When I first moved back Virginia and began teaching here, I had already been teaching middle school for ten years. High-stakes testing, though, had not been a part of my professional language, daily curriculum, or yearly stress until this move. Of course, high-stakes state testing is felt by all now. I had to laugh, though, when I returned to my home in the South where they have so appropriately named a test that creates the well-known acronym “SOL.” Once I got into the trenches of the realities of state testing, I realized it was just a waste of irony and a cruel, cruel joke.
But I do not write of the doom and gloom of high-stakes testing! We as teachers, in the same sense that we did not enter this field for its hefty paycheck and multiple benefits, know that high-stakes testing is another hurdle that has been placed in front of use. Okay, it’s one of those huge walls along a Warrior obstacle race that we must go over! Bruises, cuts, and all, we shall make it over that wall! And as with our warrior racers, we pull over every single one of our students with us!
Yes, over the wall they come! Many of our students are able to jump right over themselves, having the skills as if they never needed us in the first place. Some of these students are gifted or just very interested in this particular subject. We admire those students for they teach us and their peers throughout the year. Next are those students who just need a little push or slight encouragement from you (the teacher) or a few words, hand up, from their peers, and then up and over they go. Then there are the doubters, but they are the doers. These are the students who actually fall in all the two other lists above, but they have just lost confidence in themselves or never been given the confidence in their true abilities. Sometimes we have to pull them a little before they realize, “Hey, I’m doing this on my own!” or “Hey, I’m almost there! I can take this from here!” Yes, they just need lots of encouragement.
Oh, but then there are those stragglers, strugglers, and challengers. Oh, how we often love them most because they test our patience and teaching abilities often more than other students. These students keep us on our toes and force us to be better teachers. Maybe even better people. You see them down there, right? Some are looking away, because they are afraid to look at the goal ahead. Some are staring straight ahead as if they are trying to see past that wall because they just cannot see it happening. Confidence is something they wish they had. Oh, and do not forget about those students who lost interest when the gifted kids went over the wall. They need to be corralled from the forest and brought back to the wall. They are out hitting each other with sticks they found. They already told each other, “There ain’t no way I’m going over that wall!”
You do it, though. You gather up the rest of the class, maybe with a little help from some of their willing peers. You tell those students of all they have accomplished prior to this huge obstacle. From the past school year you pluck memories of the most minute achievements that bring a spark to their eyes. Try after try, which is all one can ask, each student attempts to get over the wall. You get the most challenging students to, drop their sticks, focus and put their energy as well on getting over the wall. Many are amazed by their own success. In their own time and method, each student reaches the group. You make it important that they have put forth the effort, seen it through, and are, therefore, winners.
I celebrate my students the day before and the day after we take the Reading SOL. It is never anything major, but I congratulate them on this milestone of being prepared to take this test and (hopefully) having completed the test to the best of their ability.
I refuse to become negative about a test that my students and I have less control over than we do that Warrior wall. Still, I have to send my students out on their own this Thursday and Friday for their test. I know that the most important thing I can provide them with now is the confidence I have in them and the ability to believe in themselves.
I do not agree with high-stakes testing, but I believe in the basic foundations of the education system. I will see this through as well, for I believe in my students: past, present, and future. #Believe