Teach. Review. Test. This is the current cycle of instruction in many schools from the beginning of the school year until they take their annual state mandated assessments. As of today, we are in the third week of our four week review for state testing. I understand that testing is a necessary evil to ensure academic growth for students. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve asked myself time and time again if we are truly helping students by demanding they sit for hours each day to regurgitate facts and processes they should have learned weeks before now. There has to be a better way. There must be a way to meet high academic demands and expectations for each students while taking time to see them and hear them daily. We must not let testing sap the joy from education. We must not let testing make school unenjoyable for teachers or students..
Yesterday, I did something I haven't been able to do in a very long time. I sat down and had lunch with students. I didn't mean to have lunch with them. It just kind of happened. I went into a room to get something, and a few students followed me. As I sat down with my guacamole and chips, I was drawn into conversations that ranged from previous elementary school stories to plans for the weekend, and I loved each and every single moment. I was drawn into each conversation simultaneously as the students excitedly took turns talking ninety miles per hour. I kept saying, “Wait! Don’t forget. You can tell me your story next.” They wanted me to hear them. They wanted me to connect with them.
As the conversations came to an end right before the bell, I asked two girls if I had their names correctly. They giggled and each had the same reply for about the fourth time, “Yes, Ms. Taylor. It’s really me.” You see, I have been teaching test preparation classes for the last three weeks, and both of these girls are in my groups at different times, and until yesterday, I had never had a conversation with either one of them. In three weeks, I had not taken the time to see them or hear their stories.
I know. I know. I know what you’re thinking as you read this. “How did you let this happen?” Yes, I greet everyone at the door daily. I call on students who volunteer to answer questions as well as students who try to silently blend in and avoid interaction with me and their classrooms. I work to facilitate a learning environment where all students make a connection with the content. However, I have allowed testing and test preparations keep us from seeing students. We must take time to see them and hear them daily.
There are only 23 more school days. That’s 23 more times to make a difference. That’s 23 more times to let students know I see them. That’s 23 more times to let students know they are important to me. I plan to take every minute to do exactly that. Students are so much more than a test score. Teachers are so much more than test scores.