0067: Testing, the Existential Crisis, and Hope in #Rebellion
#testing #education #revolution
We’ve been back at school for less than a week and students are already sharing their dissent about testing. Of course, they came back from the holidays to benchmark testing. How could we begin the year without knowing where they are and how much we need to move them? These benchmark tests are a fine and expensive resource provided by a testing company to be predictors of success. They help us, the teaching faculty, “target” the specific “needs” of a particular student. These so called needs have nothing to do with true or basic or even academic needs; these needs have been defined by a corporate testing company and the creators of the state curriculum. The needs of our students are reduced to a certain score on a test. Are their needs so arbitrary?
I hate that we’ve all returned to a hornet’s nest of testing. Everyone’s already anxious. The state could take over if we don’t succeed. Jobs are at stake. The principal devoted 15 minutes on the intercom to explaining the importance of this target test and how it would count as a grade. He told teachers to watch for students who were just bubbling answers. They would receive Saturday school. It’s such a shame that we are subjecting human beings to such meaningless stress. The students above all aren’t learning anything of value. Simply stay in line, shut up, and answer the questions the way you were taught to answer them. The teachers have dead eyes because they know deep down their not really teaching, their just trying to, like the students, stay in line, shut up, and train people to answer questions in a certain way. There is no critical thought. We’re all chained to the test. The principals are terrified of losing their jobs, and are overwhelmed with discipline problems. Students don’t want to be tested. They’re bored and weary from years of testing. Many never move beyond basic and have accepted the futility of their situation. They give up with no one to stoke their curiosity.
Each school that has employed me has faced the same existential crisis. There is no hope in being trained for a test. There is no learning, only training. Learning requires curiosity, but curiosity is killed off in the early grades. And if there is no learning, then there is no teaching. Year by year we become more numb to our positions as teachers. We have been placed in little boxes just like our students. So where is the hope? Where is the light? Is it students’ rebellion? Is it in teachers when they choose to chase rabbits and follow students down paths of curiosity? Sure. Sure, hope is there. It’s in rebellion. It’s in the commitment to step out of line and get your job done so you can stick around, but really to redefine your job so you are really teaching. There is spring and life in rebellion. There is joy in revolution.
0031: If you can’t reach ‘em, drug ‘em. I guess.
I just finished carefully filling out a form that had the insignias of the America Academy of Pediatrics (dedicated to the health of all children), the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, and McNeil Consumer and Specialty Pharmaceuticals— two health organizations and one corporation, good benevolent companies with children’s interest at heart. The goal, I’m assuming is to issue drugs to tame this rambunctious young black child. He is a handful, but drugging a child just doesn’t seem helpful. Perhaps, a behavioral intervention or some adjustment to the way he is being taught. I’ve made a few adjustments and seen improvements. He’s a genius of a kid, just not really interested in complying. And whose to say he should comply? He disrupts during whole group activity. He has energy. When he writes it’s clever and amazing. His writing is a little off color, a little blue. He has an adult sense of humor. But the syntax is amazing. He struggles in all of his classes, but should we drug him? Or, are we just too cheap and lazy to do anything else? I am not without blame. I haven’t learned to manage his behavior. I have neither forced him into compliance or broken his spirit. He is one of the few and proud who is refusing to be schooled. I admire his wit and commitment to doing what he sees fit. He questions absolutely everything. And yes he becomes inappropriate. But, he deserves a proper education. He is not “driven by a motor”. He is driven by his mind and his choices. They do not align with the state curriculum, but they are his.
He struggles in most of his classes. Maybe he struggles against them. I’ve encountered kids like this over the course of my career. Sometimes they make it; sometimes they’re made into victims. I hope my non-referral keeps him corporate-drug-free. I hope the system that serves him adjusts to him. Unfortunately, systems wants perfect sprockets that fit on their machines. If you can’t reach ‘em drug ‘em. I guess.