Slice of Life: Shhhh! We’re Testing

Slice of Life 2011Round one of this week’s Reading Comprehension state testing began yesterday and I don’t think I have had a class work as hard, or as long, on the test as I have with this year’s crew. Some of them were at it for more than 2 1/2 hours (on a test the state suggests will take about an hour).

Here are some snapshots from my perch as teacher:

  • The school provides some pre-testing snack food. Yesterday, it was goldfish and juice. Before I knew it, they were all trying to toss the fish in the air and catch them in their mouths. I let it go on for a second, until the fish were landing on the ground. “OK, enough,” I shouted. “Pick up the fish.” Their response? “Ahhh.”
  • They had to put my name on the cover of the test this year. This is new and no doubt, it is a result of some cheating or accountability problems in some districts (not ours). Even at this point in the year, some kids still have trouble spelling my name! And one of them wrote down me as a MRS. I explained that my wife was in another school that day, helping to oversee high school MCAS (true).
  • They asked if they could take off their shoes. I had never been asked that before, but I didn’t care. Almost everyone did, and one of my more exuberant student shot her feet into the air to show off her mismatched, colorful socks. “Look at my toes!” she giggled, which eased some of the stress in the room.
  • I saw a hand across the room. A student, whose second language is English and who struggles with reading comprehension, called me over and pointed to a word. “What does that mean?” he asked, looking up at me. I could only shake my head and tell him I could not help. I saw tears in his eyes for a second, then he got back down to the problem. It broke my heart.
  • I had to exchange nine pencils during testing because they were writing so much on the open response questions, they had run their pencils down to the nub. In fact, I saw them doing a lot of writing, making notes and making outlines. I believe a few even wrote a first draft in their test booklets before a final draft in their answer booklets.
  • Another hand. I wandered over. “I think I made a big mistake,” she whispered. These are not words you want to hear in a state testing environment. She had written the open response answer in a space for another question. OK. I grabbed an eraser and told her to rewrite her response in the right space and then do a good job erasing the other one, and she should be fine. “You’re fine. Don’t worry,” I told her, and she seemed to settle down.
  • Once they are done, they can read. Only read. But the time stretched on so long that one of my antsy boys lost interest in his book and began to dissemble his pen and then use the spring to launch the pen cap into the air. He was doing it silently, and with focus. I let him go until another student began to imitate him, adding her rocket to the launch sequence. Suddenly, the airspace felt crowded. I told them to stop, and told the boy later, “Make sure you have a good book with you on Friday.”
  • We are not allowed to look at the tests or their answers, and I don’t. But I couldn’t help noticing as I was wandering the classroom that there was a play skit as one of the reading passages this year. We had done an entire unit this year on writing and reading plays. I have myself a little mental fist pump on that one.

Round two for Reading Comprehension is tomorrow, and then we are done for awhile (until Math rolls around in May).

Peace (in the testing),

  1. Kevin I am struck by the commonalities and differences in our state testing. The differences seem to make comparisons among states completely ludicrous. Best of luck to your little guys, I hope it’s over quickly!

  2. Hi Kevin —
    Thanks for the glimpses into your classroom on testing day. I continue to admire the relationship you have with your students. The way they were relieving stress and you were helping and empowering them to do so speaks volumes. May you know today (and on the day of the results) that you are a success. Glad to be in this profession with you.

  3. As my school does no testing, I am interested in hearing what happens, & you seem to support your students so well, in handling the stress plus doing the prep. Thank you for showing that there can be some ‘fun’ moments, with a good teacher helping along the way.

  4. I also appreciated that you were sensitive to the different personalities in your classroom and were a calm presence. Two and a half hours is a long testing session! It sounds like you handled it really well.

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