Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Can We Just Go to the Gym?!

For the past two days we have been administering Mock Standardized Tests at our school. These assessments look just like the ones our students will take in May - same number of questions, same testing-ese (phrases like "tone of the passage" and "mood of the selection".)

I have been chosen to administer the read-aloud versions of these tests to small groups of students. Today was especially pleasurable - have you ever read a math test aloud?

Anyway, today the entire school was finished with testing when I was still reading, "What is the slope of x+ 4 = 2?" or something like that. Soon all of the students in the school were switching classes with the exception of the students who were listening to me. My own remedial reading students, who would have been on their way to my classroom, were diverted. They were told to go to the gym for a period of basketball. I pictured them running with glee when they heard that news.

I was done "reading math" (oxymoron) by the time my second class was on the way. Unfortunately, they passed my first class in the hallway. They all felt compelled to say, "WE WENT TO THE GYM!!!" So my next class came in, and like a rehearsed chorus they asked, "Can WE go to the gym? The other class got to go. That's not fairrrrrrrr!"

"Guys," I said. "I'm not testing anymore. Let's get some work done." One look at those faces, and they had me. I started thinking...I teach remedial reading. These are the kids who are pulled out of everything fun for tutoring. So I grabbed the nearest adult body, the counselor, and asked her to ask the PE teacher if I could bring my kids to the gym. I told her "my kids never get a break. We're always talking about 'the test.'"

She walked down the hall and soon turned around to give me the "thumbs up." My students looked like it was Christmas! I wouldn't let them run, but their hearts were racing. And they were grinning like the tests they had taken an hour before were only distant memories and not the horrible experience they had just lived through.

Later today, my sixth graders were typing letters to their elementary school penpals in the media center. Jonathan's letter ended like this: "I wish the state tests were over. That's all we talk about."

Immediately I felt bad. I've caught myself doing it: "You need to know this because it'll be on the test." Students these days feel like they go to school for one reason - to take a test. So let's say that someone of high authority realizes what Barack Obama has said, "No Child Left Behind? They've left the money behind. They've left the common sense behind" and they do away with it. Or let's say they at least revise it to make sense. Will our students ever know school as it was meant to be? Will they enjoy art, music, and gym classes without guilt? Will I ever be able to give assignments that are just fun and are not meant to help students bubble in correctly?

I recently heard a quote on television: "They're just children. They should be carefree."

I wish I had taken Jonathan's class to the gym. I think he needs a break.


Bets said...

I found your blog through a blog through a blog ... .. .
As a 4th grade teacher, I feel you completely! We just finished 8 days of testing and I'm still finding myself saying, "You need to know this, it'll be on the test!" Maybe I should start saying, "You need to know this, it'll be on NEXT YEAR'S TEST!"

Cindi Rigsbee said...

I promised my kids I would stop saying it, but I can't help it. I keep catching myself, and if I don't...they catch me! And they all say, "You said you wouldn't say that anymore..." ARGGGGHHHH!