BulgingButtons

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More Testing

Here we go again. Yet another round of standardized testing. We’re almost done with them. One today (reading), one next week (math) and then, NO MORE! At least not for this year.

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Teacher on Test Day

So what does this mean for my kiddos? Well, truthfully, not a whole lot. At least not for most of them. It does mean that they’re tired of testing. It also means that some of them are losing their enthusiasm (if they ever had any) for taking these tests. This overkill translates into kids who just don’t want to do it, and therefore aren’t prepared to invest the mental energy that doing their best entails.

And really, why should they?

Yes, everyone should always do their best. Or maybe they should usually do their best. Don’t they have to have something, some mental energy, left over for the pursuits of life that truly interest them? Why burn myself out on this test when I’d rather finish it and go back to the awesome book I’ve been reading? I’ll just answer these last few questions quickly… I’m sure I’m doing well, after all I took my time on the first half of the test…

When we do something too often it loses its power. Imagine having a birthday party once a month. It would lose some of its luster. Well, it’s the same with testing. Standardized testing used to be a BIG DEAL. Unfortunately for us, it’s become an even bigger deal for adults (whose job performance ratings are often associated with these outcomes), and more or less no big deal for kids, who have done so many of these it’s hard to keep count.

Yes, kids, I want you to do your best.

Yes, kids, this one counts.

No, don’t worry, you’re still going on to the next grade level.

No, it’s not going on your report card.

But it COUNTS. Really.

Please just do your best, but know that I love you and I understand if you just don’t have it in you today. I know you’ve learned a lot this year, whether this test shows it or not.


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Learning Patience

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How do we learn patience? How do we learn that sometimes things don’t happen as quickly as we would like them to? Is patience a trait that can be taught or does it develop naturally?

Infants, of course, have no patience. If they’re uncomfortable, they let you know. In return we take care of their needs. I think it’s natural that asĀ  kids grow they still have their needs met by adults, but perhaps not as quickly. Does that teach patience or just lead to irritability? I think it can go either way.

If I want your attention but you put me off brusquely I will probably feel hurt. If you tell me that you’ll give me your attention shortly, I’m likely to be satisfied. Does it work that way for kids too? I suppose it depends on a lot of things, like who the kid is, what they want, and what’s going on around them.

I’m thinking about patience because of our state testing. Can kids who are nine or ten years old patiently go through all of the questions and possible responses and evaluate all of them before choosing? Can they be expected to sit quietly for multiple hours at a time? How much patience are they supposed to have?

Some of my students are quite impulsive. Some of them are extremely high energy. Sitting quietly doesn’t come easily to them. They’re trying, though, and for that I applaud them.

I do think it would help kids learn a little more patience if we didn’t drop everything to cater to their wishes. I see it a lot. Out at the mall a kid whines about being hungry and out comes the bag of Cheerios. At the restaurant there’s a wait for the food and out comes the technology. A student leaves a paper at home and a parent drops everything to run it over to school.

I know this rant sounds all old and “in my day,” but I assure you my mother never carried around sippy cups and snacks, and if I forgot my violin or my homework? Well, that was on me. It would never have occurred to me to ask her to bring anything to school (or even to call her from school–only the nurse did that– and only if I was throwing up).

But did I carry snacks around when my son was small? You bet. We’re much more mobile now. My mom and I didn’t go far when I was a kid. Maybe to the grocery store, or the bank or the beauty parlor or the dentist. Wherever it was, we always went home afterward. We didn’t live out of some rolling second house on wheels complete with snacks, communication systems, and entertainment. Jeez, in those days there weren’t even cup holders. Can you imagine? Barbaric.

I’m not suggesting a return to the dark ages (I love my cup holders), but maybe we could use a little more patience and try to teach it to our kids. Maybe we can take our time on a project and not expect instant results. Maybe we can engage kids in something that isn’t instant and takes work. How about planting a garden or building a backyard obstacle course or writing and illustrating a book? Maybe even just reading a long book together, one chapter at a time. There is value in delayed gratification, and there is value in persistence. I wish more kids had opportunities to experience both on a regular basis.

When our kids mess up, we have to let it happen. No, I’m not suggesting you allow your child to set the house on fire, but you paving the way so that your child never experiences any discomfort is a disservice to your child. I know you want your child to be happy. I know you don’t want him to be uncomfortable. But do you want him to be independent? Do you want her to be resilient? Do you want them to be self-reliant? Or do you want to fix everything for them for the rest of their lives?

The “pay to get my kid into the college of my choice even if the kid isn’t qualified” folks don’t. Their message to their kids is, “Whatever you might be capable of on your own isn’t good enough, and you need me to step in so that you can have success as I define it.” Ouch.

Maybe it sounds cruel to a modern parent, but the phrase, “No, I won’t play with you right now, go find something to do, without technology,” can be a loving response to your child. Let kids explore and use their imaginations, and they will discover worlds that aren’t found in any app. Stop trying to fix everything for them, they will be okay as long as you let them fail from time to time. Being uncomfortable in the short run can have great benefits in the long run. And parenting isn’t instant. You have to have patience.


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Testing Time Again

It seems like I’m always writing about state testing. Maybe that’s because it always feels like state testing time.

Today the little munchkins are taking a writing test. They will read articles at, or above, their reading ability, then write some type of adult inspired essay on whatever topic they’re given. I feel for them.dpgcjz9_5cdv8cshq.jpg

This task is hard. Sitting in one place is hard. Being quiet is hard. Doing one activity for an extended period of time is hard, especially if it isn’t an activity you’ve chosen. And if it’s one where you don’t feel confident? Well, that’s just torture.

I’ve tried to prepare them for what they’re about to encounter. I’ve tried to give them lots of opportunities to write and learn various strategies and techniques. I’ve tried to build their capacity and confidence as writers. I’ve tried. But the thing you have to remember is this: they’re little kids. Give them a break. Give me a break.

If you really want to see kids write, let them write about worms and aliens and Pokemon and colonies of warrior hamsters. Let them write about the time they went to the beach or the way their aunt does their hair or their favorite video game. Let them describe their dream birthday party or bedroom. Let them examine an ordinary object up close and write about what they notice. Let them be playful and imaginative in their writing. Don’t make them write about the benefits of recycling or the contributions bees make.

Let them tell you about the time the power went off during a summer storm, or the time they went camping and forgot the bug spray. Let them write about their favorite stuffed animal or their favorite dessert. Or how about this? Let them write about the time they had to live in their car for a while or about how their uncle shot himself or how they found their mother dead in bed. Yes, all those things have happened to students in my care. You want to give them another state test? Fine. But let them be kids, please. They’ll grow up soon enough.