Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Changing My Attitude

Today I came home from school grouchy. There wasn’t one thing that made my mood turn sour – but wow, it was there - watch out. I didn’t have patience, I had a headache, I despaired for my profession, etc. Luke asked me for help with his homework, which he never does, and I had an attitude problem. Deep breaths were taken.

And then I went on Facebook and read an amazing post from Kylene Beers. Here is a link to it on her blog. (HERE)

My favorite passage is the second to last paragraph – Kylene talks about that a test score is more than just a test score. That the purpose of education is more than preparing children for college but also helping them develop to their fullest potential. So they can be a contributing part of our society.

I don’t think we talk about this enough – why do we have school? What is the purpose of education? I know that in the past I have fallen victim to the idea that I should teach the “way” to answer our reading extended responses. And then one day I stopped to think about it. What is the purpose? They might get a “4” on the score, but what have I taught them? That the only way to respond to what we read is with a certain set of steps? I just can’t do that to them.

I read more and more about how to “teach test prep.” Schools are giving up weeks, months, heck – the entire year to prep. The almighty score has become critical for so many. I count myself fortunate that I am not required to do this. I am welcome to do test prep in my classroom but it is my choice as to when and how much, if any.

And so this year I have watched my students. When responding in writing to a story or article I have taught them one simple direction. Put down your pencil. Think. What is the question asking? All too often they rush in, wanting to summarize, when really the question asked for something else. Beyond that we’ve just discussed what good writing entails. This might not help them in the world of standardized test but I know it will help them in life.

As I watch my students I despair at times that we’ve lost sight of what is important. I teach eleven-year-old kids. Kids! They should be having fun, enjoying recess, goofing off with their friends, figuring out who they are and who they want to be. This is what I need to put front and center.

Kylene ended her post with this paragraph:  

This Lent, I want to give up pessimism and take on optimism; I want to give up fear and take on hope. I want to look at each child in each class I teach as that kid who wants to be his best but just might be too hungry or too scared or to beaten by life to know how to get there and see not a sullen face, but one that if I can teach him to take on rather than give up will find that spring is full of hope indeed.

So for me I am going to choose to change my attitude – today and everyday that I get down. To remember what is important. To help these kids find the joy of learning. To let them know that I see them. I am going to let the other “stuff” that seems to be crowding the climate of education fade away and I am going to focus on the reason I am here teaching. I have sixty-eight faces I cannot wait to see tomorrow morning and everything else needs to get out of the way.