Last week we got our North Carolina driver’s license, and let me tell you: it’s been a long time since I’ve been so nervous before a test. Though never my idea of fun, taking tests never really bothered me before – due in no small part to the fact that I knew how to say, how to repeat back to them, what they wanted to hear. I also had a way of knowing ahead of time what was going to be asked – and I don’t mean by cheating or seeing a copy of the exam ahead of time.

I’ve been driving for, well, a while, and I have a very good record, but that was not considered in my grade, of course. I studied the booklet – even causing us to leave later than planned when I decided to go over a few pages one more time. I knew – I just knew, they were going to ask questions involving numbers. Numbers are easy to judge right or wrong, but I don’t remember numbers. (“You could if you’d quit saying that,” my husband counters.)

And I’m not all that great at spatial concepts, either. I can tell you that a sofa will not fit against that wall, but if there’s nobody else around leaving me to read a map, I have to turn the map so that it’s facing the direction I’m wanting to go. I can tell you how much will fit in the back of my car, but I can’t mentally flip an object over and turn it around and envision a mirror image.

For most of my life, those who are strong in math and spatial concepts and the (seeming) definitive rationale of science have been considered smart. Now we know that there are several different types of intelligences, that there are different ways of knowing, and I can’t help but wonder how my life would’ve been different had we (or they) known these things decades earlier.

But I digress . . .

As I studied for the exam, I paid close attention to numbers because I knew that’s the favored knowledge, but I have to tell you that I’m eversomuchmore interested in knowing how to best negotiate a slide on ice or how to prevent catastrophe when hydroplaning than knowing fines for speeding or what the default speed limit is if not posted in small towns or how many seconds I should allow between cars using traveling speeds to calculate.

As I fought back panic and did my best to move resolutely and positively into sheer unadulterated dread, I realized that it’s been a very long time since I was required to – since I was willing to – be judged on my performance. Oh, sure, it happens all the time, but I went headfirst into this judging situation . . . and I didn’t like it one little bit.

We all know that I have authority issues – I’ve never made any bones about that – but it doesn’t mean that I’m always wrong or should be discounted. While I don’t have any alternative licensing questions in mind, I do know that it’s just as important (more so to me) to know how to drive in certain situations for the protection of yourself and others. (And I’m not saying that those questions weren’t asked on another version of the test, so don’t get sidetracked into that comfortable little black and white area.)

Taking that 15-minute test really unpacked a lot of issues and selves (past and present) for me. Once I (finally) get settled, I’m whipping out my copy of books like Willing to Learn: Passages of Personal Discovery by Mary Catherine Bateson and Women’s Ways of Knowing by Mary Belenky, Blythe Clinchy, Nancy Goldberger, and Jill Tarule for a fourteenth read, and you can bet your sweet patootie I’ll have more to say about learning and knowing and teaching – a lot more ’cause it’s one of my favorite authority issues.

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  1. Mrsmediocrity

    that was some serious unpacking. i always turn the map in the direction i am traveling. makes perfect sense to me. miss you!

  2. Elizabeth Marie

    I talked myself into being bad in math when I was in fourth-grade (doing fifth-grade math). Authority figure fond of humiliation + sensitive Lizzie = I quit trying to grasp the concepts without a struggle. When I dug into some old records my parents had saved (I inherited bunches of old family records), I discovered that when I was quite young, I tested really well on those IQ evaluations, even in math. Took a person to make me feel stupid, not a test. I eventually talked myself into thinking I was bad at standardized tests, too, so I BECAME bad at standardized tests. ha! The power of young ego, huh?

    I’m glad you got some “unpacking” done through that test.

    I’ve been worried about you because of those storms that hit North Carolina. But I feel that you are all right.

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