We teach our students to ask questions, to share, to discuss. We teach them to find help when they need it, take their time when they can, and to always use their tools.
They sit where they are comfortable in order to access the learning best. They reach out to those they trust and they use us whenever they are lost or just want to make sure that the path they are headed down is, indeed, the right one.
We try to create learning environments where discovering facts is only the first step of the journey, using them as a way to further understanding is the next. We use our shared ideas to further the knowledge of others. Where mistakes happen and we try again. We try to create learning environments where students have a voice, where they have choices, where we try to make it personal so that the experience they have makes sense for who they are.
We do not pride ourselves on the scores that they get but instead on the books that they read, on the aha moments they have, on the growth they show. We pride ourselves on who they are as learners and not just what they produce. Their value is bigger than a number.
In two weeks, my students will sit in rows in a bare room and spend four days taking the state standardized test. They will not be allowed to ask questions. They will not be allowed to help each others. They will not be allowed to use the very resources that I have taught them to use.
We will not reflect. We will not discover. We will not question. We will not grow. Not in a way that matters, anyway. Instead, they will sit, they will read, and they will answer. I will sit, I will watch, and I will make sure no one cheats. I will have a few scripted responses that I am allowed to say if a child asks a question. Once done, someone hired by the state, who has no idea who my students are, will grade their answers as if a short response will ever give a proper window into what they really know.
Because let’s be honest, the test does not care that they have grown in ways that cannot be measured.
Because the test does not care how hard they have worked to get where they are.
The test does not care that they may finally see themselves as a reader. Or a writer. Or a learner. Or even as someone who deserves to be a friend.
The test only cares for multiple choice. For pick the right answer. For write it right or it will be counted wrong.
So in two weeks when my students are reduced to nothing more than an entry ticket, I will hope that they know that they are bigger than that. That they are worth more than that. That everything they have done, how hard they have worked, how much they have grown may not be measured on the test, but I know. And so do they. And when the test passes, because this too shall pass, we will resume learning in all of its glorious messiness. We will fill our walls with what we need and our voices will ring true again.
I hope I have taught them enough. I guess the test will tell. Or perhaps maybe it won’t.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.