Effort affects everything
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest post by Suzy Brooks
Tomorrow morning both my @FourthGraders and my 16 year old son will take the state Common Core assessment. Like the swallows to Capistrano, these tests come around faithfully each spring. Though the swallows are welcomed with fiestas and cheering crowds, our requisite tests are not met with the same level of joy and wonder.
Though, there are things we wonder about…. There are many “sides” to the standardized testing conversation. A quick search on Google allows readers to experience the opinions of those who are anti-test, and those who are pro-test… There are plenty of opinions inside and outside the world of education to fill in gaps in between. I have never written about my personal opinion regarding these tests. First of all, our classroom blog is no place for controversy, and secondly I could not choose a side.
Today? I finally choose a side. I choose Effort. I support Best Effort in all areas of the curriculum. I support Best Effort inside and outside the classroom. I support Best Effort 180 days a year as a teacher and I strive for Best Effort 365 days a year as a human being (though laundry piles and dusty shelves are a testament to my falling short sometimes ha ha!).
This afternoon, I chatted on the rug with my students to go over the logistics for testing tomorrow and to clear up any last-minute concerns. They were thrilled to hear there would be no homework this week. Whoop!! They asked if they should go to bed early. They spoke of what snacks they would bring to fuel their pre-test brains. They asked (again) about how long it would be. They asked (again) about what to do if they have technical glitches. They asked (again) whether we were taking the Math or ELA test tomorrow.
Then it happened – they shared what they have heard about The Test. This year, “The Question” was asked quite respectfully (most years, it is asked by a student in a way that isn’t so kind). When the student said “I was told the test only measures teachers and whether they do a good job. Is that true?”, there was a small sea of bobbing heads. They have heard the same thing. Oftentimes, students are told the test is not testing them, it is testing their teacher. Though I understand the rationale to reassure young students, hearing the question always makes me sad.
To answer the question, I was honest and true to my own feelings. The test gives us a small picture of how we are all doing. It might show whether or not our curriculum meets the standards. It might show whether or not my methods are improving each year. It might show students their performance over time. It leaves out many vital, important facets of teaching and learning. It is by no means a bottom-line measurement of who we are as teachers, as students or as parents. It is a blurry snapshot at best.
But I reminded them only ONE thing matters to me every year. Only one thing matters to me every day. Only one thing will make a difference in their lives as they move forward.
Effort Affects Everything.
Whether I am working with students on the first day of school, the 40th day of school, the day before a vacation, the day of a test, or the final day I spend with them before I hug them goodbye, I share the same message: Effort Affects EVERYTHING. They hear me say it when I am praising them. They hear me say it when I am encouraging them. They hear me say it when I am testing them. They even hear me say it when I am reprimanding them. Though they are still learning to do so, I expect my students to try their best each and every day. I expect the same of myself. I know my inner middle-aged Pollyanna is speaking for me when I say it doesn’t matter what we are doing – we should always try our best. Students in my classroom hear this, read this, see this, and know it to be true; it is the foundation of our classroom culture.
Effort Affects Everything.
I told my fourth grade students I expect them to treat tomorrow like every other day of the school year. I expect them to try their best. To read carefully. To employ strategies. To write thoughtfully. To be genuine, hard workers because THAT is what I expect of them every day. Adults know there is pride in a hard day’s work; my young students are discovering it for themselves.
This post originally appeared on blogs.falmouth.k12.ma.us and has been republished with permission.
Suzy received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Ed. and Sociology and her graduate degree in Instructional Technology. Currently, she is serving on the Board of Directors for MASCD (Massachusetts Association for Supervision and Curriculum and Development). Suzy also recently became a Teacher Ambassador for FableVision, an amazing, innovative company that encourages creativity and individuality in schools.