sol#15: March 4: PARCC…testing day one

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The announcement comes over the speaker system, it’s time to make our way to the All Purpose Room – our school’s testing center.  Last week, our ever-thoughtful Vice Principal arranged a tour of this room for all our middle school students.  We know where to go, we know where to sit, we know what to expect.

My kiddos seem cheerful enough on this wintry March morning, and we make our way downstairs to the sounds of chatter and squeaky sneakers.  The room is as expected, and soon every student is settled into a chair and going through the logging process.

Click. Click. Clack.  They are off.

The room seems enormous, and my kids so small in their long rows of laptops, headsets, and endless coils of wires looping over and under tables and chairs.  We are testing together, my morning and afternoon block classes, along with two other sixth grade classes.  So many children, anxiously typing in their passwords and codes,  checking the volume on their headsets, trying to get bodies comfortable in their folding chairs.  I scan the room, making eye contact with all my Smithlings: Thumbs up! You good to go? Awesome!  And then…boom! They  are in the first ELA task, and the test begins. I watch my kiddos settle in.  Slowly, their shoulders relax, and they begin to focus.

Click. Click. Clack.  Shuffling shoes. The room takes on a certain rhythm. It is a long morning of reading, scrolling, cross referencing, and typing.  I walk up and down, up and down.  An hour to go. Then a half hour. And then we are done. Log off protocols, shut down the laptops.

My kids rise from their seats with a clatter, and we make our way back to room 202.  They are hungry, ready for movement and talk.  On their way to our room, they grab snacks from their locker and drinks from the water fountain, and slurp and crunch their way through the door.  Jostling, smiling, making more noise than they really have to, they settle into comfy chairs, sprawl across the reading rug, slouch over desks.  Relief and ease permeates the room – it washes over us in comforting waves.

Day One. Done.

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27 thoughts on “sol#15: March 4: PARCC…testing day one

  1. I have so many mixed emotions when I read this. I love who you are as a teacher…when you call them Smithlings I am charmed. I also wonder how some of those kids feel about themselves. Finally I feel oddly conflicted in that I loved testing as a kid. It was a break for me from having to be on for everybody else. The funny one. I always leave your writing wanting to share it with other people. Very well written, thank you.

  2. I loved when you called them Smithlings too. I feel the same way when we are testing though I wish we didn’t have to. We’re in for a month of it in April. Yikes.

  3. We have to wait until April and May for our state annual testing. Now it is just ELL testing and 11th grade testing. You writer’s heart shows up even when you necessarily agree with that our students have to do.

  4. Thanks for sharing just a bit about the testing situation . . . .rows and rows of kids in folding chairs does not speak to physical comfort. I particularly loved your closing “. . .slurp and crunch their way through the door. Jostling, smiling, making more noise than they really have to, they settle into comfy chairs, sprawl across the reading rug, slouch over desks. Relief and ease permeates the room – it washes over us in comforting waves.”

    Back to “today’s normal” for these sixth graders!

  5. I could feel every emotion here. You must be so proud of your students. So much stress, yet your confidence and guidance give them the tools they need. Keep calm and carry on.

  6. How different from filling in little circles making sure they are dark enough, within the circle, thoroughly erased if an answer is changed, etc, During the PSSAs I never new if the mornings were longer for me as a proctor or the students sitting there focusing for three hours on the test.

  7. There is a confidence in your teaching and your students to follow through with what they truly know in this post. I loved the way you described the quiet of the testing to the normalcy of life after the test. I hope you all settled in for a great read aloud.

  8. First, of all, I love how you refer to your students as your Smithlings! We are living this testing now too, but your view of it didn’t seem all that bad. I was relaxed. I was calm. As I see your Smithlings were too! Thumbs up? You’ve got this! And I could also relate to — “They are hungry, ready for movement and talk.” Oh, yes. Thanks for this slice!

  9. I am so glad all of you survived the first day – and with such enthusiasm. Our first day was today too. Our test is pencil and paper for this round. Things went well but looks like a possible snow day tomorrow for the ELA test. 😦

  10. Tara, you paint a clear picture of life in Testing land. The silent resignation of students in that zone contrasting with the energy that exists beyond it. You also document for your readers a clear sense of the empathy you feel for your students. The care and concern is palpable. Your piece evokes differing emotions in me as a reader. it is interesting to note that difference.

  11. What comfort they felt back in their Room 202! ❤

    Love this…"Jostling, smiling, making more noise than they really have to, they settle into comfy chairs, sprawl across the reading rug, slouch over desks. Relief and ease permeates the room – it washes over us in comforting waves."

  12. I’ve never had the experience, but it sounds as if your students feel very comfortable with this, Tara. That means the teacher, you, has helped make them so. Love the “Smithlings”!

  13. Tara, your Smithlings were so well prepared for the on demand task. I am glad that they entered the room cheerfully and then exited back to your room to feel the warmth of your safe haven.

  14. I too love the “Smithlings”. I might steal it. The emotions connected with testing still leave me conflicted. but you have captured it beautifully here. I’m so thankful there are teachers who will provide that safe haven.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier, you have permission to use whatever you wish. I’m happy to connect with so many great educators!

  15. ” I scan the room, making eye contact with all my Smithlings: Thumbs up! ” I just love this because no matter what your students know they have a place they belong with you. Tara, really, truly I want to be a Smithling, too and have the pleasure of learning from you! 🙂

  16. You brought this to life. I felt the chill in the air as they started. The tension in them and you. The extra noise and slouchy comfort as they come back to normal, doing what kids do. Thank you for the peek into this world we all share.

  17. And the testing begins. You wrote a piece that showed the support the students received in preparation and during the test. Your sensory details, but during and after made this piece come alive.

  18. I wonder about this massive use of technology and children’s time all aimed at a single high stakes test. It somehow feels wasteful. In contrast, I appreciate the care you describe that has been taken for the children. Always good to see that in play.

    At the schools where I work, the majority of children have no access to the very technology they were required to use for these tests. I wonder what impact that will have on the results. Will there be a difference based how familiar children are with the technology?

    Lots of questions. Glad day one is done:)

    • I am not a fan of high stakes testing. But, I want my kids to feel safe and prepared for the tasks they are asked to complete. And I hope for a better way. Someday soon.

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