I was at the doctor's office today with my sick child and when the doc left the waiting room for a few minutes, another of my children said she had to go to the bathroom. We all left and went down a short hall to a bathroom and in she went. I stayed outside the door, carrying my sick toddler as I waited.
A young boy - a Kindergartner - was getting his annual tests done. Like my own PreK boy did recently, this kid stood in the hallway, about 15 feet from the letter and shape chart, and got his eyesight tested.
It's not just the eyesight that's tested. There are many shapes: diamonds, circles, crescents, boats, and all sorts of others, in order to gauge the child's progress in other areas, as well as his eyesight.
When the medical assistant started at the end of the chart (where the shapes are the smallest) the boy hesitated. His dad tried to prompt him and he made a guess and got it wrong. I wasn't sure if he really got it wrong, or he rushed himself into a guess to please his Dad. For a minute I kind of smiled to myself, knowing that as a parent, we all like our kids to do well. Let's not pretend we don't get a secret kick out of being told our kids are smart, or beautiful, or sweet or kind. We do.
He got his next shape wrong too. The medical assistant was very low key and friendly but Dad got agitated. As she began with the third shape, he interrupted her and asked her to begin at the top, where the huge shapes were. The kid got the shape right straight away and Dad was very pleased. The assistant wasn't however, because these tests are conducted in a certain way, for certain reasons.
But Dad was unable to accept that his son was getting his shapes wrong, so insisted the enormous shapes were focused on and didn't want the smaller ones tested at all.
My own child was all done in the bathroom and we went back into our room. Dad was right outside and was still interrupting the testing, advising the child to focus and generally acting like the child was playing little league and it was all one big competition.
A few minutes later the test was over and I could hear the Dad telling the assistant that his kid was usually great. He was smart, he was wonderful. It was that he "just wasn't able to concentrate" and that "he knows all this" - it was just a bad day for testing.
Meanwhile, I think the child would have done far better if Dad had kept quiet, had allowed him to do the test without interruption and if Dad had not directed the medical assistant to change the methodology so that Dad left, thinking his kid somehow won a race or passed a test with honors.
Will this kid be in my kids class come September? Could be. I hope Dad learns that these kinds of tests are not indicative of a child's intelligence, prowess or future abilities. And that, as parents, we need to stand back and let a kid do something by, and for, himself. And that it doesn't matter if a 5 year old kid scores a hundred percent or happily scrapes by with a C. It was only the father who had the verbal scorecard going. I've no doubt Dad meant well. He didn't appear to be a bully or remotely mean. I'm sure he loves his kids as much as I love mine. But he did seem adamant that the child's score be seen as prefect.
The kid did his best and was cute as a button, smiling to the easy going and gentle assistant who smiled back warmly, no matter how he did. If only Dad had done the same.
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