Last week and this coming week marks two weeks of standardized testing at my school. One week for the test and the following week for make-ups, for anyone who was sick or whose parents decided to take them on vacation. Yes, vacation. For some crazy twist in the universe, I am in charge of testing. At first I resented that someone would take their 3rd, 4th, or 5th grader on vacation during testing week. I now admire the parents’ thinking: “The test can wait. It will still be there when we return.” What a commanding attitude. Fun, rest, leisure come first. Testing?
Testing can wait but not for me and most of my students. We could not avoid being assessed, judged, and quantified. I am responsible for all the students with learning differences who require extended time. I remember what it was like to be a student taking those yearly spring exams. I’d get so nervous that I’d have butterflies in my stomach. I’d read passages and word problems and suddenly nothing made sense to me. I’d try to focus and reread what I just read. Test taking was a slow and painful process.
Last week, my students and I spent five mornings together taking an assortment of reading, writing, and math tests. I tried to make it less stressful. I tried to make it fun. I brought doughnuts! As we were about to begin, they asked me question after question: “How many questions are there? I long will it take? If I have to go to the bathroom, can you pause the test? Good, smart, practical questions. I answer every single one. Then I said, “I’m going to sprinkle fairy dust on you. This will give you good luck and the test will be easier.” I thought they would laugh and think I was being goofy. I’m sure they did, but also, to my surprise, each and every one of them called out wanting to make sure that I didn’t miss them. Some of them asked for another helping for fairy dust. We laughed loudly. We were now ready for the test.
Like all the years before, the students got through the testing week and were relieved and happy when Friday came. I know testing is necessary, but I think there is a way to quantify what they really now is a more creative, positive way. But of course, that would be labor intensive, take commitment and imagination, which we have a short supply of lately in education. As I compete my forty-second year of teaching and look forward to forty-three, I wrote a poem as a balm for testing week.
3 thoughts on “Spread A Little Fairy Dust”
Forty-two years of teaching – I cannot even conceive of it, Joanne! You are a wonder in so many ways. Your bright spirit shines even in the drudgery of testing week. I am with you all the way, here: “I know testing is necessary, but I think there is a way to quantify what they really now is a more creative, positive way. But of course, that would be labor intensive, take commitment and imagination, which we have a short supply of lately in education.” -Well said! Other countries have better ways – why do we persist with this?? (A: Testing is big business. $$$).
Your poem is a delight and definitely a balm – a little pixie dust goes a long, long way. And you scatter it so far and wide, my friend! I hope the testing is over by now and that happier things are on the immediate horizon.
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Yes, Joanne, here’s to “vanquish(ing) dragons” and “conquer(ing) pirates” We do need creativity and imagination instead of standardized testing, but in the meantime, bring out the fairy dust!
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I am not in the classroom anymore, but I still dread testing time and what it does to children and teachers. Your post and poem were indeed a bit of balm that I need during this time.