Yes people...it is THAT time again. The "other" season of the school year...testing season. The tension builds, we lose sleep, and it changes our moods! Some require more caffeine, others need chocolate in order to survive. We all need each other for sure! We cannot avoid it, and being angry at it sure doesn't help. We can complain about the time it takes out of our instructional days, the impact it has on scheduling, and how inequitable mandated tests are. Complaining only makes our school culture a negative place and places even more emphasis on testing. None of these actions will contribute in a positive manner to our kids, families, or each other, so we have one choice: EMBRACE it. Testing happens. Every year we will face it, no matter the format or standards it is based on. Testing is beyond our control, so why allow it to control our dispositions and attitudes? Why allow it to control how we work with students? EMBRACE. Testing happens...TEACH ON!
Teachers work hard to know their students. No one test will ever be able to dictate everything students know or lack, but great teachers know these things. Great teachers know strengths, weaknesses, attitudes, fears, and the history of each student. They know what each child needs in order to reach the next level. They know that some of the most important skills we teach students cannot be measured by a standardized test. Teachers see the whole child. Just because we have a testing season of accountability doesn't mean that we take our focus off of what is most important. We keep our focus, and we teach on!
Consider the big picture of what we do as educators. Each and every day we praise, validate, challenge, discipline, love, hug, feed, provide security, and so much more. We show respect to students and set the expectation that they in return, respect us. We model compassion and empathy in order for children to learn how it looks, and more importantly, FEELS. We foster responsibility and independence, and instill opportunities for kids to persevere through difficult situations. We "edutain" with the purpose of engaging, inspiring, and motivating kids to learn how to learn. Will these attributes be measured on mandated assessments? Of course not. Those assessments are one piece of a very difficult puzzle. They have a role in what we do, but it is not the defining role.
Many of us are facing new testing formats, and so much is unknown. The stress level is high because we do not know what to expect. Teachers want to prepare their students for what is to come in order for them to be confident. I believe we do just that by focusing on the attributes above. If we continue "teaching" (so much more than delivery of content), everything will work out! The response of children to assessments boils down to the dispositions of the adults in a school. Stressing test taking skills and over emphasizing the need for extra sleep and a big breakfast do nothing but send a message that we believe testing season is the most important time of the year. Do we not want our kids to eat a healthy breakfast and get plenty of sleep on a regular basis? Keeping expectations consistent during the entire school year, including testing season, help families and children feel the way they should...that the assessments are just another part of the school year, and we will use them to fit into the school puzzle.
This quote by John Wooden says it all. Tests happen. They are inevitable. They have the ability to create a high level of stress for kids, teachers, families, and even a community. These mandated assessments can only do so if we allow it to happen. We must make the best of it. There is learning in every experience. What can we learn from this testing season? What positive outcomes can we make sure we take with us in order to make us stronger educators? Let's make the best of testing season. Testing happens. Embrace it and TEACH ON!
**Inspired by my wonderful school family at Central Elementary, where kids are ALWAYS first, and where teachers have EMBRACED testing season with positivity. I am so thankful for a staff who places kids at the heart of every matter, and for a place where PARCC assessments are simply part of the process...a small piece of the puzzle. Let's DO this!