This is only a test...

Testing...this is a topic that all teachers dread...Tomorrow I begin State Testing and I have plenty to talk about on that topic. We all know that testing does not show our students true doesn't test all the elements of our mind and person. There are so many elements of ourselves and our students that are never touched by the so-called test. Many of these have been deemed unimportant or extra skills, rather than critical to success.

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...


  1. I love the idea of "thinking mints"....I've got some Power Pencils ready to go and some "mind mission statements" hanging around the room (breathe deeply if you feel stressed) but I might just have to get some mind mints too...perhaps we should start selling them...they could be a money maker!

  2. Tomorrow we start Week Two of our state tests. My two least favorite weeks of the entire year! Grrrr! Love the idea of power pencils! We aren't allowed to have any food in the room when kids are testing. It used to be ok, and I would give the kids peppermints, or peppermint gum. Sigh…

  3. Tests are what kept me down.... I had un-diagnosed ADD until I was in my 30's and finally understood I was not dumb..... I saw a giant, active world full of color and energy not defined by check the box or write out the formula.....I feel real pain for the students today who go in feeling defeated before it even starts.... They are usually the ones that see so much more than the State will ever acknowledge!! I have been back in school for three years now earning a BA in Human Communications..... I am 47.... Imagine if the educational experience had been different for me .... I may not have spent all these years thinking I was "less than" the person next to me with a piece if paper proving they could take tests!! Marylhurst needs to be applauded right here and now for being able to understand all minds, accept all who seek and for their incredible ability to hire the best teachers! Shannon you inspire me everyday! I need one of your thinking mints to get through this 10 page term paper!! You are an incredible teacher!!

  4. You touched on so many important ideas here! I love how you wrote about the test of life - that is, after all, our ultimate goal, right? To pass the test of life?
    I am always thinking about the idea of "authentic" teaching and learning which, to me, means learning like REAL learners do - not test-takers.
    Great post, thanks.

  5. I've noticed this issue of persistence in my sixth graders, too. And I have puzzled over it, too. I hope testing day went well...

  6. So true, if we prepare them for the test of life we have really succeeded.


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