This week, I’ve been calling some of my students who scored a below “qualified” on the AP Lit test, earning a “2”. I haven’t yet connected voice to voice with each student, but so far, the conversations have gone well. It wasn’t until I was walking with a friend processing my son’s soccer tryout (and placement on a different tier team) that I made the connection between my personal and professional worlds.
As my son approaches eighth grade, his soccer age mates fold in the kids in the previous birth year who aren’t yet entering high school. Sometimes those are kids “redshirted” and sometimes it’s just a December birthday. Two weeks ago, my son learned he was moved down a tier from “Red” to “White” team. With any range of pre-thinking, whether that decision was feared, anticipated, or felt inevitable, the judgment plays with his sense of identity and worth, and that thinking (mourning) process is really hard to watch as a parent.
For my part, I keep wondering if I read last year’s coach, the one that continues with the “Red” team, correctly. I thought he trusted and esteemed my son. I thought he valued him. I have my own identity crisis: do I understand people? Did I understand what I was seeing on the field?
You know what would solve much of this? A message from the coach. An outreach, a connection. My son didn’t think any step of tryouts went his way. On each day, he talked about why he didn’t think his abilities showed through. If his coach could add feedback– either on the tryouts decisions or, most importantly, on my son’s soccer abilities, some of the placement angst might be blunted. Some of his soccer identify salved.
So cue the phone calls about AP scores. In those calls, maybe the student and I both recall timed tests weren’t a strength. Maybe we curse the complexity of Hawthorne or laugh about plants revealing colonization. Maybe we both think the score doesn’t make sense and isn’t accurate for the skills revealed in class– and then there is that key bit of feedback I can offer the student:
“This is a a single score on a single day. You are not the score. You are ready for college. You will do fine. You are_____________– resilient, a thinker, an amazing discussion broker, a writer willing to work the process.”
That feedback and that renewal of faith— well, that goes a long way. It does a long way in a classroom and it would go a long way on the soccer field. And that connection– having my parent heart and my teacher brain both in alignment– will help make those remaining calls.