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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SLICE OF LIFE

So I'm kind of wondering if I might be losing my teaching mind???

I have always thought of myself as someone who demanded, and got, a lot out of kids, but lately I'm really beginning to wonder. It has to do with this thing we are calling "rigor."

Because I'm kind of feeling like there is a fine line between rigor and ridiculous.

And somehow, I think we have crossed it.

 I look at the kids I teach. They are seven or eight or thirteen or fourteen. They read-- picture books and chapter books and graphic novels and poetry and social media and text books-- all the time. They seem to be developing as readers.

But then I look at the texts/passages we are asking kids to read on tests. And mostly, they seem ridiculously hard. Two or three or four years above what I would expect kids that age to read and understand. And I question whether this is really developmentally appropriate, really necessary.

And I look at the questions kids are being asked to answer. Minutiae. Teeny, teeny twists in language that separate the correct answer from the closest distractor. And I think of the English Language Learners I teach. And I question whether this is really developmentally appropriate, really necessary.

And I look at what we are asking kids to write. Forget personal narrative, or response to text. Kids are presented with at least two relatively long passages. Asked to compare point of view, or character change over time, or literary techniques. Often in a 45 minute time frame.  And I question whether this is really developmentally appropriate, really necessary.

I watch our third graders, who have only just learned to keyboard. Watch their faces scrunch as they think. Watch their hands stretch as they attempt to type. And I question whether this is really developmentally appropriate, really necessary.

I look at the way some of the test questions are constructed. And I wonder whether they are really measuring kids' reading and writing abilities, or their computer savvy. And whether we can really count one or two or three questions as an accurate measure of a child's mastery of a standard. And I question whether this is really necessary.

I wonder about all of this, but when I open my mouth to ask questions, people look at me like I'm a heretic. Like I don't expect enough out of kids. And I feel like the child who is pointing out that the emperor is wearing new clothes.

So I'm kind of wondering if I might be losing my teaching mind???

7 comments:

daywells said...

Carol, I hear you. It becomes difficult when you teach your heart out, students are working so hard, everyone is engaged and engaging and growing and learning and yet. The bar is raised and raised again. It can definitely make one feel they are losing their mind. Or someone is. I think that perhaps we have to step back and think about what it is that really matters when it comes to our students. I think you know. Testing matters because we need to be accountable to our students, to each subgroup too. But ultimately we are accountable to ourselves for doing what we know is best and doing what we know is right. I applaud your willingness to teach to the best of your abilities and to grow your own understandings. Keep heart dear teacher, writer, learner! Your students are fortunate indeed.

Kathleen Sokolowski said...

You are not losing your mind. I am right there with you! I love what the above commenter said: "We are accountable to ourselves for doing what we know is best and doing what we know is right." A- MEN! :)

Lisa Corbett said...

'Tis the season! Lots of people are writing about this today. All this testing is so frustrating! I'm glad I left the USA long ago. We do the testing here too, but it is much less invasive.

Linda B said...

I can't reply with any authority, but can respond to what you shared, Carol. First, the questions sound hard enough, but to require answers typed is ridiculous for your young ones, perhaps even the 5th graders. I'm sorry that you don't have more colleagues responding positively to your questions. Leigh Anne and others have touched on the challenges for students in crisis, and we know that some students are often in crisis at home. I wish this could be solved, that wonderful teachers like you would not begin to question themselves. That is a tragedy.

Ramona said...

I am so glad that I don't have to take the tests! I love your take on how we may have moved from rigor to ridiculous. And no, you are NOT losing your teaching mind. You're asking the questions that good teachers should continue to ask. Thank goodness for people like you in our profession!

Leigh Anne Eck said...

My colleagues and I have had several conversations lately over this very issue. I teach ELA and so much of what we do is interpretive and the test does not measure that. It measures what the test makers think the right answer should be. It is frustrating. Luckily I have wonderful administrators who support what I do. This is time when we all need to support each other!

Elisa Waingort said...

Hey Carol!
I hear you! You are not losing your teaching mind! You are right where you should be: questioning all of these ridiculous policies that accelerate students without reason, punish kids for being kids, and don't recognize real reading growth. I see this growth in my students every day. No standardized test can tell me more than what I already know about my students and those that puzzle me are my teaching challenges. I give the tests because I have to. I don't gauge my teaching or my students' learning on the test results.

Keep speaking up. We all need everyone to recuperate their teaching minds. Sometimes it feels like a Stepford world of schools. In order to show we are being rigorous (hate that word) teachers are becoming like Stepford wives - silently following along, not reflecting, not questioning what is right there for us to see. So tragic. So sad. You keep going, girl! Our collective voices will rise up. We all need it, but our students need it more. Thanks for posting this.