Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Good Bye, Fifth Graders! Be good…..

I love the last week of school because the atmosphere in the building is joyful, silly, celebratory.  We have “Crazy Hair Day” and “Picnic Lunch Day”. We put on our play, everyone gives extra recess, and the math books are packed away for the summer.

I love this week.

I hate the last week of school because it means letting go.  For ten long months, I have thought about these twenty five children day and night, adapting lessons for them, watching them at work and play.  I have felt responsible for their learning, their growth, their confidence.  I have fretted over the ones who can’t seem to speak up, and sputtered over the once who can’t stay quiet no matter how I scold.

I hate this week because it is such an abrupt and complete break with these children whom I have nurtured and loved.  As they leave my door on the last day of school, I know about their families, their health issues, their special education plans.  I am part of the fabric of their lives, as I have been since the end of August.

But when they come back in the fall, I will no longer be privy to those facts, nor should I be.  Confidentiality is vital in a school, and the families of our children deserve to be protected from gossip and chatter.  Professionally speaking, I have no need to find out how K’s eye doctor visit turned out, even if I was the one who first noticed the problem.  I have no need to know about squabbles between families or among family members, even though in the spring I was asked to help G to handle them.

In the fall I will no longer be a part of those lives that mean so very much to me right now.  They will walk out this door in three days, and I will wave goodbye and call “Happy Summer!”

Then I will open my hands, hold them toward the west wind, and I will slowly and sadly let go.


No Rubric

Like every good teacher, I try to do what I am told by my administrators. I realize that much of what they demand comes not from their own beliefs about children, but from the local, state and federal bureaucrats who increasingly control what we do every day.

I have tried my best to administer pre-tests, post-tests and ongoing formative assessments.

I have even created and used rubrics on everything from story writing to math questions.  I understand that in the age of “accountability”, I must provide proof that children are learning under my care.

I get it, OK?


Now that the state tests are over, and I have already met with every parent to review the year’s progress, I am free to let the children go.  Now that all of the weighing and measuring is over, I am free to encourage them to indulge in all of the intellectual curiosity and creativity that I have been forced to curtail all year.  I am free to give them a push, aim them in the right direction, and let them spread those beautiful wings.

They are putting on a play.

They chose the topic (a script based on a book that we read out loud, but including themselves in the action). They chose roles, wrote the lines, chose the directors.  They have spent three weeks (including several recess times) creating sets and painting, cutting, gluing, rewriting, organizing, rehearsing.

I keep a general sense of order, and help the two directors (the two quietest girls in the class) to assert themselves. My role is to get their attention and keep them to the timeline.

Other than that, I am staying out of the way.

While I seriously doubt that we will ever win a Tony award, I have to say that the play is funny, fast paced and thorough.

With no adult to get in the way, the kids have used all kinds of literacy skills (ie, writing a summary, writing dialogue, editing, rewriting), all kinds of math skills (ie, measuring the sets, estimating time, averaging the number of lines spoken), and all kinds of social skills (ie, cooperating, compromise, asserting ideas, making sure that everyone is included).  This play, complete with a food fight, poop jokes and more pratfalls than an old Jerry Lewis movie, is the culmination of everything that I have tried to teach them this year.

And there is no rubric that can measure the sense of pride, pleasure and community that this activity is giving them.

Quotes from the front line.

My fifth graders are in the middle of our annual state testing.  Here in beautiful Massachusetts, our kids are tested in reading and writing (in April), math, and science/technology (in early May).

If you know anything about high stakes testing, you know that this means that the month of April is completely taken up with preparing for tests, taking tests, and preparing for more tests. We have to review previously learned skills, teach and practice test taking strategies, and review all of the science and math facts that we have learned in the past six years.  We enjoy lovely days filled with inspirational comments like, “Don’t for get to punctuate! capitalize! Remember those math facts! Use the science vocabulary!!  We get out highlighters and find those pesky key words (more than, total, compare….).  We eliminate the answers that make no sense (“No, honey, you can’t eliminate them all.”) and we practice taking wild guesses because, let’s be honest, nobody is going to remember every little science fact from kindergarten. I mean, come on, what do you really learn about the habitats of polar bears when your brain is totally focused on getting home to hug your Mommy?

I have pretty strong feelings about the huge amount of time that is lost to all this testing, but the purpose of this post is to share the views of the kids as they experience it. Now, I want to be honest; most of my upper middle class, well fed, well rested students told me today that the first part of our math testing was “pretty easy”.  But they asked some very good questions, and made some truly poignant observations.  Let me show you what I mean.  Here is a sampling of conversations from Room 303 in the past week.

“Can you tell me what the question means? I know you can’t give me the answer, but can you tell me what they are asking?”

(Me: “I’m sorry, honey, I can’t tell you that.  Make your best guess.”)

“On this one, do they want me to just write down the number for the answer, or do they want the whole number sentence?”

(Me: “I’m sorry, honey, I can’t tell you that.  Make your best guess.”)

“If I get the right answer, but I use the wrong form, will they mark it wrong?  Why would they do that, if they want to see if I know how to do the math?”

 (Me: “I’m sorry, honey. I have no idea.”)

“A histogram is the same as a bar graph, right?”

(Me: “I’m sorry, honey, I can’t tell you that.  Make your best guess.”)

“If they want to know what we learned in fifth grade, why are they testing us in April, when we still have 8 weeks of school?”

(Me: “I don’t know.”)

And my personal favorite:

“Do we still have to learn math now that the test is over?”

Sorry, but you can’t tell me that this stupid test doesn’t squash intellectual curiosity, dampen educational enthusiasm and basically suck the joy out of the elementary school day.  Between you and me, the worst thing I can ever say to a student is this:

“I’m sorry honey, I can’t tell you that.”

What the hell are we doing?!

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