This is a rough time of year in schools. We are in the depths of testing. The upper grades are administering the state standardized tests while the younger grades are giving the county assessments, many of which need to be given one on one. Every room in the school is being used for some sort of testing, and the school hallways are full of "Quiet! Testing!" signs. When we aren't testing we are trying to cram in last minute meaningful lessons to prepare for the testing, and when we are testing we are holding our breath that all of the hard work throughout the year will show up on the test. Beyond actual academics, much of our energy is spent trying to keep our kids quiet in the hallway so that they won't disrupt other students' testing.
As a teacher it is so easy at this time of the year to let the stress get the best of you. We start to snap at the kids and our colleagues, feel resentment towards anything that is getting in our way, and put up defensive barriers towards any challenge. It's easy to stop working as a team with our co-teachers and parents and to start focusing on what went wrong during the year. "Well, if only she'd taught it this way..." "He would have passed if ______ would have done this." We feel defensive and powerless. We know how hard we worked and we still aren't happy with the results, so we start to question other people's work and choices. We watch these young kids take long standardized tests and then want someone to blame when they lose focus and don't pass even though we know they know the information. Blaming Pearson, the state, and the education reformers starts to get old, so we start to turn on ourselves.
This is a slippery slope because it quickly goes from a moment of expressing frustration with a close friend to losing trust in what all your colleagues are doing. We stop having truly collaborative conversations with each other and start having one sided dialogues where we are only listening to one another for a chance to prove our own point. We stop thinking about problems from multiple angles and instead focus on proving our own original view point. Once we lose the trust we have with our coworkers and the parents of our students we are left feeling powerless, frustrated, and angry. We stop solving problems and start looking for excuses.
Regardless of how we feel about all the testing, we still must teach with our students in mind. We are teachers, and we are teaching our students through every moment of the day, whether we are intentional or not. How we respond to frustration during the standardized testing, how we act toward our co-teachers, and how we listen to parent concerns is all conveyed to our students in one way or another.
We need to stay strong and united, no matter how frustrated and powerless we feel. We can't let the tests take away our love for teaching, our collaboration, and our ability to problem solve the toughest situations. We need to keep our sense of humor, our love of our students, and our pride in the work everyone put in during the year, no matter what the tests show. When we start to get angry at the situation we can't control we need to focus on what we can control. We can let our students know we believe in them. We can let our colleagues know that we trust their judgement and that we know together we worked hard. We can let parents know how proud we are of their children, and how much we love them. We can find reasons to laugh out loud every day. We can remember we are here to prepare students for their future, and that job does not stop when testing season starts, but continues until the last day of school.
This has been a really rough week. Thank you for writing this because it came to me at a perfect time. I needed to read this today.
Yesterday a colleague said to me, "I've finished all my DRAs. What's the point of continuing to do guided reading?" I didn't really respond because I was so surprised. After reading this, I have a new perspective on her comment. I'm glad I didn't answer her with what went through my mind. Again, thank you.
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