The Light at the End of Test Prep
One of my students asked me yesterday, "Hey, how come we don't read our books in class anymore?"
"Because we had to prepare for the test," I said. I assured her we'd be getting back to real reading as soon as the test is over. Then another student asked, "So what's the next...thing, you know, that we're doing?" "You mean our next unit?" "Yeah, that." "Well, we'll be go back to reading and studying fiction, and then writing our own fiction." "Yessss!!!!!!'" a student cried out. A number of other students joined in the brief rejoice.
Then they returned to writing identical compare and contrast essays about how Louis Braille's dot system was received "at first" and then "later," based on a short "listening selection" from a previous year's test they had taken notes on, and using a formula template, designed to ensure them a decent score if they follow it.
During test prep I feel more like a trainer than a teacher. My students seem to become widgets; and the fact they have unique personalities and experiences and patterns of behavior almost gets in the way of what we need to accomplish, rather than being a source of inspiration for all of us. Because of that, I feel satisfied in my decision to spend only 2.5 weeks on explicit test prep. The rest was folded into my fall curriculum.
That the test in January is both a curse and a blessing: a curse because you only get to work with your students for half a year before they are tested, so their scores also depend substantially on their experience in the second half of the previous year, and they never reflect the golden period of march and april where students seem to really internalize what they've been exploring and practicing with you all year; but it is a blessing because afterwards, you are free of the tests' narrow, dull, outdated demands.
Though I'm curious to see how my students do this year, I'm more excited to be a part of their learning for the rest of the year.
[image credits: http://blogsarchive.newsobserver.com/media/Light%20at%20the%20End%20of%20the%20Tunnel.JPG]