Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Bad by Sharon O'Donnell

Last week I wrote about getting my 16-year-old son ready to take the SAT and how frustrating of a process that is. And I have to admit as I've been taking him back and forth to his SAT prep course every Saturday and Sunday since mid-November and going through "Sentence Error" and "Sentence Completion" questions with him until I see little ovals with A, B, C, D, and No Error written in them in my sleep, I've been thinking how I get to do it all over again when my fourth grader is a junior in high school -- and I know from experience how quickly that time will pass.

I've also had another episode of mother guilt recently. Yes, I was the one who instigated the SAT prep course, the one who's been working with my son on sample questions and urging him to work on his Power Vocab program on the computer, so he would be ready for the test day - which is today. I'd signed him up for the SAT back in November, way before the deadline for the January test. Everything was in order, and I'd prepared my son the best I could. I felt good that things had all fallen into place: the test prep course went well, his recent exams had gone well, and he even had time to study exclusively for the SAT two days prior to the test because the semester was over and there was a two-day break. I'd applied for and received extended time for my son to complete the SAT, due to some diagnosed processing problems he has. His eligibility letter for that, his photo ID, his calculator, his number 2 pencils -- all of it was ready to go in a packet for him.

All I had to do next was to print out his admission ticket from the all-powerful College Board (feel free to bow down if you want). So late Thursday night when I printed it out, imagine my shock when I looked at the date for the test and said "March 12" not "January 22". Holy crap. How did that happen? However it happened, it was obviously my fault because I was the one who registered him for the test. Then a vague recollection came to me -- a vision of myself sitting at the computer and thinking "Well, if he finishes the prep course the week before the test in January, he might need some more time to practice what he'd learned" and then signing him up for the March date, thinking I had time to go back and change the date if needed. Of course, after that, I forgot all about it.

During the prep course, my son made gains on the practice SATs each of the four times they were given. He was building momentum and I was glad that he'd be taking the test immediately after the course ended so it would be all fresh in his mind.
Correction -- I THOUGHT he'd be taking the test immediately after the end of the course in January. For some reason, I'd completely blacked out the fact that I'd registered him for March.

Thus, I spent a sleepless night Thursday, thinking about how I'd sabotaged my own carefully laid out SAT plan and that my son would be doomed now that he couldn't take the test he'd been studying for so diligently and without complaint (well, most of the time). Mother guilt set in. It was as they say, my bad.
Then I spent all day Friday emailing and calling various testing centers in the area to try to find space for my son to take the test as a Standby test-taker. I even called -- dare I say it -- The College Board itself -- to see which testing centers in our area had space available for unregistered test-takers who also needed extended time. Someone there actually answered the phone and turned out to be pretty nice. Suffice it to say that after pleading and begging and telling people how badly I felt about my mistake possibly hurting my son, someone at another nearby high school took pity on me. It took his calling the testing administrator at her home, and the whole issue wasn't resolved until 6:30 the night before the test -- but alas, it was resolved.

He's taking the SAT as I type this. My husband and I dropped him off as I gave him last minute advice like "Make sure you use at least once semi-colon in your essay and to use good word choice". (Notice I did not give him advice for the math section as that is definitely not my department). As I watched him walk through the door, strains of the Hallelujah Chorus began in my mind. My mother guilt melted away, though I'm sure it will return at some other time in the near future. Now if only my son can make it through those incredibly long reading passages with vocab words that would give Daniel Webster pause, we'll be okay. Hallelujah indeed.


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