The 800 Lbs Gorilla in Your Classroom


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Dear Teacher,

I so try to avoid this issue here.  It is something that we all deal with.  It’s something I think most of us feel the same way about.  It is a reality of teaching that we all just kind of “deal” with and try not to let it get us too down.

However, this time of year it is hard to avoid, and I think it is getting to a point that we won’t have any choice but to really talk about it.

Testing.

Standardized testing…state testing…MAP testing…testing to prepare for testing…benchmarks to help us test to prepare for testing…quizzing to help us no where students are before benchmarking progress towards testing…

Testing, testing, testing.

It is an unfortunate requirement of the teaching life in the system we are currently in.

I will probably one day have no choice but to write some of my opinions on all of this, but that is not my goal for the day.

No, my goal is you.

Testing season is one of the most trying times of the year for teachers…know that you are not alone in how you feel right now.  And, it is not because it is hard to test students or difficult to keep their attention during reviews (which it can be).  Testing season is tough because we have to separate our teaching mind from our teaching heart.

I heard someone say or read something someone said recently (I don’t remember which), “Why do we work so hard to differentiate instruction for each student just to prepare them for standardized tests?”  I think they were being tongue-in-cheek and making a joke, but it really is a good question!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) ... oh, and this was made using www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) … oh, and this was made using http://www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

If research shows that differentiated instruction leads to deeper learning, understanding, and memory, wouldn’t follow through that testing should be differentiated so students can show what they have really learned?

There is so much I could say here about this, but I will save it for another time.  I think you see what I mean.  There is this part of us that really wants to see our students succeed.  It is this drive that pushes us to find ways that help each student learn.  This is our heart.  We want our students to become the people we know that they can be.

Then there is this other side of us that wants (or is forced to need by the system) evidence to prove how much our students are learning.  This is where standardized testing fits in.  It is the way that we have been given to provide that evidence.  If they can answer questions the same way other students do, then they have learned…or so we are told.

Image: flickr.com

Because this is the measure we are using (whether we like it or not), we want to see our students do well on the tests…and this is where the problem lies…

In order for us to prepare our students for the tests so they can do well, we need them to take tests like the one they will take.  Some students do this better than others, so we scaffold and differentiate instruction in test taking.  We need to prepare for all variances in vocabulary on the test, so we drill, drill, drill.  We need to make sure that students know how to find wrong answers, too, so they can eliminate them.  So we practice, practice, practice.  Also, we need to see real results on how students are progressing toward the test, so we test, test, test…and so the cycle goes on…and on…and on.

All of this takes time.  We have to cut out some of the time we want to take for teaching content.  We have to cut corners and cut back.  We have to teach content in limited ways to buy time.  Differentiation of instruction becomes more and more standardized…

And this breaks our teaching heart when we realize this is what we are doing…but not doing this means that some students may not do as well on the tests…and we are torn.

I don’t have an answer for this.  I just want to let you know that you really are not alone in this.  We are all feeling this tension.  It is hard.  It make teaching less of a passion and more of a job…and our heart breaks more for this.

Don’t give up, Teacher!  Trust your teaching heart.  Do what is right for your students!  This is the only advice I know to give right now.  You can never go wrong in trusting what you know about your students and letting that drive your decisions.  Students first!

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

Motivational/Growth Mindset ABCs
https://goo.gl/wU4BW9

You know what your students need because you know them and have been fighting hard to differentiate for each one all year – don’t start doubting yourself now!

I know that you try to do what is best for those souls in your room everyday.  This is what makes you a great teacher!  You are doing a great job!  Keep on doing what you feel is what is needed.  Don’t doubt yourself!  You are amazing and doing an amazing job!  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Thank you for all that you do!  You are awesome and you rock!

Love, Teacher

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One thought on “The 800 Lbs Gorilla in Your Classroom

  1. I completely agree. I get that the point differentiation is to get the students TO the level of passing the standardized tests BUT not all students do well on tests. Each learner has a different style so shouldn’t they have a different way to test for each of the learners? Also, hours and hours of testing is absurd when the attention span of a child does not last that long. Adults have a hard time with it! There definitely needs to be a big change in the education system but I doubt it’ll be anytime soon.

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