On My Mind: 07.11.11

by Rachael on July 11, 2011

Mondays at The Variegated Life: links to some stuff I’ve liked …

At The Parent Vortex, Michelle meditates on the true nature of blessings:

All of these challenges, the struggles to cope with the emotional discomfort of having my buttons pushed by my children, or struggling to be on time for an appointment, or struggling to get established as a writer, all these difficulties may be the beginning of blessings in my life.

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Though she may not have realized she was doing so, Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro provides perhaps the most eloquent and heartfelt argument against standardized testing I have ever read. (And I have read many!)

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A couple lovely posts on creativity …

At Dreaming Aloud, Lucy quotes Chuck Close on inspiration. The gist of it: Don’t sit around waiting for it, folks. Just get to work.

I’ve been rooting around in Pokey Mama‘s archives and found a link to a marvelous article on writing and mothering by Ariel Gore. She writes:

Discipline, like motherhood, is good for the soul. Poetry is good for the soul. Responsibility to all our dysfunctional relationships is good for the soul. The archetype of the selfish male artist tells us that we can’t manage all these things at once, that we can’t be simultaneously responsible to children, babysitters, self, and art, that we have to sacrifice, to abandon — but we know that’s a lie.

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My writing teacher, Phil Schultz, has written a memoir, My Dyslexia. The just-published review of it at The Chronicle of Higher Education concludes with a previously unpublished poem, “Getting Along.” It had me weeping.

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At Honest to Betsy, Betsy gets some perspective after her nearly two-year-old throws sand into the face of another little boy: “He’s not a bad kid. He’s just a kid. You aren’t a bad mom. You’re just a mom.” Words to repeat (and repeat and repeat) when the day isn’t going so well …

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda @Let's Take the Metro July 11, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Well…..thank you. I think I’m blushing.
Amanda @Let’s Take the Metro recently posted… Naan Pizza with Pictures!


Lucy @ dreamingaloudnet July 12, 2011 at 4:14 AM

Thanks, as ever, for the mention, much appreciated – and for sharing the Ariel Gore article, it will, as you can imagine, be very useful for my book on creative mamas.
Lucy @ dreamingaloudnet recently posted… The Magic Time


Rachael July 13, 2011 at 10:10 AM

I thought of a couple other resources that might interest you, Lucy!

Summer Pierre has been posting interviews in a series called “The Artist in the Nursery.” I don’t see a page or category for the series at her blog, but I’m sure that a search will call up all the interviews.

And at Pokey Mama, Amy Dryansky has been writing about her research into the impact of motherhood on the work of women poets. She discovered the Labyrinth, met the Guidesses, and gave a talk … So far, her writing about her research has been oriented toward the experience of doing the research; I’m hoping she’ll write about her findings. Though to some degree, the experience = the findings.


Lauren @ Hobo Mama July 13, 2011 at 6:50 PM

Enjoying these, thank you! I’m resharing Amanda’s post.
Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted… Wordless Wednesday: Didn’t this kid’s mother warn him not to sit too close to the TV?


Inder July 13, 2011 at 8:00 PM

I read this and Amanda’s post with interest, since my child has a speech delay. There is certainly a wide range of normal in children, and doctors should take all of a family’s circumstances and parenting style into account when administering developmental questionnaires. Also, not hitting one supposed “milestone” is not cause for alarm. But I don’t think they’re like standardized tests. For those of us who KNOW that our child needs special help, those developmental questionnaires are the way that we get the medical profession to listen to our concerns and get the help we need. So whereas standardized tests serve no legitimate function except to save the government money, developmental tests can be a very useful tool. 🙂
Inder recently posted… A quiet Saturday at FolkArt Headquarters.


