Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why is this Family Smiling?

This morning, a close colleague of mine shared an email he received from a parent. It turns out that this parent wanted to provide my colleague with some "food for thought," the problem is, it was "junk" food. To understand the email's message, a little background information is required.

Background tidbit number 1:
We are teachers. We teach children. This takes place, usually, in a classroom. A major aspect of good teaching is assessing how well students are learning what we are teaching. The primary assessment tool is called a test (or examination.) Additionally, tests allow us to formulate a quantitative score to students' efforts which weigh heavily in them gaining access to a good college and getting a raise in their allowance, a new car . . . whatever. Although schools are structure into grading cycles, we teach a particular curriculum through a continuum. This means that these examination assessments occur at regular intervals. Students know when tests will be, and they are given sufficient time to prepare for them. By the time students get to high school, they are well-trained in this routine.

Background tidbit number 2:
Our community has several events throughout the year, one of which is a real favorite among the local denizens. Wassailfest is a chance for citizens of this proud community can congregate on the downtown streets, drink several varieties of free apple cider (Wassail), listen to music, and rub elbows with each other (figuratively and literally, because, as Yogi Berra quipped, "It's so crowded, nobody goes anymore.) The event takes place TONIGHT, by the way, starting at 6pm and ending at 9pm.

Back to the email:
This parent was upset that her child had a test tomorrow, incidentally, the day after Wassailfest. How could a teacher schedule such an important event the day after such an important family & community event? Such a teacher surely does not value family, tradition, or letting kids off the hook! Now the family would have to attend the event while the poor, forlorn student was abandoned at home, left pathetically in the absence of grand splendor with nothing but textbooks to keep her company. Such a teacher is tearing at the moral fabric of society by breaking up the family unit, driving a wedge between parents and children with their evil untimely, compulsory academic assessments and their trenchant, righteous views on individual accountabiliy!! My Gosh! They'll let anybody teach high school these days!

So I started thinking about WHEN would be a good time to have a test in class. With only 5 school days during the week (not even considering students come in on the weekend or holidays to test), we've got to look at Monday through Friday. Every alternative brought floods and avalanches of "legitimate" reasons that would only lead to anarchy, societal chaos, and eventual Armageddon.

Test on Monday??
Not fair. Students would be expected to remember things over the two-day weekend or spend their two-day weekend studying, instead of trying to avoid the events their parents have planned for the whole family.

Test on Tuesday??
Not fair. Students need Mondays to recover from the weekend. This is essentially a warm up for Tuesday, the first "real" day of the education week. Anything taught or reviewed in class on a Monday is inadmissible on any test. Besides, Monday nights are "Football night with Dad on the couch!"

Test on Wednesday??
This wouldn't be a bad day, but Tuesday night is "House," "The Biggest Loser," and "Mama's Family" reruns. After expending the energy to watch the shows, it is totally unrealistic to then expect and student, regardless of how diligent or intelligent they are to use what little energy or ability to concentrate they have left to CRAM for a test.

Test on Thursday??
Thursdays are probably the WORST day to expect students to be academically prepared for a test, because Wednesday nights are "Church Night." I don't think any teacher wants to anger God, much less his followers (who are much more palpable)! Nope, Wednesday nights are sacred, which means Thursdays are too!

That leaves Friday??
Aside from Wassailfest that occurs on every single Thursday night all year long* (*actually only once a year in early December), Fridays are days of transitioning into the weekend. It's not called "Casual Friday" because it is a day of Formal Test Taking Activities!!! Pshaw!!! In fact, with pep-rallies and football games, Friday is really the first day of the weekend. With all the buzz and excitement in the air, no teacher would EVER expect students to be able to concentrate enough to do well on an exam. This "unwritten" rule in the educational community dare not be violated.

This just in . . . .
Progressive Universities are now purportedly requiring all students in "Teacher School" to take, as part of the requirements for earning a valid teaching certificate, a class called, "Methods of Non-Assesment." Unfortunately, there is no way to determine who actually passes the class, but that is an irrelevant detail. It is only a requirement to TAKE the class, which assures that future teachers will graduate and enter the workforce of America's most important profession NOT knowing how to NOT give a test.


Dmac said...

The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple. ~Amos Bronson Alcott

The only reason I always try to meet and know the parents better is because it helps me to forgive their children. ~Louis Johannot

kwkorpi said...

Do not falter or shrink. Just think out your work, and work out your think. ~Nixon Waterman

The essence of learning is change, behavioral changes in people. To learn, a person must want to change, to be better, to do differently, and this resistance does not occur without resistance. ~Lloyd Cook