I have not posted here in a while since I am no longer an active member of Stop the Tennessee Testing Madness. However, I am still very much part of the cause and, on this final day of 2014, I felt compelled to post this blog. Thank you for taking the time to read this. And I hope that you and yours have a wonderful 2015. –Jennifer Croslin-Smith
My grandfather was labeled a failure by one of his classroom teachers as a child. And just a few months before he died at 93 years of age, he told my mother, with tears in his eyes, about how this teacher would mock him because of his reading problems. (He clearly had undiagnosed dyslexia.)
My grandfather was one of the most intelligent men I will ever know. He made a living working at International Harvester over a period of 30 years. Even though he never finished the 7th grade, he could design and build the most beautiful cabinets and outbuildings; plant and cultivate amazing gardens; (literally) tame wild horses; repair any appliance, machine, or weapon (as he did in WWII); and shoot a gun with the skill of a sniper.
He never needed to ask for directions, even in places new to him, because he had an innate sense of direction that defied logic. He was a respected leader at his church and place of work, and he was funny, kind, helpful, independent, and giving. (His acts of kindness always touched me: He built a beautiful cedar chest, constructed with cedar logs harvested from my great-grandfather’s farm, for me. He also flew 2000 miles to attend both of my college graduations, and helped my father drive all of my belongings from California to Nashville when I moved there to attend Vanderbilt.) Last but not least, he was as stubborn as an ox: He walked the picket lines at Harvester more than once—and he never once crossed those lines.
My grandfather–the child who was labeled a failure so many decades ago–would have undoubtedly been labeled a failure in our current drill and kill, testing-obsessed educational system. My grandfather was not a failure. And the children in our schools who cannot spit out high test scores aren’t failures either. The ones who have failed are those who believe test scores are the ultimate measure of a child’s, teacher’s, or school’s value.
(I now interrupt this post for a message to my detractors who question the motivation for my advocacy work: Now you know. I’m fighting for children like my grandfather. Oh, but I must not omit the fact that I am also fighting for the children I worked with in Title 1 schools. And I am fighting for my brother—an amazing young man who would have likely tanked your precious test scores. But he outworks most anyone, supports his family, writes amazing songs, parents his daughters like a champ, cares for his wife with respect and love, and plays a wicked electric guitar. I am not motivated by money, power, or prestige. I am motivated by a passionate, undying love for some people who have played very important roles in my life. And that is a much stronger motivation than any false pretense you have attempted to attribute to me. )
My grandfather died on January 28th of this year. I miss him and his fearless spirit tremendously. And in his honor, I will continue my quest to ensure that all children receiving a public education are treated with the respect and appreciation they deserve. My allies and I accomplished much in 2014, and I fully expect that our growing army of advocates will continue to walk the proverbial picket lines—and, like my grandfather, we will not stop until our mission has been accomplished.
In honor of Coleman Freeman Croslin. June 1, 1920-January 28, 2014