Thursday, April 13, 2017

Testing Doldrums - DITLife April 12 2017

Standardized testing will be the death of me. 

And children.

And education.

And curiosity, ingenuity, creativity, and passion for learning.

I'm sure the list can go on and on and on of things standardized testing will kill, but today this is all that's on my mind. Today I was a test coordinator for Grade 3 MCAS and it's just shear torture. 

I'm talking about torture on the teachers. We have regulations, which I'm sure are the same across the country, that teachers can not read a book, work on their computer, grade papers, look at their phones, write something, or do anything else to occupy their minds. So for hours on end we sit there and stare at kids while we make shopping lists in our heads, or plan what we're going to do over summer, or think about how long we would last on Naked and Afraid (my conclusion: maybe 3 days, tops)

It's funny for me to reflect upon today because just two days ago I was facilitating kindergarten screening. I got to PLAY with 4 and 5 year olds all day while they secretly showed how much they know. I think my favorite was the counting part, and so many kids were so proud that they could count all the way to 20! (and in some cases, 100) We were stacking blocks while showing me counting with a one-to-one correspondence. This was a stark reminder of the presentation I saw from Kassia Wedekind during the Shadowcon that took place during the annual NCTM conference. She spoke all about the importance of play in mathematics.

And then today I got to sit and watch kids' spirits get crushed as they stressed and fretted over a standardized test. 

What has happened to our education system that we go from fun play to rigid rules and testing? I could gain the same amount of valuable data by playing with these kids than from a multiple choice test. 

Time to get off my soapbox and back on track with my day in the life...

After the ENTIRE day of proctoring the test (yes, one kid used the whole 6 hours) I had to go to my tutoring job. She's a very sweet 8th grader who really excels in school. I have such a fun time during the hour I spend with her twice a week. Today's session was relatively easy because there is only one more day left before our spring vacation!

After tutoring, my husband and I headed downtown Salem to get our dinner...from a meat speakeasy! Yes, you read that right! It's this supercool place that has a wooden door in a wide (not creepy) alley. Every Wednesday, they post a password and the price for the meal. You show up to the place and if the red light is on, you press the intercom, say the password, and order the quantity of meals you want. Pay exact change cash, and receive a really delicious gourmet meal, including a homemade soda, in a brown paper bag to go home to enjoy. At first I just thought it was a novelty thing, but now it's consistently our Wednesday night meal! (If ever you find yourself in Massachusetts and/or Salem, let me know and I'll give you the inside scoop!) Tonight's meal was a fried pork chop with bacon and Asian coleslaw sandwich with a side of Asian noodle salad and homemade root beer!
The name of the restaurant is blurred out because if you post
 the name of it on social media, you get banned! No joke!!

After our scrumptious dinner, we snuggled up with our dogs and watched game one of the Bruins playoffs. It was a great ending to a rather boring day!

Reflection Questions:
1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?
Today didn't require much thinking or deciding on my end. (Thanks MCAS) However, I will say that I'm happy that I spoke up to the teacher whose room I'm the coordinator for yesterday. Yesterday, this teacher was giving me a lot of pushback about the rules of the test and was perseverating on one particular point. After consulting our TAMs and checking with the principal, we all agreed on what this one rule was meaning. The teacher wouldn't drop it though, and I finally said, "Okay, it's time to move on and drop it, we resolved it, now let's focus on this test." I think being firm yesterday set me up for an easier day today with that teacher. On the other hand, was it a less than ideal move? Perhaps? Maybe that teacher was offended or put off that I said that? I'll have to overcompensate with kindness the next 3 days I'm in that room for testing to let them know I'm not mad and we can still work together peacefully.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?
I think my post clearly outlines what's been bringing me down lately and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm really looking forward to our spring vacation next week, and just having the opportunity to unplug from school for a bit. Lately I've had some of the best teaching days of my career because I've had the opportunity to help teachers roll out an online math game and try out some of the best practices I've gathered from my PLN (Twitter). All of these practices, activities, and lessons have made for some really fun and awesome teaching days. I'm looking forward to the testing season being over so I can get back to that!

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
Every week I post a math question of the week for the whole school to answer. Lately, I've chosen challenging 5th grade problems. Today, a 3rd grader came up to me and said, "I solved the question, can I tell you my strategy" Ummm, YESSSSSSS!!!! This sweet child told me how he used the distributive property to solve the multiplication problem. He was so proud of his work, and I was so proud to hear him explain his thinking.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?
This is always my least favorite question to answer. Mostly because I can't remember what goals I set for myself and because I usually realize I haven't been doing much to work towards them! Honestly, I start every year with probably a million little goals, and I think in general, I'm doing really well at improving and working towards them. My main goal will always be to build relationships with the teachers in my school so that I can be a better coach. I'm starting to fall into my old habits of working only with those people who welcome me into their rooms and planning sessions. I suppose I should try, for the last months of school, to step out of my comfort zone and get into those classrooms that aren't as welcoming. I need to try to make a broader impact. So even though this is my least favorite question to answer, it's probably the best question because it really forces me to self-reflect which is so, so important!!

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

Lots of fun stuff! I got two graduate courses that I want to teach this summer approved and I have an interview next week to teach an undergraduate course at a local college. I'm hoping that pans out because it sounds like it will be a great opportunity for me professionally. Personally, I've been going to the gym and eating healthy and I've lost 15 pounds in a month and a half! So yeah, life is good right now!

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