It is mid-winter. Outdoor recess is rare between below freezing weather and melting snow creating mudslides on the playground. Winter break is behind us, the glamour of the new school year is long gone, and spring and summer seem so far away. Even the students are dragging. Many of us have hit the mid-year teacher blues.
A colleague of mine has a poster in her office of the “‘Phases of First Teachers’ Attitude Towards Teaching,” which shows that around this time new teachers start to become frustrated and disillusioned about being a teacher. Except on her chart she’s crossed out the word ‘first’ and written “every year” in bold letters. It seems to be true. January and February are tough months.
Currently I’m participating in daily testing. In fact, I feel like I am drowning in testing. Is this why I got into this job? To test and re-test kids? There are tests to give to students who are going through the special education eligibility process. There are classroom mid-year assessments and county mid-year assessments to gain insight into where students are in reading and math. There are state-mandated ESL tests to determine if their English has improved.
I’m a daily testing robot: Read the manual, turn the page, administer the instructions.
Testing is certainly far from why I got into teaching, and the daily assessments are starting to wear on me. If only I could just teach.
It is hard to keep in mind that the assessments are moving us forward with instruction. If we use them correctly they are setting a path for our instruction going forward. They will tell us where there are gaps, who still needs to learn what, and what misconceptions we did not realize our students have.
These mid-year assessments are actually more powerful and meaningful to us than the end-of-year assessments because we see the results when we still have time to actually make changes in our teaching. These are the assessments that show us how far we have come and where we still need to go.
This understanding does not make the physical act of testing any easier. But it does help us keep in mind that in a few weeks the testing will be (momentarily) over and we can get back to what we do best: Teaching. With our new data and information we should be able to teach even better than we would have otherwise.
January and February will fade into spring. Indoor recess days will become fewer, we will dive back into lessons that excite us and motivate our students. We will make connections with our students, strengthen our relationships with them, and in the end stand back in awe of their progress. In the meantime, we can tell ourselves what we tell our students: Yes, it is hard right now, but we can do hard things.