Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Shocking Answer from a Future Student

Yesterday, we had our registration for the upcoming school year. It is the first opportunity where I get to meet some of my students for the next year. I look forward to this opportunity to get to know some of my future students and get a feel for their expectations for the upcoming year. One of the questions that I ask is, "What are you looking forward to the most about 5th grade?" I usually get a wide variety of answers, but yesterday I got an answer that shocked me. One of my future students told me  (without hesitation) that she is most looking forward to standardized testing in the Spring.

WHAT?!? Really?!? What does this say about the state of education that a student would look forward to testing as the most exciting thing in the upcoming year? I know that we are constantly bombarded (sometimes assaulted) with the constant pressure to have students perform on these tests. For some of us, we hear about it at every faculty meeting, grade level meeting, data meeting,  and via email correspondence. We have mandatory PD about the new strategies we are required to employ with our students in the name of meeting AYP. As a teacher it can really wear you down, stress you out, and kill all of your creativity.

However, as teachers, should we be passing this pressure of standardized testing off onto our students? Are we giving them a false sense of the priorities in their educational journey? Just because we are assaulted with the pressures, that doesn't mean that our learners need to be. We still need to protect the integrity of our learners' education. It is our job to stand in the gap. I know first hand that it isn't easy. I'm envious of the teachers who get to teach and promote literacy and not be hampered by a scripted reading program. I long for time to actually have a writers workshop. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

But, that doesn't mean that our students can't still thrive in our classrooms. They can be creative; they can connect; they can make choices in what and how they learn. It just takes a little bit of effort on our part to find a way to give them that freedom. I tell my students at the beginning of the year that we are not in fifth grade to prepare for a test. We are here to prepare for life. The looks of relief that I see are remarkable. It's a small shift that makes a big difference. Are we still mastering the standards? Yes. Actually, my students usually far exceed the standards. They become thinkers. They love what we do in class so much that they beg to come to school early, stay late, or even skip lunch.

Does that mean that they don't hear about testing? No, that's being unrealistic. We hear about it everywhere. In spite of this, we can make a difference so that none of our students leave us at the end of the year and only having testing to look forward to for the next year. I'm looking forward to this year and changing this student's expectation for the year. Once we get started, testing will be the furthest thing from her mind.

1 comment:

  1. As a fourth grade teacher, it's amazing to see such young children already programed to be concerned about State testing. I've experience so many students not concerned nor wanting to put forth any effort if it's not the "TEST" or for a grade. This irritates me so much because I want to show and share to my students that life isn't all about what's on a test. Trying to reprogram their minds to just learn is the most difficult task ever. I saw the article about your book in "Alabama School Journal,' and I can't wait to read your book. I'm very interested in technology, but I find a challenge to incorporate into the Language Arts curriculum, especially with a system that lives and survives on pacing guides and basal series. I love to see the students' look when they learn something new about technology. I'm new to your blog, but I definitely look forward to reading more!