The Testing of Patience

Being pulled into a full year of teaching seventh-grade language arts has been an interesting and energizing experience for me. I’m an almost-67-year-old rookie who hangs out with 12 and 13 year olds five days a week. Some of my students when discovering my age have ribbed me with comments like “Forget your walker today, Mr. Wolfe?” and “Don’t fall and hurt yourself!” They say things like that with smiles on their faces, not really intending to be disrespectful. Bottom line, it’s been a good journey that I’m glad to be a part of.

Education this year is more about the journey and not so much about the content. Knowledge and understanding are happening, but awareness of the emotional, mental, and social aspects of our student’s lives have risen to the top of the priority pole.

One of the dilemmas that schools face this year that has become another aspect that is out of their control is the mandating of assessment testing. Irregardless of all the other stressing situations and despite the fact that some school districts are still not back to in-person learning, the edict has come down that states and their school districts will be required to administer assessment tests. There is much debate, discussion, and heated dialogue as to the need for it. In a stressed-out school calendar year it means taking two to three days to find out where students are most deficient. For many school districts across the country that means testing will happen shortly after students have finally come back to in-person learning.

Our school is expecting that the parents of about half of our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students will opt their children out of the testing. In essence, the data from those who test will be incomplete and inclusive. In my view of those who have opted out so far, it seems that parents who are more engaged in their child’s learning consider testing to be an unnecessary and ill-timed intrusion into the education journey for this school year.

But schools have been mandated to do it…even when half won’t be there. For those in our school who opt out, they will be given assignments to do asynchronously those days at home.

The arguments in support or opposition bring out the passion in the opinionated. Those who support testing seem to say that we need the data to see how much ground we’ve lost. It’s an indicator, a tool to help guide the next school year. Those opposed say that it’s not what is good for kids right now. It’s the pull of the structure versus the sanity of our students. Preserving the structure has a tendency to take on a sacredness to it, kind of like cursive writing. Or better yet, the placement of the letters on our laptop keyboard that was determined back when typewriters had all of those annoying arms that would become entangled if someone typed too fast. The letters were arranged to slow down the typist. Guess what we still use in this age of laptops? The slowest keyboard design known to mankind! That’s the firmness that structure can sometimes have.

Evaluating what has been has value to it. Assessing has merit. Sometimes, however, you just need to take the extra garments off because the temperature doesn’t warrant them being worn. Wrap the sweater around your waist and use it next time.

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