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Today was one of those days, that really makes me wonder about why I became a teacher. It was day one of NWEA testing for my resource room students and as the student were finishing up and I got to see their preliminary scores, my heart just began to sink. It seemed that almost all of their scores were dropping, instead of going up from when they took them during the first week of school.
Then during our monthly staff meeting we got the word on our Reading and Writing NECAP (our NCLBAYP reporting assessment) results were substantially below the requirement. Special Education students no longer being able to access previously authorized test accommodations/modifications were discussed as part of the reason, but our departments low results were certainly highlighted when discussing the school’s low scores.
By the time the meeting was over I was beat, tired, frustrated and just tired of hearing about standardized test results. I didn’t go to the gym, instead I drove home thinking about all the things I could write in my blog about my frustrating day.
Blogging has become my way to process what is going on and how I can improve my teaching.
On the way home I stopped at the bakery and got a Whoopie Pie, a box of Red Hot Tamales and a Dr. Pepper (which I haven’t done all three in several years), then went home and told my wife that it was store night for supper (I ordered a small steak bomb & cheese with french fries – at least I didn’t get the large) then sat in my chair for a little while with my dog in my lap (by the way he doesn’t give a damn about standardized tests), so that I wouldn’t get my laptop out and really have a honker of a blog post that I might regret publishing later.
I have now eaten my comfort foods of choice and am not nearly as down as I was when I first got home and have had a chance to reflect on my teaching.
I am not a big believer in Standardized Testing, never have been and never will be. At the same time, the scores that are going to be reported for my students are still a blow to my self-esteem and made me question what I am doing in the classroom. To see those low test results despite all the hard work that you put into your classes, sure doesn’t validate that I am doing very much in the way that some administrators or politicos might see as successful teaching. They would/will certainly make for talking points.
The thing is these standardized test results don’t portray the individual victories that have happened almost daily in my classroom, which can’t be measured on a test:
- the students who complain when they can’t read or ask to read longer;
- complaining because there aren’t enough copies of a certain book in the school;
- the girl who actually dares to smile in class and will attempt to answer a question asked orally in front of other kids;
- a different young lady that can now laugh at herself and then give you that little smile when you point it out to her;
- the tough guys who teased Mr. Shaw about the tears coming down his cheeks when he read some parts of The Lottery Rose, but who were doing some serious blinking or had something in their eyes while he was reading it;
- the boy who comes to school, when he really, really doesn’t want to.
- students knowing how to use different technological tools that they will have to learn and know later;
- knowing how to stay safer online;
- the students knowing that I don’t give up on them and that I treat them with respect and dignity in my classroom;
- and so many other little individual victories that have happened this school year;
Those are the kinds of things that I am proud of in my teaching this year.
This post is not to complain about standardized testing, it is simply a part of teaching in today’s world and whether I or any other teachers like it or not. Standardized testing will be part of the system until laws are changed by politicians who control the purse strings and based on what is happening I don’t foresee that happening for the rest of my teaching career. So standardized tests are going to be a part of teaching for as long as I am a teacher, it is something I will just have to deal with.
Teaching our students is more about forming appropriate teacher-student relationships, giving them basic skills to be able to solve problems independently and tell others how they are going to do it orally or in writing, showing them someone does give a damn about them, or that (in my case) just because someone is older they can be geeky, than simply attempting to increase a standardized test score.
I often do question whether I am doing/teaching the right things in my resource room classes, where teaching can often feel like trying to hit a target moving at 90 mph and you are shooting at it with a bow and arrow – you might get lucky once in a while, but you are going to miss a lot too. Sometimes it seems as though my student’s abilities or capabilities change almost daily (sometimes hourly), but I have to keep trying different methods to capture their attention, maintain it and attempt to move them forward.
Do I consider myself a great teacher – nope, but I do believe that I am a good teacher and I try to be the best teacher that I can be, but at the same time acknowledge that I don’t have all of the answers or time to do everything that I want to do as a teacher.
Today reminded me that I have to remember that just because some students got lower or higher test scores does make me a good or bad teacher. Even though my test scores may not reflect the improvement I would like them to, I don’t believe that they show the progress that many of my students are making either academically or personally in my classroom.
I feel much better after writing this blog post (no it wasn’t a pat myself on the back post) and yes I have a feeling that I will probably make some changes to my curriculum, but I will have to wait and see what the future brings and what other changes will happen that I do not have control over.
I just had to stop, reflect, spend some time away from school, pat the dog, eat poorly, rest a little and think about the good things that I actually do as their teacher. I have to remember teaching is what I do, it is not who I am – sometimes we forget that.
Tomorrow will be a better day, I just know it!