These words, spoken by Butt-Head, the bard of my generation, used to make me laugh. They conjured my struggles with long division, algebra, and my difficulty having any concept of time. Numbers were never my friend and I could never make them go away. They used to annoy me, but now they truly anger me.
Numbers effin' haunt me. I did my first triathlon at the age of 34, after having spent my youth being decidedly unathletic. Before I started training, I had never run more than one mile, and that was ONE time in 10th grade gym class. So when I crossed the finish line, I felt amazing! I did it! I could do anything! And then I made the mistake of looking at the race results. I had finished dead last in my age group. Effin' numbers. I then tried to comfort myself with another number: I had actually come in ahead of another woman who was 10 years my junior, but decided she must have run the entire race while carrying a full bag of groceries.
I used to joke that I became an English teacher in order to avoid numbers, but there's no avoiding numbers. I love my job, but I HATE grading essays. I hate putting a number value on their work. I would much rather write comments all over it and hand it back. "Here you go! This is what you did well, and this is where you need to improve." No numbers, just feedback, because numbers are heartbreaking. I remember sitting with a weepy girl who was so frustrated that she wasn't getting A's. (Gone are the days of rewarding effort; we're required to grade off a standards-based rubric. Thanks, Common Core!) She was working so hard, but she wasn't meeting the benchmarks for an A. I remember taking out her portfolio and spreading her papers all over the table. Her early writing was really weak and unfocused and now she was doing solid B work. I tried to get her to see past the grade and look at the big picture.
"Look," I said to her. "Look how far you've come. You've gotten so much better at this! Can you see that? Can you see how hard you've worked and how much you've improved? You should be so proud!" I was rewarded with a sniffling, teary attempt at a smile, but I don't know if I really got through.
Which brings me to my current anger at numbers. In advance of my son's re-eval meeting, I was sent his test scores. They wanted benchmarks, and I understand that. Still, it's hard. See, I try really hard to focus on the big picture. I remind myself how happy I was when, at two, my son learned to sign "more" and "more milk," because he was effectively communicating his needs in a way that was much nicer than screaming and throwing his dinner against the wall. Now he can make such requests as, "Go to the restaurant for pizza and pasta and cheeseburgers and french fries and chocolate milk and ice cream, PLEEEEEEEZE!" Now that's progress!
So to see, in black-and-white, that my son scored below the first percentile in linguistic concepts and sentence comprehension was a gut punch. To see, in black-and-white, that he still exhibits "severe receptive, expressive, and pragmatic language deficits"--even after all the hard work from everyone involved--is very, very hard. And I'll admit it. I cried.
Black-and-white sucks. Numbers suck. I have to talk myself down. I have to focus on the big picture. I have to remind myself of my own words: "Look how far he's come! He's worked so hard! You should be proud!"
And I am proud, because we're all working hard, and he is getting better.
Also because he can say, "Fuck it!" like a champ.