Thursday, March 16, 2017

Surviving STAAR

Now that testing season is upon us, I am struck by the nervous chatter that I hear in the hallways.  One student in particular really gave me pause.  I was in the office one morning and saw one of our amazing 6th grade leaders.  I said good morning and told him to have a great day! His response surprised me.  I didn’t get the usual, “You too, Mrs. Ferguson!”  Instead, my greeting was met with, “I don’t know, its benchmark day.” (Now for those of you that don’t teach in Texas, benchmark day, is our practice state testing day – Yes, we practice, and take the data on the practice).  I wish you could have heard him and seen him. The defeat and fear was in his body language and tone of voice.  This wasn’t normal kid angst!  This particular student is normally so upbeat and positive! But he WAS NOT feeling this test!  In that moment, I was reminded that he is so much more than a test and he needed to know that!  We had a real brief conversation where I shared what I believe everyone needs to hear during testing time.

  1.    LOVE IT!!!  It’s your time to show off. 
  2.   Your teachers are AWESOME!  Trust that they have given you all the tools you need be the VERY best that you can be!
  3.    No matter what score ends up being, I love you and NOTHING can change that!
  4.    There is nothing that can happen during the test that will change how much I like and believe in you.
  5. Doing your best and working hard is about character, not performance, and I care about your character.

When I was done talking, he held his head a little higher, stood a little taller and said, “Thank you, Mrs. Ferguson.”  I know this seems simplistic, but sometimes when we are stuck in the mire that standardized testing can be. We forget basic human needs – To BE SEEN, To BE HEARD, To BE MADE TO FEEL IMPORTANT.  Sometimes, as we get nearer and nearer to testing, the test is all we see and hear and make important. We are all guilty of it. Being the testing coordinator on my campus, I know that I certainly am.  I have spent/need to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing and as I sit here typing this I am saddened because my focus has been on the test, not on the people taking, giving or getting ready for the test.

I once had an amazing principal that said to us, “I love you more than electricity!” Out of context that might seem weird.  But there was a time when our district was trying to save money by being more energy conscience, we had a guy come in and give us a huge list of rules that we had to follow, no lamps, no fridges, no room scent plugins, basically you could plug in a pencil sharpener and that was it (I might be exaggerating…) We, as classroom teachers were not super thrilled.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to help conserve energy, but the approach was all wrong.  It was like they weren’t seeing us, but my principal and her, “I love you more than electricity!”  Communicated to us that we were valued!  She heard us, saw and thought we were important.  That made it way easier to unplugJ.  I still think about that when I turn off my lights before I leave at the end of the day.  IT IS THE SAME WITH TESTING!!!!  Everyone needs to hear, I LOVE YOU MORE THAN THE TEST!!! Nothing that happens will change your worth in my eyes.

So, as we move forward, my goal is to communicate that message of worth and value to the students and staff on my campus. There are so many ways to do this.  All you need to do is search “STAAR motivation” or “testing motivation” on pinterest and hundreds of different ideas will pop up.  There really are some cool things out there!  This is one of my favorites,
Pinterest link send you to this link.  But I couldn't find the originall post.  If someone knows it, please let me know!  I just LOVE this!  And it's free!!! Can you imagine if your students walked in to this this on testing day?!?!
I really believe that the simplier the better!  It's the personal contact that makes all the difference.

There is great power unleashed when people feel like they are SEEN, HEARD and IMPORTANT!  I know this is simplistic, but sometimes we need a reminder, I know I did!