Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chana's first limudei kodesh test

Chana did not really study for the test.  She has also ceased to take notes in class (I think because she is finding it hard to distinguish between what needs to be written down and what doesn't).  The night before the test, she said she couldn't find the other perush besides Rashi on a certain pasuk.  I emailed the teacher, who in a timely manner wrote back that it was Rashbam, and I went through both Rashi and Rashbam with Chana.  That was the extent of my helping her study, even though I asked her if she wanted to review the pesukim or meforshim with me.  Although she did not know the translations of the pesukim and meforshim fluently, she felt strongly that she did not want to use her time reading them over and over until she knew them, or trying to memorize the translations.  She also asked me about what would be appropriate if she didn't understand what to do or didn't know the answers.  I suggested she call the teacher over and ask for clarification and assured her that writing things like "This Ramban is not ringing a bell" would be fine.

She came home positive about the test experience, said she knew some answers and not others, and that she used the words "devilishly great" to describe Yosef, and we talked about the nuances of the adverb "devilishly."   She told me about a chemistry joke she wrote at the end for the teacher.

I was in school when she got the test back, and I saw from the teacher's face that she wasn't sure if she should talk to me or not.  We gathered for a short, impromptu parent teacher conference (one of the benefits of me working at the school where my daughter goes).  She had written by Chana's test score: See Me.  When Chana spoke to her, she asked Chana if Chana had studied, and Chana had sort of shrugged and said yes.  I said, "Not especially, other than that Rashbam I asked you about."  She asked Chana if Chana wanted help studying and Chana said, "No."  Then Chana asked her what a passing grade is.  The teacher said, "Um, I think it's 65."  And Chana said, "Okay, so then we're good, right?" (Later, Chana said to me, "Why would they have a passing grade if that's not the mark where below that is a problem and above that is fine?")

So I asked if Chana seems to be participating in class and gaining from the in class experience.  The teacher said yes.  I asked if she minded Chana's grade, or felt that Chana needs to improve her grades in order to be in the class.  And she said that she thinks there is a benefit to studying for the tests and being able to do well on them, but if Chana is okay and I'm okay, then she's okay.  I mentioned that this has no relevance to Chana's future college plans, so her grades are largely irrelevant.  I asked if I could see Chana's test, and the teacher gave it to me so that I could bring it home and go over it.

Afterwards, I did a lot of thinking about if there is a benefit to Chana studying and doing well on the tests.  I mentioned to Chana that if she wants college recommendations, and she is barely passing the tests, that might affect what kind of recommendation they would write.  She scowled and said that if she was concerned about college recommendations, she wouldn't ask a teacher from 9th grade and she would apply herself more.

Then I spoke to her about the value of studying for the test.  Which basically means reviewing the pesukim and mefarshim until they are fluent and she understands them.  Chana is not fully convinced that having Chumash skills is valuable, and she definitely doesn't want to spend her precious time on that.  However, I think she did come to understand that there is a value to that (though she is not interested in it), that the teacher is trying to achieve that through the tests she gives, and that this is a goal of the class separate from what she gains merely through sitting in class.

Then, in a practical sense, we went through the test.  Some of the questions I knew the answers to, but some I didn't.  I suggested to Chana that she write down the pasuk and which mefarshim the teacher does on each pasuk, and the diburei hamatchil of each perush.  Then, if she feels like studying, at least we will know what to study.

She mentioned that a girl is switching out.  She asked if it was really true that people switch out of a class they like because they are worried about their grades.  We talked about the fact that as a homeschooler, she has the freedom to stay in a higher level class if she feels she is gaining from it, rather than being concerned about her grades.  Other students are worried about getting into college and many times they feel it looks better to have an A in an easier class than a C in a harder class.  I said that ironically, colleges end up really liking homeschooled students because they find that homeschoolers are very concerned with knowledge more than other factors.

This is something I heard about in just about every parent teacher conference in Sarah's high school, too.  All the teachers praised her for being interested in the knowledge and not the grades.  They spoke about how unusual it is.  And yet, when GPA and test grades are what colleges are looking at, it makes sense for that to be what students focus on.

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