Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Holy Tests

I have had a challenging year. Alas, sometimes the challenging years are the ones that you come away from a little better.

Some days are better than others of course. And truthfully a lot of the challenges aren't necessarily anything I can change or revamp to make better. I actually like all of my students a lot, they are very fun and smart. Alas, the dynamic of them being together is not-so-good. There are some big personality conflicts. It is emotionally draining.

BUT there are days, like today, that they just bring tears to my eyes. Not tears of frustration but tears of joy.

As I mentioned in my last post, we MAP tested on Monday. I was disappointed in some of their results, but I also know that it's just a test. No matter what any government mandate is, I refuse to let one test (or several) make me feel inferior as a teacher. My kids and I are not a reflection of our test scores. It's probably the one thing I hate about teaching, how we are reduced to numbers and percentages.

So I wrote my kids a note on Tuesday morning.

Well let me tell you a little story about a boy named 11 (okay that really isn't his name but it is his number so I'll remember down the road who it is!). 11 is very quiet and shy. I was told that he was a non-talker. He talks, he just chooses not to do it during class. A true teacher's dream. 

11 has been featured on this blog before cuddling Scaredy Squirrel while taking a test. Seriously this child is every teacher's dream come true. He is absolutely fabulous. I really want to keep him and bring him to 3rd grade with me because he's that cool of a kid.

Well, this kid had like zero self confidence when he came to me. None. I'm tough on my kids but they also know without a shadow of a doubt that I love them to bits and that that is the reason why I hound them sometimes (tough love doesn't work for everyone but it definitely does in my inner city school). Anyway, this friend just didn't think he had what it takes.

So when he finished his MAP reading test yesterday and showed me his score, we had to have a celebration. This friend started 4th grade reading at a mid-2nd grade reading level. This is not unusual in my area. I often get ESL kids who are 1-3 grades behind in reading; much of it has to do with language barriers and such. By the winter MAP test, 11 was on grade level. Up 2 grades in a half year. Very impressive. I would have been stoked for him just to maintain that...but oh no. I instilled so much confidence and drive in this child....his end of year score was mid FIFTH grade! I asked him if it was okay if I shared his fabulous work with the rest of the class. We praised this dear friend for doing AH-MAZING and just having so much perseverance to keep going. 

I also pointed out that his phenomenal growth had very little to do with me....it was him. I was just there to give him the confidence he needed.

Today we took our first M-Step test (new standardized test in Michigan). There has been a lot of BS about how horrible this new test is, blah blah. I'm not about to put that hype on my kids who have to take it. When they put practice out, we practiced. I told them the test helps ME as a teacher to know how I can teach better (not really true because quite frankly I could give a rat's furry little backside about this test), but I figured this little white lie was okay because it would keep them focused and not panicking about the test.

The test was supposed to be 90 minutes. HA! We learned when 5th grade did theirs that there was no way that it could be done that fast if kids actually a) tried and b) read the passages. 

My last kiddo got done at 2:40 today. In all some of the kiddos tested for about 3 1/2 HOURS on this ONE test.

And you know something? NOT ONE KID even complained about it. NOT ONE. They just did it. They amazed me, honestly. They can be a challenging group but they are mine and I was very, very proud of them today.

At the very end of the day we had circle and I told them that I wasn't going to give them homework (something I NEVER let go) because they did so awesome today. We talked a little about the test (not the content just how they felt it went) and they basically said that I was right....they knew this stuff and if they just focused, it wasn't so bad. *sniff* Not that I expect that they all will do well on it or anything but the fact that they FELT confident about it afterward means I did something right this year.

I gave them the confidence to know it's just a test -- it isn't a reflection of them as a learner. My kids are annoying sometimes but you know what? THEY ARE MINE. And I love them (and let's be honest, I'm annoying sometimes too so it's all good). 

Tomorrow they do the performance tasks for ELA and I'm quite excited for them because they really rocked the test today and I think they have even more confidence now...and that's a beautiful thing.

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