Rachael July 13, 2011 at 10:26 PM

A “standardized test” is basically any type of test designed to measure whether or not someone has met a standard or set of standards. Some of the questions to ask of a standardized test include: Against what standards are we going to measure students? How narrowly or broadly are these standards going to be defined? What are we going to include in the standards, and what are we going to leave out? One danger of standardized testing is that the standards cannot possibly include everything that we want for students. For example, we may want students to become lifelong readers. You could do longitudinal studies to find out what teaching practices encourage a lifelong love of reading in students, but your typical standardized test just isn’t going to be able to measure anything like that. So the scope of the curriculum that can actually be tested is fairly limited, and where resources are scarce, the curriculum often becomes only that which can and will be (or is likely to be) tested. And that’s the aspect of standardized testing that I saw reflected in Amanda’s conversation with her daughter’s pediatrician. The pediatrician’s questions reflected a rather narrow set of concerns: Can she count to ten? Does she know her colors? Amanda’s daughter does not yet meet those standards — though from the sounds of it, her learning in these areas is emergent, hardly nil — but as a result of the narrowness of the standards, a whole wealth of knowledge — the whole child, really — was left more or less invisible.

Though as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that the problem Amanda encountered was probably not with the standards themselves, but with the small sample: just two questions (as you point out yourself — “not hitting one supposed ‘milestone’ is not cause for alarm”). A true developmental questionnaire is going to include many more questions and test against a much wider range of standards — and therefore be much more effective. It sounds like you got a lot of help for your son via similar developmental questionnaires. And to be fair to standardized tests, when used properly, they can serve similar diagnostic purposes. The problem is that they aren’t used properly. The stakes placed on these tests — student promotion, teacher evaluations or bonuses, and so on — are way, way, way too high. We (by which I mean people in this country in general, particularly politicians) are expecting these tests to tell us about stuff that they simply weren’t designed to tell us. And in that sense yes, the standardized tests used in schools are quite different from those that helped you get services for your son.


Rachael July 13, 2011 at 10:30 PM

And P.S., thank you for speaking up.


Inder July 14, 2011 at 1:33 AM

Well, you’ve almost sold me on standardized tests! 🙂 If they were used to help kids, I might feel differently, but around here, they’re used to determine how much funding whole schools and districts get. Blech. Also, I think of standardized tests as crappy multiple-choice questions, etc.

I completely agree that doctors need to apply these tests compassionately, taking family differences into account. But developmental checklists at the pediatrician’s office are really just a threshold test – grossly simple and, yes, a blunt instrument, to say the least. When we got follow-up assessments it was not a “checklist” or yes/no questions, but rather a long dialogue. So nothing like my negative memories of standardized tests.

Anyway, there is a wide range of normal in development, and everyone I’ve worked with in Early Intervention services has been the first to say that. The test is intended to catch kids who might fall through the cracks, not “pass” or “fail” them, although I admit, some doctors kind of act like that’s the deal.
Inder recently posted… A quiet Saturday at FolkArt Headquarters.


Rachael July 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Ha, well I’m not really sold on standardized tests. Though they may have their uses, those uses are pretty narrow — which of course is hard to remember, given the heavy, heavy weight we place on those damn scores. Here in NYC, test scores are used to determine whether or not students should be promoted to the next grade (which the tests are not designed to determine), and they are weighted pretty heavily in teacher evaluations (even though, again, the tests are not designed to measure individual teacher effectiveness).

Oh, and I should also say that my initial definition of standardized tests is pretty sloppy. But it’s 11:00 p.m. right now, so I’m not going to try to come up with a better one.

Inder July 15, 2011 at 8:37 PM

Well, I wasn’t really writing about standardized tests anyway. I was just trying to say that for me, those checklists have caused a huge amount of anxiety and worry – not because they are stupid, but because my 27 month old speaks at the level of a one year old. Of course, I don’t define my child by his milestones – he is everything to me and perfect in my eyes – I think he’ll catch up in his speaking, hopefully very soon! But if he needs extra help learning to speak, I want him to get it. To the mother of a developmentally normal child, the checklist is annoying and ridiculously simplistic. To me, it’s a tool for finding – and getting help for – children like mine.
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