High-stakes testing really makes my blood boil. (If you’ve kindly read the past few posts: Can you tell?)
More than that. It makes my stomach turn.
A good student (summa cum laude graduate), I was a lousy test taker—a tried-and-true test phobic, actually–all the way through Master’s and post-Master’s courses and teacher certifications (of which I hold four).
Being a scribe for four of the past five years (pre-computerized PARCC) reminded me of another reason I detested having my teaching effectiveness measured by student test results.
Students have free wills. Many of them use those wills to refuse to learn—or to refuse to take tests seriously–even to the best of their limited or superior abilities.
I experienced that student willfulness and incapability firsthand when I was part of the testing accommodation—when I was required to write down special needs students’ answers.
Because I was the library media specialist, not the resource room teacher of record whose effectiveness was being measured, one would think I could breathe easier.
Not so. My test phobia kicked in—full gear. While the students (one with a superior IQ; the other, not so) remained blasé or rebellious, more frustrating than being upset for myself, I was upset for their classroom and resource room teachers.
Regardless of the fact that their students were refusing or incapable of paying full attention to the questions or giving thoughtful answers, it was the teachers who would be branded ineffective for not have taught well—or blamed for not having figured out a way to better motivate their students.
In my first teaching stint, it was exactly my exhausting myself trying to provide inspirational, motivational, relevant experiences for indifferent students that made me protest that I would rather be a bricklayer or construction worker than a teacher.
Why? At the end of the day, I supposed, I could proudly point to the bricks or edifice and say, this is the fruit of my labor today. It is tangible. I worked; I produced. There it is for me to see.
Not so with teaching. You work. You might not see positive results. Worse yet, you might see negative results. Labor that appears to have been in vain.
Recently, in the light of my impending retirement and time-out reflection, now, in retrospect, I’ve adapted a Scriptural image to describe what teaching was like.
Turns out, I was a construction worker, of sorts, working with, building, “architecting,” if you will, “living stones.”
And, although I have packed up my worker’s tools, someone else can keep going with the building. Maybe chipping away; maybe molding and even tearing down and building up again.
In the end, I got my way. I laid stones—living, breathing, animate stones.
And no paper-and-pencil; no digital test can ever have the final word on my effectiveness. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
In your career, what were you building?