Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Testing, Testing...

...anybody out there?

It's been too long! I've taken an extended break from blogging. Why? I've been working on another writing project, which I'll reveal shortly. But for now, I'm back. :) My first re-entry story has to do with a trajectory change in my department.

Last Tuesday, I had a wonderful department meeting. I was so nervous, even announcing to my teachers, "If I don't introduce this conversation well, I'm certain it's the end of my career. That's how nervous I am." They laughed. But I noticed them bracing themselves. Physically. Prepping for the hammer to drop, or something.

Boy did I get lucky. I just let a piece of myself free. Without filter, my teacher self took over. More than anything, I wanted them to see a bit of who I am and what I believe and what I know to be true. I did my best to pull back the curtain (gently) and loosen the grip that I know they've felt. The grip that they should only focus on one dimension of student growth—content. That nothing else mattered. And what did I see?


Yes! We are on our way. And I am so looking forward to this journey. It will be hard work. Meaningful work. Work that could only be accomplished by teachers with the talents, dedication and intellect that this group holds.

What journey? I intend to share over time. But for now, the following poem describes what we plan to bury. We will find the right balance, our equilibrium. But with equity as our foundation and scientific literacy as our focus, we will bring the joy of learning back to the heart of what we do. And students will fly.

(And by the way; I was the girl on her knees in this poem. And was allowed the time to explore.)

Hurry, Hurry!
A poem by Clydia Forehand

Hurry up children; don't lag behind.
Please face the front; please stay in line.
We've all got to hurry. We must take a test.
And hope we are better than even the best.

Way at the back, a young girl on her knees
Was not facing front; she was looking at leaves.
There on the ground, she held one to see
She looked at it closely; looked up at the trees.

"Miss Giffrey, Miss Giffrey, could you tell me how
This leaf is so different from that one. Right now?
Miss Giffrey, Miss Giffrey, I just want to know
Why do leaves fall? And how do trees grow?"

Miss Giffrey was saddened; she wanted to teach.
She wanted to show them the veins in the leaf.
The wonders of chlorophyll; osmosis, too.
Instead she said, "Please do as I asked you to."

The child put the leaf down and stood in the line.
They all had to hurry; it was almost time.
The schedules were set; the test was at nine.
"Hurry up, children; don't lag behind."

They all took the test; they did pretty well.
Their scores became data; not stories to tell.
Somebody, someplace, entered those scores
And somebody, someplace, compiled a report.

Miss Giffrey's and all other classes that year
Were ranked in an order that made it quite clear
Who were the winners and who was in trouble
And who'd better make better scores in the future.

Miss Giffrey did well; the report in the paper
Made her and her class and her school look quite able
To teach things that mattered; to make sure kids learned
And like every story, this one's pages turned.

The child in the back who had looked at the leaf;
Been told not to dawdle; been taught not to see.
Grew to adulthood, a product of schools
That taught how to test and to follow the rules.

Miss Giffrey kept teaching; but teaching had changed
There were scripts now to follow. "Please don't deviate,"
Said the words in bold print at the top of each page
"Take the lessons in order, teach the lessons the same."

Test scores were rising, and, each year, believe me
Everyone said how much kids were achieving
"They're learning so much" people said to each other.
"It's so good to know now that schools aren't in trouble."

And Sarah, that young girl who'd once found the leaf,
Soon learned not to look; soon learned not to see.
Like everyone else, she walked in a line.
'Cause she had been taught she could not lag behind.

There are so many children, from so many places
To test for conformity really erases,
All that they are; all that they dream
All that they look for and all that they see.

Taught not to question; taught not to ask.
Stay in your seat; stick to the task.
Each one so different; each boy and each girl.
They are lag behind children in a hurry up world.

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