What I couldn’t do.

Today is the day before the big state math test.

Today is the culmination of a full month of cramming math into the brains of my fifth graders, shoving it in, piling it on, twisting it and turning it to make it fit.

We are behind this year! We lost 6 days to snowstorms! We lost a week when half the class was out with strep!

We are behind! We are behind!

In my effort to meet the pressure from my school, from my district, from my state, I have tried to force a month’s worth of math into a week.  I have tried to review (“You must remember long division!!!! We did it in December!”), revisit (quadrilateral, rhombus, parallelogram, angle, exponent, improper fraction) and remind ( “Writing to explain means that you have to use the proper vocabulary!”)

I have given worksheet upon worksheet, played math games, looked at math web sites.  I have held full class lessons, small group lessons and individual lessons.

I have held each little head in my hands and I have forced algebra and geometry and fractions and decimals into every orifice, pushing and stuffing to make sure that each cranium was full to bursting.

I took no time to notice what was falling out, what had to go to make room for the order of operations.  It might have been humor that was lost. Perhaps it was art.  Or a sense of well-being, or a chance to make a new friend.  I am sure that poetry slipped out and rolled away under the furniture, never to be found again.

Today is the day before the big state math test. No learning will take place in Massachusetts for two days; we will be testing for most of the day, and recuperating for the rest.

Today is the day when I am supposed to give the kids a practice test.  Just to make sure that when they come in tomorrow with their full to bursting brains, they will remember to color in the little bubbles with a good dark mark. They will have practiced how to eliminate the obviously wrong answers.  They will be all polished and buffed up. They will be good little test takers.

I am supposed to do it.

But I won’t.

Giving these children yet another hour of mindless, repetitive math drills, just so that the adults can feel good about “education reform” is something that I simply cannot force myself to do.

It is a beautiful spring day.  We are going to go outside and look at the pond.  We are going to sketch.  We are going to read beautiful poetry and write some of our own.

Today is the day before the big state math test.   And I just can’t shovel in any more facts or figures.

I can’t do it.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I think your plan for the day sounds wonderful–it sounds like a day that your students will remember, a day that may actually show them how much more meaningful learning can be than just filling in bubbles on a test. One more day of cramming won’t make a significant difference (at least in my opinion), but the kind of learning experiences you’ve planned for them today just may make a difference.


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