What was I thinking?

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Testing – the one thing I hated from the start of teaching. I remember when in college a long time ago and doing a practicum in a small town in Iowa. My teacher thought it best I just jump in and give those young third graders the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. She walked out of the room. (illegal now) I followed the rules to the letter and the young folks around me slid into tears, a few with their heads down, and a few working away as if life would end for them.

I stopped at some point to ask them why – it was a test, we would get through it. They replied

  • ” Mom said if I don’t do well they will kick me out of school”imgres-1
  • “If I don’t do well I will get a beating.  I got one last year and couldn’t sit down for a long time.”
  • “I can’t read the words – what should I do, we have to do well the teacher says so”
  • “We haven’t done division yet I know that sign but what do I do with it?”

They were third graders!

I knew I couldn’t help, we struggled through the day and I went home wondering about teaching, testing and children who try so hard to do well but might just not be ready yet for what is before them.

It is now some 40 or more years later. I have taught all this time. I have worked with students who can breeze through what ever test is before them and those who just fill in bubbles or hit keyboard buttons just to get done. I still don’t like standardized test. I am not sure what they tell us. The results come to late to change teaching for the year. They are not a summative of what was taught that year, really. They are a moment in time in a child’s life. It might be a moment that is filled with high anxiety or one of “I don’t really care”. They cause stress at all levels – student, teacher, parents, administrators. I just don’t thing this is what will help move us forward with strong learning and strong teaching.

But!  I sat at a retirement party this weekend, was asked if I might come in this year to be the test coordinator for a building. Just a few weeks during the year. I said yes – hmmmm?  What was I thinking?

I know that my not helping isn’t going to stop testing for the students. Can I be a test coordinator who is helpful, supportive, not uptight?  Can I make this easier on teachers in some small way?

I am torn! I like the Principal who asked me.

I am not sure why I jumped at this request – I guess after one year of retirement I want to walk the halls again, help with students again. I still need to make a difference with students. I am not sure this is the way but for now I will see what I can do. It’s confusing me.

Testing ??? Working??? Retirement??? –  Have I sold out by helping with something I don’t believe in?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection, Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What was I thinking?

  1. readsomuch says:

    I think you said “yes” because you want to make sure the testing experience is as positive as it can be. We must give assessments, but we can work hard to help kids realize we just want them to do their best and show how they’ve grown. I think you’ll still be a great advocate for kids!

  2. Amy Miller says:

    I bet you did it because you thought you could make a difference. That comes shining through in your words.

  3. arjeha says:

    Even in retirement we can ‘t say “no ” when asked to help in some area of education. That is why I still coach and present for our local Writing Project site. I am sure that you said “yes ” because you understand the stress testing puts on students as well as teachers and you are willing yo do all you can to ease some it.

  4. The comments here about your passion and empathy say it all. Of course we say yes because we are eternally optimistic about our students, education, “the system”, and possibility for change and reform.

  5. Ramona says:

    It’s good to hear from other retirees who are still blogging. I just retired and have felt guilty over my elation that I don’t have to go back to school this month. I’m also a little sad that I’m not going back. It’s a mixed bag! Just like your mixed feelings. You haven’t sold out. What a joy to have someone there who recognizes that test results are a moment in time in a child’s life. Glad you’ll be there to ease the way for students and teachers.

    • Ramona I so know the mixed feelings yes to not returning and yes to missing everything. This is year two for me. It is good to find little ways to be involved just not on an every day bases. Congrats and enjoy your well deserved retirement.

  6. I share your thinking on all accounts. Ironic, isn’t it, that the request for your return would be with testing. Sounds like we all need someone with your insight in charge of our testing. I know you’ll do a great job!

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