This is only a test...
If we really look at it, life is the really big test. We, as teachers, are helping our students along toward their ongoing final exam. Preparing them for the real test...not the one that the state or even the nation thinks is so important, is ever so important. For the real test, their life, they will need all the skills that the "test" doesn't measure. They will need persistence, enthusiasm, courage, and leadership, to mention a few. The sad part is that these are the exact skills we are not teaching them.
The other day when I was talking to my students about the "test." I was sharing some strategies that I thought might assist them. One of my students blurted out, "the 50-50 rule?" "No," I said, "the 'reading the question' rule." Somewhere during his "education" this student had been taught specific "strategies" that would basically help them "beat" the test. I, on the other hand, want them to use the test as an opportunity to utilize their thinking skills. We have been working on the following strategies that, I feel, will be more long term skills to assist them, not specific to the test. "What is the question asking," "What do I notice?" and "What do I know about this topic?" are skills that they can apply to the test but can and should be used for the big "life test".
One of the biggest things I have noticed about this generation of students is that they lack persistence. Many times, they don't even look at the full issue they are confronted with, but rather give up before they can even begin. Since January, I have been working with them on asking "What do I notice?" to give them the opportunity to slow down a bit. They really have a lot of knowledge that they can apply in so many situations, but they don't have the experience that says knowledge that isn't directly related may still be useful. By having them isolate what they notice, it often gets them thinking along another tangent where there is knowledge they can then apply to the current situation. I don't know if it is going to help them, necessarily "do better" on the test, but I am confident that they will do better in life using these critical thinking skills.
So, tonight I am going to try to get to bed before midnight and tomorrow I will get up early so I can go get "thinking mints" for my students. I will review those thinking skills with them before they begin and then let things go. I know that there will be students who will not meet the benchmark, but my hope is that they all make progress. Although I am not sure that it truly reflects their learning, I know that it encourages them on their path.
They, as eighth graders, don't realize that the test of life is going to be far more complex than the test of high school or college. The skills that education has essentially forced us to ignore are the skills that are truly the essential ones for life. As a teacher, it is my job to teach the content to my students and still find ways to integrate these other crucial skills that will help them succeed.
After all, this is just a test, because if it was real life, we would all be given the information we truly need...