Monday, March 14, 2011

Today Was Hard

It seems as though every day in education is hard right now. With the current state of the economy, the labor disputes, the threats to reduce teachers' salaries to minimum wage, talk of furloughs across the country, the blame game being played by everybody and their cousins, and the "solutions" people have been touting... it's really challenging to focus on what's really important - our kids.

But that's what I do because it's what I MUST do. If I were to focus on all of the negatives, I would not be able to continue to do the only job I have wanted since I was 7 years old. And I have learned so much since the beginning of September that it has really energized me and made me realize that I truly can make a difference for my kids.

But today was especially hard.

Why? We started our state testing today. I understand the importance of data, but I despise the idea of putting so much emphasis on one day and one two hour block of time in my students' lives. And that's what this was. Nobody, as the scripted directions in the teachers' manual CLEARLY state, will be checking work or answers in the students' test booklets. The ONLY work that will be graded are those answers whose bubbles are neatly and completely filled in on the bubble sheet or written for the open ended responses.

So nobody will see that my kids who were having a hard time subtracting with regrouping at the beginning of the year actually worked through the entire long division process, they just made a fact mistake.

Nobody will see how students, who have a hard time remembering their multiplication facts, used their strategies to skip count or use touch points to get the answer correct, but then they rounded incorrectly for their estimate.

Nobody will see that my one student correctly wrote the number in expanded form but then picked the wrong multiple choice answer.

Nobody will see exactly how hard my students worked and how focused they were on trying to solve problems THAT HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH REAL LIFE!!!!!!!

That was the hardest part for me. After going through such a paradigm shift and trying to relate so much to my kids' lives, to sit there and watch them work tirelessly on problems that have no purpose or meaning to life just about broke my heart.

I'm so proud of my kids, and I told them so several times today. But I'm so very sad tonight. I know how hard they worked, I know they tried their best, and I know they used skills that they never thought they could do. But nobody else will see that. They will be one number. From three tests. On which they filled in bubbles neatly and completely.

1 comment:

Justin Stortz said...

"But that's what I do because it's what I MUST do."

There's the nut of it right there.

I can feel your frustration and you passion here. I, like so many, get disgusted with this as well. It is so aggravating to see students' daily growth try to be funneled into one day. It helps when the kids (and parents) know that this is not the whole of their learning so far.

I got some great advice from @intrepidteacher. He said--

"Having said that, students know when they have passionate teachers who care about them and the material and the learning. They can see the BS around state tests... Let them begin to question the process.

Perhaps they can write letters to make videos to the school board explaining what they learned from tests and bubbles.

If you want to feel empowered, empower your students to speak up and question the test. If you only feed them frustration they will not grow."

I know from your tweets and blog that you are a passionate educator. You students are fortunate to have someone like you guiding them. The bubbles and No.2's are part of the silly game we play. It definitely helps when all involved know it is a silly game.

The most important thing for your students is that they know that you are proud and believe in them no matter what a state test says.