It is teacher appreciation week. There are so many memes, so many blog posts, so many heart-felt thank yous. It is teacher appreciation week and #thankateacher is trending on Twitter. It is teacher appreciation week, I am trying to be grateful for the little note in my mailbox every day. I have worked in places where the teachers organized and paid for the only recognition they would get that year. And I am grateful to the PTA at my school, not just for the little thank you gifts, but also for the army of moms who come in and make the copies of the teacher more organized than I, I haven’t had to wait in line for the copier all year. I am grateful for the room in the budget to buy as much paper as we need, and for the grants that I have applied for and gotten. I am grateful, I don’t mean to sound less than thrilled.
But it is teacher appreciation week, and the second week of standardized testing in the great State of Georgia. I finished my ninth graders on Friday (english has two tests), but math and history started today. It is teacher appreciation week and the kids are in and out and the bells are off to make sure that there are no testing irregularities. It is teacher appreciation week and the kids and the teachers are beginning to crack from the pressure of these high stakes tests.
Even with the best testing coordinator in the state, even with a group of students who understand the value of education, even with a supportive community, even with everything going for them, my students are cracking under the pressure of the test. Today I spent the beginning of third period talking a child down. She couldn’t even really tell me what the problem was, only that her teachers had been really stressed out lately and she didn’t really feel like school was a safe place for her. This girl is very tall, and very astute. It is easy to forget this one is barely 15. But she is, barely 15 and she simply doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth to test for two weeks.
It is teacher appreciation week and I am afraid that if I tell you that the tests are out of control. that I am cracking, that my students are cracking under the pressure of the tests that are so high stakes, that I will be labeled a whiner, a black sheep, one of those teachers who is mad about a higher standard, who simply doesn’t want to do her job.
It is teacher appreciation week, and we are sending notes and small tokens into my daughter’s preschool classroom. All over social media people are remembering their favorite teachers. I am being bombarded by blog posts about what an important job teachers have. And I believe that you believe that, especially when you think so fondly upon your own favorite teacher. I see the look on your face when you remember that one teacher who made you feel safe, taught you how to love learning, told you, you were good.
It is teacher appreciation week, and I need you to know that every person I work with became a teacher to become their favorite teacher for at least a few of their students every year. We want desperately to do right by our kids, we want them to do well. But the tests are not designed to do right by our kids, and the pressure to succeed at them is becoming unbearable.
It is teacher appreciation week, and I appreciate the pats on the back, the notes in my mail box, the extra cookie at lunch. But what I really need is to be appreciated enough that I could be trusted to do my job, that people would here the cries that the testing is crazy and bad for our kids. I am grateful to be appreciated, but I am desperate to be heard. Testing has gotten completely out of control. It is in direct opposition to the teaching that you remember as life changing and important. The tests are placing an undue burden on teachers and students, and we are cracking under the pressure.
John Oliver has the best explanation I can find about the absurdity of standardized tests if you are unclear about how damaging and arbitrary these tests are.