Every year, there is a point in which I think, “I have done everything I can for my students. I don’t know what else to do?!” This usually occurs during the weeks after our standardized test. I teach third grade in Arizona, and the law states that third graders must pass the state reading test or they’ll be held back. Knowing this, I make sure that my students are prepared for the test. I make sure that I cover every educational standard required for my grade level. This requires a few weeks of intense cramming prior to the test. I know this is not effective teaching and I despise the idea of teaching to the test. But there is no time to cover every standard to a level of mastery which I would like to do. I once read that most students need 20-30 opportunities practicing a skill before they master it. I struggle to give my students 10 opportunities some years. It’s really easy for teachers to feel defeated at this time of year. Test data is beginning to role out. Our state has a 43% passing rate on the ELA standardized test and my district has a 23%. Those numbers are incredibly discouraging!
However, I still have several weeks with my students. Even though I feel defeated and worn out, I have learned over the years that these weeks after standardized testing are some of the best weeks of the year. Once standardized testing is done, most districts relax on strict schedules. Teachers are no longer expected to cram content all day long. Students are no longer pulled for intervention groups. Teachers are allowed a little more freedom in choosing what they teach and what time of day they teach it. This includes selecting a book that students are highly interested in. This year, my students are reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. They love curling up around the room to read the next chapter! And they are much more engaged when we have discussions about what they read.
These last few weeks are so special because my students have one last opportunity to display how much they have developed in my classroom. I need to make sure that I am present enough to see that. My students have worked so hard this year. They deserve the best education they can get. This requires that no matter how I feel, I MUST keep doing the best I can for them until the very last day.
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