“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." Kate DiCamillo
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
SLICE 18/31- IN WHICH I FEEL MORE THAN A LITTLE BIT DISAPPOINTED IN MYSELF
disappointed in myself tonight.
Maybe even ashamed of myself.
It has to do with our state tests.
Yesterday, our state department of education announced that we will not be having the tests.
And that's a good thing. I hate those tests.
At the same time, I feel really disappointed in myself.
Because we spent a whole lot of time getting ready for the tests.
We did A LOT of literary analysis paragraphs and essays.
My kids were ready for the test.
And now they are not even going to take it.
(As of today, according to our governor,
we may not even go back to school at all this year.
That seems totally crazy to me!)
I think what I'm most disappointed about is what we didn't do,
because we were writing those stupid essays.
We didn't tell enough stories.
We didn't write enough narrative.
We didn't read enough poetry.
Especially not the kind of poetry that kids love.
And we definitely didn't write enough poetry.
We were going to do that in April.
We didn't do enough writing to express our opinions.
Or use our voices to change the world.
Instead, we wrote literary analysis.
Every year, for the past three years, I have told myself I am NOT
going to fall into the testing rabbit hole.
Instead, I am going to do real teaching.
I think I did better this year than I did last year.
We started the year with a Coming of Age unit.
And wrote some personal narrative.
We did a unit on Immigration.
We read infographics.
And read and wrote informative pieces.
And did some writing around undocumented immigrants
(a topic that impacts a lot of my kids).
Even so, we wrote way too much literary analysis.
And now, I'm feeling really badly.
Because I am not sure my sixth graders understand
that reading and writing can make their lives better
and also change their world.
And it really doesn't matter
that they can write literary analysis.
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It is so hard not to fall into the teaching to the test mode when so much relies on those tests.
I feel sad. Sad because of the expectations we place on ourselves. Because of how you feel, I know you are a good teacher who wants to teach all those things to your students. I feel however, that those kids, because of how you feel, know that there is beauty in reading and writing.
I feel your heartache in this post. The tests are obviously not as important as "they" have made them seem. I talked to a colleague who is upset because "for the first time, I have a class that I think will knock it out of the park." I think there will be lessons learned from all of this. One of them should be that there are more important things to teach than literary essay.
Oh, I remember the test prep we used to do that took time away from real reading and writing. I love that you could remember the things you did right, and they are legion. They will remember those things and make our world better because you are their teacher!
I’m glad you are remembering all that you did that you can embrace right now. I know you. I know how lucky your students are. And all of those literary essays? I know that, too, was you taking care of kids. Our kids live in a world of testing and eventually, sadly, it opens and closes doors. I don’t want to speak for you here, but I want my kids to succeed on the tests, not because the tests have any inherent value, but so that they know they can. I’m guessing you feel similarly.
Really powerful piece, Carol. Like Margaret, I hope that there will be lessons learned from all of this. So much to reflect on when we consider what's truly valuable and meaningful work. Also impossible not to get caught up in testing culture when you're teaching right in the middle of it.
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