Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Favorite Time of the School Year, NOT!

I was not planning on blogging tonight but as I was cruising twitter, my awesome PLN shared this post by Lee Colbert and because of the events that transpired this past week, I felt compelled to write.

This past week was the worst week I have had as a teacher this year.  Teachers returned from spring break on Monday to district in-service and the students returned on Tuesday.  Our state testing starts the first week of May and so, like so many other teachers in my shoes, I am feeling the pinch of the material I have yet to "cover" before the testing begins.  I am a math teacher for those of you who did not know and I have spent this year implementing a standards based grading system that is new to me and my students.  I have also worked to make my math classes more about problem-solving and thinking rather than teaching rules for students to follow.  I work everyday to build student confidence in their ability to use their brains to think through problems.  

I fear that all of the time I have spent this year empowering students to create foundations for their mathematical thinking and understanding was demolished this week.  Even though I worked to provide discovery learning activities for the students, they were confused, frustrated, and questioning their math ability and understanding.  The culminating event was my last period of the day on Friday when one of my higher level math students was brought to tears as he struggled with the content he thought he understood and was feeling stupid and incompetent of which he is neither.  

As I consider my plan of action for the next two weeks, keeping the events of the past week in mind,  I have decided to change course.  Instead of cramming material down my students throats and causing an erosion of their confidence, I will take a different path.  

These next two weeks will consist of me reminding my students how smart they are, what great problem solvers they are, and working to build their confidence back up by reminding them that they already know so much about mathematics and mathematical thinking.  My only hope is that they still have faith in me and believe me when I tell them they can do this and anything they set their minds to.  I have to make sure my students understand 1) I trust in their ability and 2)I know and believe the last thing they as students want to do is fail.

I really HATE standardized testing because of the way it makes my students and me feel about ourselves.  Even though I will be re-planning this weekend, my heart feels lighter because my classroom will be one of celebrating and reinforcement  instead of cramming and discouragement.


  1. Kristen,
    Thank you for your post and for the "shout out." You sound like a wonderful teacher and I encourage you to do what you know is right, despite the mandates. As I said in my post, we MUST conform to certain rules as a means of survival but we can make it a lot easier for our students if we try. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Best of luck to you and your students.

    1. Thanks Lee for your post and support! I met you virtually at a Classroom 2.0 webinar a year ago and have been following you ever since on Twitter. I really appreciate your perspective as I have been in the classroom for 21 years and every year I consider leaving, but I have not been able to make the jump because I really feel my impact in education is with the kids. However, this time of the school year I find myself searching for coordinator positions as I begin to feel a bit hopeless with the NCLB and testing.
      Thanks for your thoughts and inpiration!