for the most part reading is my escape from a world filled with effort. And reading something is the only way to begin getting good at writing it in my opinion.

I do have a few favorite poets. I fell in love with Sylvia Plath in high school. I know, little depressed artist girl loves Sylvia Plath…it isn’t exactly a shocker. And I’ve always had a thing for Shel Silverstein (a passion I can share with my three year old.) I also love William Faulkner. Now I do know that technically he isn’t classified as poetry. But his books read like poetry for me. Every word matters, and certain sections of the books read with such purposeful rhythm that they could practically be song. So I’m going to just own up to the fact I group him with poets in my mind.

But there is one other poet, one who actually made me try and write poetry for a while, one whose never been published but if he had tried he could have been. My brother. He wrote a zombie/society critique poem that I loved so much I keep it in a folder with all of my work. Even though I didn’t write it…maybe I think that by putting talented work next to my own it will rub off on me.

Anywho … (yes I mean who) since I can’t write poetry or property critique it, this has been my tribute. Bravo to those who can. There are those of us out there who appreciate your skill, finesse and subtlety.

Adventures in Photography

I left my cave today and ventured into the world. I scheduled an appointment to go to a studio to have a headshot taken. It was an odd experience, explaining to people that I’m an author. Though it still feels like it’s a HUGE fib…but regardless that’s why I needed professional headshots.

I started off the experience chatting with the photographer. She was a personable woman, and we got to talking about art. She explained that she was never good at traditional artwork, couldn’t draw or anything, but she always liked creating things. Her mother was an artist so unlike a lot of families it was pretty much in tradition to work in the arts.

Rather than be put off because she couldn’t paint, or draw, or sculpt, she found an outlet that worked for her. I loved her view of photography which was that she got to create the scene she wanted, make the art, and then take a picture to capture her vision. I guess she sees that as an easy way of creating the world she envisions.

I personally think taking a picture is very much its own skill since I take awful photos. I thought mine were the worst until I tried to get my husband to take pictures of things…at least I can get the subject properly in the frame.

But I guess we all create worlds in the ways we are able.

Anyhow, the whole thing made me think about why I got into writing. It’s because I’m a control freak. I need things to be my way all the time.

What better way to control the world than to write your own from ground up? When you make a world, you get to make all the rules. There are two suns if I say there are and if I say the water is red who are you to tell me differently?

It would have worked if it weren’t for the darn characters. Little did I know that characters never listen. Like children.

But I got to choose from a bunch of amazing photographs. Talk to some people outside my home (which for a cripplingly introverted recluse like me is a significant event.) At the end, one of the employees said, “I have a friend who would be so jealous of you.”

That was staggering. My first thought was ‘why?’ But then I thought back to all the years when being published at all was just this dream. And I conceded the point internally. I may not be like the photographer who’s making a living with her art…but I am blessed.