Multiple sighs were heard this morning as my students realized that instead of a fun learning day, we would spend all day responding to 48 math questions. The materials were passed out and the pencils were freshly sharpened. After reading the instructions for the simulation for the very first time, the many lectures, blogs, and books that explore the detrimental effect of the standardization in education came rushing through my mind. I have been lucky to work alongside educators that critically explore the multi-layered and complex issues in education. As I pass out the tests, I realize that this is in direct conflict with what I believe.
As I pace around the room, the words “try your best,” “find the evidence,” “bubble in the right response,” echoes in my mind. I am the only Spanish speaking teaching in my grade level. I see myself in the eager eyes of bilingual students. I am one of them. I know that the scores often reflect what research has shown time and time again, what years and years of standardized testing reflect: those students who come from poverty often lag behind their peers.” It is not the rigor of the tests that need to increase, it is the model of our teaching and the ingrained beliefs of the educational institutions that must be altered. The same biases that existed when I attended elementary school in El Paso, TX against students of poverty are similar to the messages that are overtly and covertly transmitted to the kids that need public education the most: you are not good enough, you are not doing enough, I know how you will end up (jail? Teen mom/dad? Inadequate? Etc.)
Pacing around the room I quickly realize that my kids have reached their limit. Their bodies are thirsty for movement, they are tired of forcing their bodies of sitting still, of concentrating on solving convoluted math problems. Some pencils tap the table, some hands fidget with the pencils as they readjust their body on the rock hard chair as if that would magically make them feel more comfortable. It is torturous.
It is no secret that I, along with many teachers, disagree with the increased standardization of education that expects kids to be marathon sprinters. Because in order to reach those goals by the end of the year, you have to push as hard and as fast as you can every minute of every day without an opportunity to deviate. It is demanding the highest imaginable output from every student. It is no surprise that the theory of education and the reality are in conflict. From meeting our students where they are, we are then expected to ignore, eliminate, work around or “fix” situations that are outside of our control.
I am also awaiting the end of this day…I know what the “expectations” of me are, my first year in a “tested” grade…I know too well that ‘data’ will drive my instruction… there is only one message I want to send my kids:
YOU are good enough.
YOU are doing enough.
YOU keep my passion for teaching alive.
I am here for YOU.