Battles

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Celebrating is hard sometimes. But thanks to Ruth, I try to do it each Saturday morning. Check out all the wonderful celebrations here.

It’s hard to be a teacher during the week of Halloween. A constant battle for attention and focus. Super challenging. Period.

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And it’s difficult to maintain focus and momentum this year in the City of Angels and its giant monster of a district with its fierce appetite for testing, testing, testing. Even more difficult to get excited about teaching a new unit when your school district is actively trying to hamstring you. The mandated assessments take so much time that they make it literally impossible to teach effectively. Period.

At our Tuesday afternoon faculty meeting we had a discussion about the book we were all reading, Choice Words. So many good reminders about how the words we use everyday can help form student beliefs about learning and potential and responsibility. Then we reflected on some of the things that a group of us heard Lucy Calkins say during a staff development session the week before. Ideas about the importance of sticking with a unit all the way through. Following the plan. I thought to myself, but didn’t say out loud, that in order to do that one needed HOURS of time to read through the unit, understand its intentions, gather materials, you know, the work of a teacher. But it takes hours. Many. And I thought, okay, I can do that after this meeting. I have a good start, a few more hours and I should be good to go. I have a few hours before I head home. Perfect.

And then, then… the upper grade teachers were kept in the meeting after everyone else was dismissed to go work in their classrooms. We, the lucky ones, got to hear about how we had to log on to the district testing site and jump through some hoops so that we could administer the interim assessments. And it was apparent that it may not work on the first or second try. Technical difficulties. Time taken. HOURS we never get back.

Testing takes time away from instructional time in classrooms every day. That is disastrous enough for teachers and students.  But it also takes time away from the vital work of researching, reading, planning what we are teaching. Planning time is not a luxury– not something we do in our spare time. But it is taken away from us, by our district, consistently, to meet this mandate or take that online assessment. And saying no puts you in opposition to people you work with, administrators and coordinators you respect.

So, I am feeling less than celebratory. And I am trying to figure out a way to fight back, stay true to what I know, and keep teaching. But not just by closing my door. I have come to know that if that is all we do– just take care of ourselves and our own little world– then the problem persists. It doesn’t get better and in fact gets more problematic. We have to take a stand. We have to let people know how the testing-industrial-complex is taking over our schools and our classrooms, and we have to fight back. Like storm troopers.

But right now, I don’t feel like a storm trooper. I am tired. So I can celebrate a weekend. Time to regroup. And time to get my mind around this new unit, as well as plan the next move in the battle.

May the force be with me.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Battles

  1. Fight the good fight! Sometimes the celebration amidst the difficulty is just saying to yourself that you will keep fighting for what you know is right. May the force be with you, indeed!

  2. Cathy,I feel confident you will BATTLE because in the end, it is ALL about the kids and what they deserve and what we as teachers can and will do to ensure that they get the instruction they deserve. Hang in there. Use the time you do have wisely and keep HEARING Lucy and keep rereading your summer institute notes and keep going. And know you are not alone. I’m with you, struggling in VA to do the right thing for my students. My district wants me to pilot using a basal – really?? So I found a group in my district that was asked to pilot Lucy writing and I’m meeting with them monthly and teaching using what I know works. It means I purchased my own writing kit Friday to go with the reading kit I bought at TC this summer. And it is why I just returned 100 books to the public library and plan to check out another 100 after I finish lunch. Kids need books to choose and read so I am finding the time to get them into my classroom. Luckily, the public library has unlimited checkout! If only I could create the test – it would be to post a picture of a student lost in a book (see my post today – http://mywritingstoriesbysally.blogspot.com/2015/10/celebration-getting-lost-in-book.html) Surely, these images speak more clearly than any assessment score! Hang in there!

    • Thanks for the encouragement! I heard Kelly Gallagher say once that the best standardized test for reading would be one in which kids were set loose in a bookstore, and measured on if they knew what to do next. I’m thinking your students would hit that one out of the park. Your words mean a lot to me!

  3. I wish you the best in your battle for your students. They are definitely worth fighting for and always will be.

  4. It sounds like you are managing a lot but I agree, keeping your students in mind and focusing on them is most important. Stay strong!

  5. We are fighting a similar war in Denver. Test, test and retest! Yikes! I wonder if all big cities are like this right now…Keep pushing those books!

  6. There is always a challenge during testing time. Instruction is key so hang in there.

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