It’s been a minute, yall. But here’s something going on in my life.
So I was (am?) a first-generation college student. Definitely, a first-generation Ph.D. student and my whole life education has been tied to my ideas about survival. Let me explain…from a really early age, I understood that to make it I would have to succeed in school and succeed without very many (if any) extra resources. So for example, if I wasn’t good at math, I had to get good at it because there weren’t any extra resources for tutors and there wasn’t anybody to pick me up after school if I needed to stay late with my teacher. Doing well in school meant going to college which meant getting out of the cycles of abuse and addiction running rampant in my family i.e. school=survival for me.
Fast forward however many years and I’m not just surviving anymore–I’m living. I’m semi-successful in my program (getting published, teaching awards, etc) and I have a really happy family life. My friends are the best people in the world like foreal…foreal (shout out to Tate, Avery, and Kye) and I’m looking forward to the future. Despite all of this certain things trigger a lot of anxiety for me.
So grad school is hard. It causes stress and anxiety but I can handle it because what other option is there? It’s not grad school that stresses me out to the max. I mean it does but it’s a stress I can handle…I’m used to it. I’ll get my shit done and done well no matter what.
But this week my newly turned 5-year-old came home with the results of her first standardized test. Yeah, they giving 5-year-olds standardized tests these days. And I know the research on these tests. I KNOW that they are biased and they don’t indicate success or intelligence but when my kid came home with a below average score in math, I could feel my associations between education and survival flaring to the surface and what ensued was a solid 48 hrs of panic-induced stress.
Like what if she fails in school…in life? What if this cycle I’m working to break just gets picked right back up?? These were the kinds of thoughts I was experiencing.
And then I had some time to process. Math tests are meant to test logical thinking skills. My kid is so fucking logical. She puts together 75 piece puzzles and talks about how we breathe oxygen in but not out. Or she wants to know why the races at the skating rink are broken up between boys and girls because “I’m fast like boys, Mom.” She’s smart. She’s logical. She knows shit and maybe she can’t recognize her numbers all the time. Or maybe she experienced the kind of bias that happens when teachers sit down with little girls and test them in math and as research has shown score them disproportionately lower than little boys.
But what I realized that’s maybe more important here is that even if she’s not good at math, she’s going to be okay because school and education don’t have to be the same thing for her as it was for me. She’s going to survive because she has resources that I didn’t. We’re giving her those resources. She’s going to be okay because she has the space to be good at music or art or whatever. Her life doesn’t depend on being above average on standardized tests.
I mean I still bought like 7 workbooks and we’re about to learn some math skills, but with a lot less anxiety than I initially had.