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Look at The Whole Child – Not Just Test Scores

Every child is unique, has gifts and a way of thinking that no one else has. So what happens when you try to fit a “unique” child into a standardized test? The child that went into the test often comes out as a grade. No child should be labeled by a test score. (Full disclosure – my husband and I both tutor children.) Our passion is teaching today’s kids how to write more imaginatively, to find their unique voice, and create wonder from nothing. Yes, of course, they all learn how to structure an essay, make us believe each essay or story, and if we are lucky – make us smile. Less favorite, but necessary in today’s world - we also tutor them on how to score higher on standardized tests. I know, boo hiss. If we can combine their ability to tap into their creativity, and teach them information that will lead to higher test scores we feel victorious. More importantly, the child feels a higher level of self-worth which may help them feel more secure on test day.

Since it is summer we get to take a deep dive into creativity. No fear, every child can swim in the sea of creativity. He or she may need to remember some of the strokes they used to know, before they started being graded. Using inspiration and curiosity as paddles they can easily navigate the sea of creativity. When they were younger they believed they could do anything. They still can, if encouraged.

There is one tiny obstacle for today’s student. Little by little many school systems ask students to put curiosity and risk taking aside, to study how to pass tests. If student scores increase, so increases the rating of the school.

Higher Test Scores = Bright Students?

Not exactly. It sometimes means that the child has learned to “test well.” Standardized tests are exactly what the name implies – standardized - one size fits all. If a child does not fit into that mold because he or she is challenged from test anxiety, a difficult home life, dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyscalculia (difficulty with math) or dyslexia; standardized tests can be traumatizing, and provide no real assessment of a child’s intellect or creativity. Any learning disorder could keep a genius from racking up points on the standardized test.

Seeing the whole child requires an open mind, the realization that the greatest brains on the planet were as creative as they were smart, that some really successful people were really bad students. They were risk takers, believers of their own ideas, some of them wild ideas at the time.

What happened to creativity, and ingenuity? Not much time in today’s curriculum for that. If we ignore the creative, do not encourage the child who does not fit into the test mold, who could we be leaving out? My favorite is Albert Einstein, who did not even speak until he was nearly four when he told his mother that the soup was too hot.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. Albert Einstein

Stephen Hawking Theoretical Physicist has ALS.

I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer. Stephen Hawking

Temple Grandin PHD., Animal Behaviorist

Grandin is an autistic genius who thinks waaaay outside the box. Her empathy, and ability to think from the animal’s point of view, brought humanity to the beef industry. Thanks to her parents she went to the best schools possible. She turned a bright light on the possibilities for children who fall on the Autism Spectrum, and made most of us feel that we have accomplished very little.

Her Mantra: See the Person – Not the Label. Temple Grandin

Seeing the child as a whole person allows you to see the possibilities rather than the short-comings. If a child excels in creativity, and is praised for it, test day may be less daunting because he or she may walk into the room with a higher level of self-esteem. The biggest benefit of creativity may even be the key to figuring out why an answer is right. Or it may lead to figuring out what the rest of us may be unable to do. by Connie Timpson/Journalist/Writer/Educator/Observer of the Universe

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