Friday, October 5, 2012

Some things cannot be measured

This week has been a full week in my classroom. My mom was in subbing for me in the afternoon while I tested students to determine their reading level. During one class of my intervention classes we paused instruction to progress monitor for the day. And here’s what I came away with - assessment has its place, truly I was fine with these assessments. We use them to determine where our students are and it drives our instruction.

That being said, the focus of education in our country is turning more and more to standardized testing. I have been watching the state of New York as it has moved to the growth model this year. I am apprehensive about using test data to measure teachers. Yes, teachers have influence on their students, but so much is beyond a teacher’s control. My thoughts on can be summed up by what I posted to a friend on Facebook this week:

Then this morning I saw Penny Kittle tweet about an article (you can read the article HERE.) This quote spoke out to me:

Child growth and development is not a race, it is a journey. There are hills and valleys, straight roads, and unexpected curves. Certainly, we can benchmark certain elements of growth - physical, social, and cognitive - in the same way we map a journey. We just have to remember that the map is not the journey and the benchmark is not the goal. The children in our care every day are not finished - there is nothing summative about them."

Exactly. And here’s what popped into my mind today. Yes, I supposed you can use students’ test data to measure me as a teacher. You can even use test data to measure one student against another or a student against themselves. But you won’t see the whole picture, the whole student, or the whole teacher.

There are things we do in class you can test and find out if the information was learned and there are things you can’t. However, in my mind it boils down to this:  My students are so much more than a number, and so am I. My year with them will be educational. I will teach them how to grow as readers and writers, yes. But I will also teach them to have fun, to be kind, to grow as people.

Here are just a few scenes from my classroom this past week. There is no academic value in most of them, no test to be scored, but I will remember these events and I think there certainly there is a value in the experiences.

·      Watching Jack’s story and crying with the class.
·      Eating lunch with a group of girls and talking about our weekend plans.
Ruby Holler group
·      Walking around the room during independent reading and coming upon a group of boys. One was sharing Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech and telling the others that they HAD to read it. 
·      Listening to 24 fifth graders crazily sing “The Duck Song” as we lined up and other kids poked their heads in to see what we were doing.
·      Watching three different classes of fifth graders grow silent and then howl with laughter as I shared the Elephant and Piggie books.
Parade time! 
·      Standing huddled together in the rain as we waited for the homecoming parade to begin.
·      Laughing each day as I saw their crazy interpretations of spirit week. (Like backwards day yesterday)
·      Hearing kids shout “There’s Reese!” when they saw one of our students in the parade.
·      Joking with Rye in my class that “Hat Day” could be “Rye Day” since he tries to wear a hat EVERY SINGLE DAY in class. He came with about seven hats on his head that day.
·      Watching the reunion float from 1962 come by and laughing as they got the students to cheer ’62! Over and over.
·      Telling the students that Mark of Athena had been delivered to my house but they were in line to read it after me. A waiting list formed quickly.
·      Seeing a community come together to celebrate our schools. Go Sages!

So I’m left with this thought. I will be the best teacher I can this year and every year. And I will teach the whole child – not just what a test can measure. Because those tests don’t measure how well I know my students and how much I care about them. If they did, most teachers would score off the charts. We love our students, we love our jobs, and we work really hard to try and ensure they grow. So as I stood on the side of a tiny street in a tiny town today, surrounded by 200+ students from my school shouting for candy, waving at siblings and parents that passed by on floats, listening to the marching band and fire truck sirens, my heart was full. These are the moments I will keep close to me, no matter where the future of education takes us.