On the eve of testing season, all the stress is becoming almost unbearable. I know it is for my students, which is atrocious to do to an 8- and 9-year old child. I’ve tried my best to help ease the stress, but let’s face it, when they are faced with the threat of retention, there’s not much comfort that can be offered.
Lately, as we draw ever closer to this nightmarish test, I’ve seen my high level students turn in work that just isn’t characteristic of them. The ones that struggle seem to be struggling even more so. The growth they have shown is backsliding a bit. We do games and hands-on activities to review. I keep encouraging them all, telling them because we’ve reviewed and practiced there’s no need to be nervous. They will do great. It all seems hollow and empty.
Since the retention law has been put into place, this is the only thing that is discussed when anyone mentions 3rd grade. In the past, when I told people what grade I teach, I would hear, “Oh that’s such a great age!” or “I loved 3rd grade when I was in school.” Now people tell me about their fears and concerns for their children and grandchildren that are in or will soon be in 3rd grade. All I hear are worries and complaints. It starts from the moment parents walk in at Open House night to the end of the year and beyond. This has gone from a fun and exciting time of learning and exploration to being overworked and stressed to the breaking point.
I used to ask, “Why are we doing this to 3rd graders?” and have changed it to “Why are we doing this to 8- and 9-year old children?” in the vain attempt to draw attention to the burden that we are putting on these young children. It seemed to me that no one paid much attention to the grade level, but when I put the age into the equation, it seems to drive my point home a little bit more effectively.
I’m still trying to figure out why we are doing this to our children. These arbitrary goals we set for them, and then shame mercilessly when they don’t reach them. There are no accolades for the gains they have made, because we don’t test them to see where they started and how much they’ve grown. That’s not what’s important to the powers that be, whoever they may be (and for their sake, I hope we don’t ever meet face-to-face). It’s all about that all-powerful, all-knowing test at the very end of the year given over a two-day period. All hail the OCCT! It makes me sick.
If I could take this burden from my kids, I would in a heartbeat. I know what they are capable of. I’ve seen their growth. I know their potential. I’ve seen their creativity. I’ve seen how great they work together and encourage each other. I’ve seen them overcome difficulties at school and at home. I’ve seen them rise to the occasion on various challenges. They inspire me. They keep me in this grade level despite being burned out by the tests, RTI paperwork, progress monitoring, and other drivel I endure myself. Yes, I’ve thought of leaving this grade many times. Too many to count. I stay for them. I love them beyond words and measure.
So as we come to the pinnacle of this school year, hinging on the success of one asinine test, I pray for their success. I will it with all the strength I can muster. I encourage and praise and remind them of all they’ve accomplished this year and all the years before. Most of all, I remind them of how much I love them. This test can never measure that, nor does it determine how much they mean to me.
You’ve got this, my darlings! No matter what happens, I am oh so very proud of you!