It’s the same every year. Don’t worry, they say. Don’t stop what you’re doing for this. All the great stuff you do all year is what really matters.
And then. Then the emails begin. The attachments. The suggestions. Don’t worry about The Test, but here is what you need to do with your students for the next four weeks. And (spoiler alert) it’s not give them extra time for independent reading in class even though we all know that’s the one thing they truly need the most.
No, we shouldn’t worry or change what we do or stop doing what we love, but here are pages and pages and pages of instructions for how to spend the month of March. Like the kids don’t know. Like they don’t get that test prep by any other name is still test prep. Like they can’t feel the stress in the air.
Remember (or not) the poster from last century that read, What if they gave a war and nobody came? Well, lately I’ve been thinking, What if they gave a test and nobody prepped? What if just this one year, we teachers, I mean all of us, decided no prep at all? No prep disguised as anything else. No “it’s not prep, it just seems like it is.”
I know, we’re all too scared. Because we need to be highly effective. Because we owe it to the kids. Because, because, because. I think I’ve reached my limit on because. I think I’m ready to believe what I’ve been told for years and years. All the great stuff we do all year is what really matters. Or at least maybe this is the year to find out.
This week my kids are debating their ideas using evidence from the text in their book clubs. Yesterday we spent the morning screaming with excitement and jumping up and down while watching the ALA Youth Media Awards. They’ve got independent writing projects they want to pursue. Our vocabulary box is filling up with words they want to share with their classmates. They’ve stopped asking me for book recommendations and now they ask each other. And there aren’t enough days in the school year for all the #bookadays that we want to read.
So why should I mess this up with weeks of getting ready for The Test? Why should I interrupt the flow, the vibe, the community of readers and writers that we’ve spent the last six months working to build? The answer is that I shouldn’t. Maybe this is the year I find the courage to push past my fear. And find out if the great stuff we do all year really is what matters.