March 10, 2011

Test? What? Pshh. A Memory.

Wahoo! The testing madness is over for the year!

There have been so many times in the past six months when I felt I was just not doing enough as I felt that cloud of testing doom looming over my students and me. The year started off rough with a change in the writing exam. My students had been so well-trained on narrative writing, but then the test switched to expository. For years, I've been helping seniors who could hardly write paragraphs pass the high school writing proficiency exam. You'd think I'd have it dialed in, but the difference is that my middle schoolers can write paragraphs, and I expect then to do more than barely pass. They still have their high school careers ahead of them--most of them in magnet or accelerated programs.

So, you would think it would have been easy teaching my brainiacs how to write thesis statements. Or the importance of a creative lead, which they should have been able to do with their excellent narrative skills. You might expect that they could learn to organize a basic essay with actual transitions and everything. My principal is expecting that they'll all pass the exam, too, but on the day of the test, all I could do is shrug my shoulders and hope for the best---

And then I started doubting myself. Although my students wrote about 20 essays before they took the test in February, I starting doubting my other moves. Maybe I should not have taught that long novel. I wish I hadn't spent time collaborating with the science teachers on the science fair reports. Research isn't a benchmark for me until 4th quarter. I should not have done it in the 2nd quarter. Did I give them enough instruction to help them with their practice? Ack! I don't know.

About three weeks after my students took the writing exam, we had the state reading exam. I had some packets of practice tests for them, but then I started worrying that it wasn't enough. Why didn't I talk more about this literary term, or that literary term. Did we read too much literature and not enough expository writing? How would they do on the constructed response? I mean, I did have students doing more literary analysis than ever before, but what if they didn't make the connected to how they did that to what they needed to do on the test? I started stressing about how I might have given them too much writing and not enough reading.

You see the madness, right?

Is there enough time for me to have balance?

I can only hope.

The testing is over. The rest of the year will be just as rigorous, but perhaps I can beat myself up less. In between all the testing mania this week, my students started researching for their public service announcements, a cross curricular project related to their foreign language classes. You know, thinking, creating, the IB design cycle? Good stuff! Next month, we'll be celebrating National Poetry Month with a unit on spoken poetry, a unit that still needs to be created, but I'm über excited about it. We'll wrap up the year with an awesome Anne Frank unit that includes some creative writing.

Learning still going on the rest of the year? Oh yeah. Testing mania? Been there done that.


OKP said...

You can beat yourself up less. You're doing the best you can, and from your post, it sounds as though your best is what's best for your kids. Do better than cutting yourself some slack; celebrate the intensive learning experience you've put together!

Yaaaaaay! (See, I'll do it for you, even.)

OUr testing season has just begun here. My 10th graders thought the exit exam was pretty easy, though they hate doing math in their heads. Up next, more state tests and APs.

Looking forward to your posts on the poetry unit!

HappyChyck said...

You're very sweet. You get the madness, though, right? One day, the other English teacher and I had a freak out, and we scramble around making sure that we were really doing all we needed to do. In the end, we decided we were. It's frustrating how this testing business shakes us up sometimes. We are competent teachers.

Cheers to your and your students in finding success in their upcoming exams. I keep telling mine to think of the exams as a way to show everyone how smart they are. :-)

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I have a boatload of poetry stuff. Powerpoints and the like. Email me on interact and I'll overwhelm er send it to you.

I hate those stupid tests...

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