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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Covering up the mess

It seemed to take forever this year to get to the point of TAKS testing. Possibly because this is the first year that we haven't done the reading TAKS first (in March). I think that my kids are as ready as they are going to be, though. I estimate about 7 will not pass, but the others should do well, and hopefully some of those 7 will surprise me.

Of course, we still have to jump through the usual hoops of covering up everything in our rooms, etc. Figured now was as good a time as any to revisit this gem. My (never sent and never to be sent) letter to downtown...

Dear District Personnel:

I began covering aspects of my room today, per instructions for TAKS administrations, but I have begun to realize how futile my efforts are. You see, if I am to remove all the visual aids that might unfairly help my kids during the test, it's not enough for me to merely place construction paper over my number line (so that the kids will not be able to look up and see what number comes after 42) or over my Word Wall (so that the kids will not be reminded of the proper spelling of the word "cylinder" -- even though any question relating to a cylinder will already have the word right there).

Verily, even covering up my Classroom Rules, which, granted, ARE mathematically numbered from one to five, or covering up my cursive alphabet strips (I guess so that kids will remember to PRINT their extra work, instead of handwriting it?) is not sufficient!

You see, there are many more things in the classroom environment that might help them on the test. For instance, a child may glance up from his/her exam and notice the shades on the windows. The shades can be pulled up or pulled down, and thinking about these options might remind the child of estimation, where they are required to round up and round down. These shades will need to be removed immediately. Also, the ceiling tiles in my classroom are square in shape AND are arranged in a geometric pattern. I would absolutely hate for a test monitor to enter my room and see how easily a student could be reminded of such topics by simply looking up. I would like to request that my ceiling be removed before the test tomorrow, or at the very least, that a large tarp is provided to cover the tiles.

My third graders go to lunch every day at the same time. They already know when lunch will be served, and they will be constantly thinking throughout the day about how much time they have left until lunch! Do you agree with me that this is a constant reminder of elapsed time? I suggest that no lunch is served on TAKS days, or if that is not possible, that the time to eat is chosen completely at random. Maybe they'll eat at 8:43, maybe they'll eat at 1:59. Oh, and we should also send the kids home at separate times; perhaps some sort of lottery system could be put into play?

Earlier in the year, when we talked about measurement and units of length, we associated each unit of length with a part of the body. An inch is about the length from the tip of the thumb to the first knuckle. A foot is about the length from the elbow to the wrist. I am sad to report that all of the children in my class this year are in possession of thumbs, elbows, and wrists, and this will undoubtedly assist these children in any measurement questions that might arise on the TAKS. I feel that the child's OWN body parts are acceptable help, but other children in the room will be unacceptable visual reminders. Therefore, we will need to administer the TAKS to each child separately, with no other human beings in the room.

Actually, it occurs to me that the classroom itself is a rectangular prism. What can we do about putting each child into an amorphous physical structure?

Thanks for taking all of these things into consideration. If you could have some answers back to me by tomorrow morning, I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, will have to implement these things next year.

Your loyal servant,

Mister Teacher


TeachEnEspanol said...

I read this entire post aloud to my roommate who is also a teacher. We are in agreement and impressed with the ways in which you came up with to describe learning that can happen within the classroom without us teachers doing a darn thing. Good luck getting them to concentrate on the test once the ceiling is removed and the sun in shining in your room! :)

Hacker the Litwit said...

haha! When I read this, it completely reminded me of A Modest Proposal. Very witty and very truthful :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reflecting on this. As someone who also is in Texas having moved from Ohio, this policy seems draconian and stupid to me on the part of Texas. When I'm covering up/taking things down, I want to quit my job because it feels so - silly.

That's OK - schools are more like factories anyway, right? I know my principal once described our school as a Ford plant in passing...