We say we want students to be life-long learners but our actions often contradict that. I could do a much better job of allowing and supporting my students in following their interests, curiosities, and passions. Especially since, as a first grade teacher, I am not directly preparing them for any test.
I wrote the above paragraph more than two weeks ago on the second day of the Northern Virginia Writing Project Summer Institute. It was in response to discussions amongst us all about testing and how that has impacted our teaching. Many people find themselves teaching in ways that are very rigidly structured in order to prepare kids to pass a standardized test.
The next day I wrote the following: Balance - that seems to be the key to this conversation. We have to prepare kids for the realities of their future.* We also need to actually teach kids to write - not just to complete a writing task.
If students are going to truly be writers and learners as they grow and move on from formal schooling we have to prepare them for that. We are at a point at which we are only teaching our students what they need to move on from us, not what they need to move on in life.
I know the response is often that students have to pass these tests, both for their sake and for ours. I don't care.
I have two daughters. If I had to choose between them passing a state standardized test (or all of the state standardized tests, for that matter) and them being curious about the world and having the skills to continue learning and searching out the answers to their own questions, I pick the latter without any hesitation.
I firmly believe a person can pass a standardized test without much in the way of knowledge or skills. I don't believe they can truly succeed in growing as a learner and make a meaningful difference in the world without curiosity and the drive to seek out answers. I want my daughters and my students to be curious and driven. Standardized tests don't help with that.
When I began writing this my basic thoughts seemed organized to me. I was reflecting on thoughts from the past couple of weeks at the writing institute.
However, as I hit the end, I feel as though I've inadvertently stated pretty clearly why I'm marching next Saturday. Educators, parents, students, citizens are joining together in Washington, D.C. next Saturday, July 30th, for the Save Our Schools March. This event was initiated and organized by teachers. Some amazing and inspirational individuals will be speaking: Diane Ravitch, Jonathon Kozol, Jose Vilson, and Deborah Meier are ones I can't wait to hear. If you are in the D.C. area, please come out and join us! Send me an email and let me know you'll be there - I'd love to meet folks. If you aren't in the D.C. area, there are events happening to support this march across the country. Those of us in the schools everyday must speak up as we are the true experts. This is a fabulous opportunity to do so!
*I was thinking of future standardized testing such as the SAT or GRE in addition to the K-12 tests.