Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Independence Day

Martina McBride has some lyrics that are pretty powerful, and they're on my mind today:

Let freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is the day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong
Let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away
Let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day

I'm not sure why I keep humming the tune to this particular song, aside from the date and the fact that I'm here at the coast for our "Fourth of July" family observance (aka - vacation.) But it's making me think about our forefathers, the meaning of the word "freedom," our soldiers who are fighting for ours, and various and sundry derivations as my mind jumps tracks every few seconds to take another direction.

However, I have keyed in to one thought - is there some type of freedom I personally would like to celebrate? Is there some part of my life from which I need to be free? Now I'm thinking. Let's see, is it my husband? No, he's cooking my breakfast; better keep him. How about my kids? They sure do cause me a great deal of worry: are they buckled in? Are they driving in a storm? Are they being stalked by psychos? Can they pay their phone bills? Can they use their phones to call their mama?! But, no, I'd like to keep them, too. They, of course, are my "IV to the vein" source for joy. Oh, but the animals! My dog just this morning threw up half a pound of undigested bacon. I didn't even know she snatched it from the counter. But post regurgitation, just look at her, all tail wagging and spotty tongue hanging out. Guess I'll keep the pets, too.

Really when I look at my life as a whole, and I think about all the stresses, I realize there is just one thing that I'd rather live without...one thing that would tempt me to break a city ordinance and shoot off fireworks in my yard. I only want independence from this one thing:

Standardized Testing.

Those two words look rather innocent sitting there, but I can tell you that they are the bane of my existence as a teacher. I can't erase the image of the nineteen eighth graders I tested a few years ago, sitting with number 2 pencils in hand, tears streaming quietly down their cheeks. That one test, on one day, meant the difference between going on to high school with their friends or enduring one more day in middle school as 16 year olds. I remember a kindergartener telling her mother, "School was really quiet today. The big kids were taking the E-I-E-I-O's." (Our state tests are called End of Grade Tests - EOG's) If only those tests were as simple as Old McDonald's song.

Just a few weeks ago, I tested for 13 days straight. There were the original tests, then the makeups, then the "special setting" tests, then the makeups for those, then the makeups for the makeups...it went on and on. Meanwhile, there were things I could have been telling my students, stories to share that went untold, relationships to build that will have to wait. But each test was given, each score tallied, and now as I sit on the shore of the Atlantic and look at water that brought my distant relatives over from England, my students sit in summer school which will end in yet another attempt to pass a test.

Independence Day for me? An announcement that testing as we know it has changed. A decree that students will be judged by products of work, surveys of dispositions, folders of writing samples, examples of growth over time...instead of one day of bubbling.

In 1778, General George Washington celebrated Indepedence Day with an extra ration of rum for his soldiers. I'd settle for some of our school cafeteria's peach cobbler. And the chance to be the creative, inspiring teacher that I want to be. My students deserve that.

Let freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the world know that today is the day of reckoning...

1 comment:

Chris said...

Sorry to hear of your plight. I can't imagine the pain of 13 days in a row - I get annoyed when we have to give up a morning for testing. Imagine what you could have done in those 13 days -- I don't remember who said this, but I found it poignant: "A cow doesn't get fatter by weighing it." Perhaps NCLB and the testing that accompanies will disappear with the election...