I am dedicating this post to all of my friends who teach, who reach out to kids, who understand that everyone learns at a different pace and in a different style. I dedicate it to all of my talented, smart, commited teaching friends who lie awake at night worrying about other people’s children. I don’t want to be depressing or negative, but I feel this post sort of simmering in my heart, and I need to get it out before it does me harm.
Teachers understand that it is essential to use every modality and every approach in order to reach every child. We know instinctively that we have to adjust our expectations to draw in the children who are struggling to learn English, who are trying to overcome violent pasts, who are working so hard to learn in spite of serious disabilities. We know that we need to reach them, to love them, to make them feel safe. We need to convince them that they CAN do this. They CAN read/write/do math. We understand the need to constantly adjust, adapt, modify and change.
Ask any teacher. We will all tell you, with absolute certainty, that no two learners are alike.
This is why we stay up until midnight trying to adapt the science lesson so that the Chinese speakers can read the information. This is why we spend our lunch times changing the math homework so that the learning disabled child can feel successful. It’s why we choose five books at different reading levels as we try to challenge every reader.
We get it.
And this is why, when every child is forced to take the same test on the same day, we can only shake our heads and swallow hard and repeat the mantra, “I’m sorry, honey. I can’t answer that question.”
This is why, when the test results come out, and everyone in the state can see how successful our students were on this one test on this one day, we feel as if one more brick has been added to the crushing weight of the expectations that have been placed on our shoulders.
This why we cry quietly in the night when we look at least year’s scores. We see the failing score of the child who missed a month of school because of mental illness, and who came to us five weeks before the tests. We understand that there was nothing more we could have done to have gotten this child over this particular test. The fact that she began to come willingly to school for the first time in six months should have been seen as a victory, but the state only looks at her score on this one test, on this one day.
This is why we feel so helpless when we look at the failing score of the boy who came to us from a third world country, still unsettled by the bombings he saw there. We understand that this child was diagnosed with ADD and put on medications in the middle of last year. We know that he is smart, creative and kind. We recognize that the test scores can’t show all of this.
This is why we feel that it is just so incredibly unfair that we are held responsible for the scores of the kids in our classrooms. As if we can erase the anxiety, the depression, the birth in a third world country, the primary language, the family dynamics…..
As if a few hours a day, a few months a year, can really force a child to understand all of the little nuances that are measured on this one test on this one day.
I dedicate this post to all of my teaching friends. I’m not sure how much longer I can keep up this good fight, but I want to thank all of you for keeping your eyes on those values that you know define a good education.
You support your students; you encourage them; you love them. You tell them that they are worthy of your respect.
That one stupid test on that one day can’t erase all that.