I’m spending a few hours of my Sunday getting some lessons and materials together for the next few weeks. I’ve been really proud of my planning lately – having a big overview is helping me to more quickly and easily piece together the day-to-day lessons without letting it take over EVERY second of my life like it was for the first half of the school year! It’s not perfect yet, but it’s definitely better!
Now that I have a second to metaphorically step back in my brain and take stock of the year and what is to come – I’m getting really worried about end-of-year testing!! At this point, I KNOW I’m teaching great and important lessons, and I’m taking the time to work with individual students on skills that each one needs more practice with, but I know that when it comes down to it – it’s out of my control!
We took a beginning of the year benchmark test in September and then a mid-year benchmark test in December. While these scores don’t impact my students’ grades, and are technically for my own knowledge (which I do appreciate and have used so much!), I wanted the students to interact with them in some way. They spent a few periods taking these tests and they were really curious about their grades, anyway. If I hadn’t done my special education master’s degree, I might not have pursued this idea as much, but after all of my learning about data and the impact it can have on students, I knew I wanted my students to graph their own data at some point this year. This was the perfect opportunity. So, we spent a period graphing their scores and setting goals. They were very receptive to this and many were excited to see that by getting just a few more questions right, they would have achieved a passing score. They also commented how this lesson seemed more like math than reading, but I always love a good cross-curriculur merging so that was great with me. 🙂
Since then, we have been focusing on our nonfiction skills – as this was the area where almost everyone got their lowest scores. I feel like we are making great progress and being very productive each day. BUT, when it comes down to it – the test could have some new wording, a confusing question, confusing answer choices, or an application of a skill that students haven’t seen (and yes, it would be great if all students understood enough to apply the skill in any context, but this just isn’t going to be the case for everyone). A student could feel sick, have a headache, be distracted by noise in the room. Maybe they just aren’t feeling it that day and when they get to a question where the answer doesn’t immediately pop out at them – they just pick C and move on! As much teaching as I do (and learning that they do!!!) each day, there’s NO guarantee that this test, or any test, will show that.
In my classroom, I’m really trying to balance the line between encouraging them to try their absolute best on these tests, and not giving them crazy anxiety!! Most of my students take a LONG time to fully analyze and answer questions when they’re giving their full effort. I appreciate them trying so hard and wanting to improve and show their learning, but I start to feel bad when they’re on their third day straight of testing.
It is a great feeling to know that I’m doing everything I think I can be doing to encourage success and learning in my kids. I learn a lot every day and I’m sure I’ll keep adding new tips and tricks every day for as long as I teach – but I also know that I’m teaching to the absolute best of my ability right now and there’s definitely some relaxation to be found there. The teacher-anxiety comes when I think about my end-of-year meeting with my administration and my students receiving their 5th grade test scores. I wish I was confident that my students’ progress would actually be highlighted through their results.
I just wish there was a way to measure success more accurately! That’s the understatement of the century though, as many people have discussed this same thought in much more eloquent ways.
All I can do for now though, is to be content with everything I’m doing and believe in the difference I’m making. With that knowledge, I can be sure that my students will go forward in life having learned important skills that they will take with them always. Their test scores, and even my teacher rating, have nothing on that.