Sunday, June 29, 2014

Preparing for Life's Tests?

There is a post that keeps popping up in my Facebook news feed asking me if my child is just bright or gifted. If I click on the link I'm promised to discover the truth. 

Horrified by the idea of considering any child "just bright" I clicked to find out what sort of site would be sponsoring this. The blog's name made me cringe even more- Testing Mom. The two words don't sit well together for me. Testing teacher? Yes, begrudgingly. Testing psychologist? Of course. Testing mom? Testing isn't the imagine I want my daughter to think of when she thinks of me. Caring, questioning, prompting, encouraging, teaching- all qualities that can lead to promoting her skills, but without testing.

"Preparing for all life's tests" is the tag line, and for a minute I thought, ok, life has some big tests- character building, independence pushing tests. 
I quickly discovered that's not the kind of test it is talking about. Life's tests apparently include the Woodcock Johnson and other IQ and educational performance based tests. In fact if you sign up for the site you will have access to practice questions for all sorts of tests out there. The site will prepare you to actively coach your child through diffetent assessments that can help your child get into good preschools, elementary schools and gifted programs.

I suppose I knew all along that sites and programs like this existed but in the world of teaching in a title one school I feel far removed from it. 

This site seems to sum up everything that is wrong with education. It's not about teaching children, preparing them, strengthening them or helping them become better people. It's about helping them pass arbitrary tests that sadly hold the perceived keys to a child's future. Parents do this because they don't want their child left behind or to miss out on opportunities. Somehow wanting the best has become gaming the system.

I once was giving one of these assessments when it became abundantly clear the child had been coached. That went straight into my report, making the scores unreliable because we no longer had a true picture of the child. 

Preparing your child for life's tests? Play with them. Read books. Go on a nature walk. Coach them through independently ordering at a restaurant. Cook together. Eat dinner as a family. Listen to their thoughts and concerns. Love them. Encourage hard work, determination, empathy and delayed gratification. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cardboard oh cardboard

This summer is quickly becoming all about the cardboard.

After wondering what to do with my poster board after my teacher research presentation I realized it was just begging to be repurposed into a castle. 

--- --- ---
Then yesterday we walked in the door and my daughter spied a massive stack of empty boxes we have to pack up our basement to get it painted. 
"A tower!" She exclaimed, "can I knock it over?"

Although my first instinct was no I realized there really wasn't a problem knocking over empty boxes as long as she didn't hit anything. We took them down to the almost empty basement and built castles to knock over. 

I'm tempted to let her paint the boxes once we've finished unpacking them and keep them for a little while so she can construct her own giant towers. Better than store bought blocks and when she's lost interest we can send them to recycling.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Even though I was out of my classroom most of this year I still spent August carefully setting it up, carefully organizing it for my own needs, planning for units I knew I would do, and making use of the storage space for what I knew would work best for me.

 When I had to leave the room I left everything the same so the kids would have consistency. After a long term sub and finally a full time teacher the room ended the year by being lived in by three different teachers. Everyone had their own organizational style and three different styles gave way to a fairly disorganized room. 

I'm going back in today (the last day of school- yes, we are still in school) to help sort through things and pack up my own supplies since I won't have a classroom next year. 

On Monday I went by and packed my plastic baskets. So. Many. Baskets. As an elementary school teacher there seems to be a rule that you must own as many baskets as possible. Baskets for pencils (one for working pencils, another for broken pencils, then baskets for each table group) baskets for crayons, markers, scissors, glue, paper, 100 baskets for a well organized classroom library, baskets for where to turn work in, baskets for center supplies, for storing upcoming activities, for notes to the teacher. We are talking a lot of baskets. The money adds up. 
So I'm left with the great basket debate-without a classroom I have nowhere to keep the baskets, but if I get rid of them I will just need them again in a few years when I go back to having my own classroom. I made the mistake of getting rid of baskets when I left my room the first time- and then had to spend so much money buying them again.

The same theory for files, teacher made games and centers- I am not going to need any of these things in the near future but if I just throw them away or donate them I will find myself recreating them all again in a few years. And frankly I'd rather spend the money on buying new baskets than the time it takes to recreate center games. The hours of cutting laminent are just too painful to have to recreate. 

Maybe part of my hesitation to purge my room is my sadness for leaving the classroom. I love having my own room and I'm not ready to get rid of the supplies that represent all the fun I have teaching. The mountain of baskets is calling to me, begging to be filled with pencils and crayons once again. 

Wish me luck today as we try to sort out the room!