I have a grandson (actually, three grandsons and three granddaughters, but I digress already...) Grandson in the middle attends school in a large city district in another state. He called his Grandpa and me last Friday night on his own initiative; I don’t think his parents even know that he called us. He was just missing us, he said.
During the conversation, of course I had to ask how school was going. The boy just sighed. “It’s OK, but it’s getting hard. We’re practicing for the (____) test, and after that we have to take this new (____) test and then the (____) test. It’s boring and it’s hard and I’m scared I won’t do so well and then I will not get to be in the (___) program anymore.” ** Of course we did the standard grandparent thing, reassuring him that of course he will do well and he shouldn’t let it worry him.
But the child is in the THIRD GRADE! Someone has already managed to scare half of the love of learning out of him already, at the age of eight. Someone has him worrying he’ll be taken out of the gifted program that he’s been in since he started school, because of the marks he may or may not receive on one of the many standardized tests his state administers every year.
The more I thought about this part of our conversation over the weekend, the madder I got! What are we doing to our children? What are we doing to our future?
We have got to stop scaring the love of learning out of our children. Children are born to learn. They don’t walk into our front doors at the age of four or five already scared to learn new things. We’ve managed to scare that out of our children ourselves.
Take a look at the spark the Pre-Ks and Ks come to school with in the fall, and then take a look at your school’s third graders. Do they have the same excitement, the love of something new? Or are they already running – or rather sitting there - scared? Listening to a teacher who is tense and scared him/herself because of the pressure of the testing program?
ENOUGH ALREADY! If I have one more teacher tell me they don’t have time to help their students stay happy and engaged because they have to teach to some test, I may have to run for the door before I say something that will get me fired. I want to be fired – fired-up about Real Learning and Real Engagement! If the kids - and maybe we educators - learned to love learning for learning’s sake, those tests would be nothing more than a slight inconvenience. Instead, we educators are allowing tests to become a deterrent to learning for both our students and ourselves. We need to quit feeling sorry for ourselves and start paying attention to Learning.
** Please excuse the (____) as the names of the tests and programs would tell you what state my grandson lives in. Fill in the name of your own local tests and gifted program – you’ll still understand what I’m talking about!