April 5, 2014

Teachers. We need to slow down.

My heart goes out to you, fellow teachers. If your school is anything like my school, the buzz of end-of-year testing is already reaching a fever pitch.

Let me tell you why that is a CRAZY idea. It might even be a bad idea. Because my state is launching a completely new computer-adaptive test. Which means my third graders have to TYPE a lot of their answers (whoooa, that will be a challenge for those little fingers). Totally new. And there is zero time to train the students because the staff was only trained on it last week. Phew.

Still . . . My inclination is to teach with depth, without transferring the frenzied stress to the kids.


1. The test may be new, but I know the core.

Many of my colleagues are frantic about this new testing system. I refuse to be frantic (and it has to be a conscious effort).  I have been teaching my students quality stuff all year, all core-aligned, meticulously planned . . . you know exactly what I mean because that is how you teach. You resisted the urge to spend 2 weeks on a cute butterfly craftivity, even though it would have been awesome, and taught the phases of the moon instead (AND still managed to do a cute moon-themed craft!).  ALL YEAR, we have been teaching well, hopefully taking measured risks, meeting needs, looking for strengths and weaknesses . . .  so why are we worried? You are a good teacher. Relax and keep teaching.

I don’t know about you, but I want my students to be good thinkers. Creators. Innovators. And that, my friend, takes time. Class time that isn’t being wrung dry by a big fatty state test. I know that testing has a place. It is a tool to show progress and identify needs. It is ONE tool among many.

How about thinking of some other tools? A friend shared an article with me, about what creative people do differently, and even though it wasn’t written about education, it is a portrait of what my ideal classroom would allow

Just reading it made me feel more relaxed and creative. 

Another speaker for education, Sir Ken Robinson, said that children do not grow into creativity, they grow out of it.

My aim is to help my kids to never grow out of their own inherent creative skills.

And then there is this beautiful piece by a veteran teacher about standardized testing.

I could go on.

3. I will NOT lose my sense of humor.

Stress is a killer. But this teacher/possible comedian gets it: read her brilliant solution to test administration woes. I will be trying these out. :)

4.  My students are not machines.

Like you, I have put sweat and tears into building a strong foundation of respect, kindness, and creativity in my classroom. I am not about to squander the last months of school on test-frenzy. There is so much potential for deep, real learning with this group of kids that are now working as a group, despite the bumps in the road. We will prepare and study with the same fun and energy that we have enjoyed all year. They will be ready for the test, yes, but MORE than that, they will still love learning.

There are many great minds better than mine who have explored this idea.  Ken Robinson is a fantastic speaker, who puts plainly the struggles and triumphs that I see every day in the classroom. Here is just one of his thoughts on creativity in the classroom:

How do you create conditions for your students to flourish?
How do you handle testing?

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