Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break?

We're supposed to be on our way to the beach, with my husband patiently stopping at every antique store we pass.  (It's my anniversary present that he doesn't complain for one weekend of the year!) I planned it this way.  We got married on the first Saturday of spring break, twenty-four years ago, with the sneaky intention that at least once a year I would be treated to "no whining antique shopping" and it works, most years anyway!

But, it was raining cats and dogs this morning as we were packing, and I stopped, looked at him and said, "Are we crazy??? Sloshing across the state to the beach with rain beating on the windshield does not sound like a great time. I don't even want to walk on the beach in rain gear."

Instead I called my eldest daughter and we chatted for about an hour, and then I piddled around the house for awhile, and then, I went to school.  Yes, I am certifiably nutso.  Yesterday I couldn't wait to get out of the building and start my spring break. I drug my rolling cart home, loaded with state testing science scenerios and math practice packets (there are only three weeks until the dreaded MSP "Measurement of Student Progress" trials and tribulations).  I intended to haul some of it in the car, and make decisions on which I would use to refresh their little brains, while we were driving to the beach.

Instead, I drug it all back to school today and spent three hours sorting and planning for these next crazy weeks in the classroom.

I know, it all sounds suspiciously like, "teaching to the test" but, it truly isn't.  It's called teaching the genre of "test taking" and, while it is very sad that third, fourth and fifth graders have to be taught, it can't be helped.   We've been practicing with reading passages for weeks now, and I still have some of my smartest kids not filling in the damn bubble, which will cause their perfectly correct answer to be "unread" when the real deal is in front of them.

Written science responses have such exacting criteria, that most kids really flounder.  (My college age daughter was aghast when she read some of the things my kids are expected to do.  She said she wasn't required to know this stuff until high school!) So, we teach the concepts and "practice" all year, but hit them with a serious refresher course the last couple of weeks prior to the testing window.

All questions require a considerable amount of reading, whether they are math or science.  All math questions are what we used to call in the old days, "story problems".  There is very little straight math; instead they have to figure out what process the question is asking them to do, then do the math.  Although there are multiple choice answers, they still need to work out the problem.  All choices are "possible", meaning that the kids could conceivably come up with any of the choices, depending on how they read the problem.  It's tricky; sometimes I read the problem incorrectly and I get the question wrong! I always tell the kids I do it on purpose, just to see if they're on their toes! :)

So, I teach them to read each question carefully, be sure they understand what it's asking of them, and to go back to the text to be sure the answer choices are there.  Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief when the last test is completed and we're done performing for the state once again. After the testing is over, I jump into our sadly neglected social studies curriculum, with a fun unit where the kids "live" through the Revolutionary War period and finish up with the constitution. We also have one last CBA (Curriculum Based Assessment - also required by the state) where students choose a topic to research both sides and write a persuasive paper. (This paper isn't due until the last day of school.) The school year isn't over 'til it's over!

In the meantime, I'll be spending a good chunk of my spring "break" planning, preparing, and making sure I've left no GLE (Grade Level Expectation) in reading, math or science untaught.

I love my job; I love teaching fifth graders.  I conscientiously and deliberately teach my kids what fifth graders are expected to learn, but that doesn't mean they all learn it.  You throw in ELL (English Language Learners) and kids in Learning Support and a host of other issues, and you can't force feed the learning.  When a student is only able to read at a second or third grade level, it's pretty difficult for that child to decipher fifth grade content, not to mention answer questions. But, according to the state, they should  miraculously be able to manage it. As it stands, testing is based on age, not IQ or capability. Even kids in special education are expected to meet "basic" standard at their grade level.

Education isn't one size fits all.  Someday, the powers that be will figure that out . . . maybe.

Here's to Spring Break!

PS ~ I do have a fun day planned mid week with my favorite antiquing pal, Deb!  The week isn't a total bummer!  Also, my oldest daughter is coming home for a few days and I'm looking forward to her visit as well!


  1. I hope you get to have some fun this week. Those tests always seem to make the kids nervous. Why does the bubble have to be exactly filled in? The grading machines should be smarter than that.

  2. School - it's not like it used to be! Glad you are carving out a little time on your break for yourself.

  3. You are dedicated- great to read about you!

    Chrissy at Mancunian Wave photo blog

  4. Sometimes I can feel so much better if I spend time getting ready for the future, which is what you did. Oh, I do hope you have a happy antiquing day!!!

  5. You are a very conscientious busy bee teacher, aren't you? I hope all your kids do well and make you proud.

    Sorry about the washed-out beach outing, could you do a deal and just postpone it? Your husband might be able to force himself to keep quiet about your antique shop mania on another day, mightn't he?

  6. Too bad about the rain. I don't like rain, either, though we need it. Ah, well, there's still other days in the week. Enjoy the rest of your spring break.

  7. My hat is off to all teachers! What you all are required to do is so much more than what you are paid to do.

    I hope you are able to fit in some antique hunting before school starts again.

  8. Yay! I hope you and Deb have a terrific time. I'm jealous and I want to see pictures of the treasures you guys find.

    Kudos to you for being so mindful about your trip and the way you teach. I know there are some spectacular teachers out there like you and Deb who are truly thoughtful about your jobs and the responsibility you carry. Thank you.

  9. You are a devoted teacher... More teachers like you are needed!!

    Hope you enjoy your spring break!!


  10. This new No child left behind law doesn't help. i've been trying to get my kid held back for 4 years and they keep pushing her through so they don't lose their funding. Now she won't graduate. It's pretty sad really. I believe what I wrote the other day. You have the hardest job in the world. God bless you.

  11. This made me even more tired than I already am, and helped me understand why I'm so worn out all the time. I hope going in will allow you to let go and be completely away for the rest of the week. We're going to have so much fun on Wednesday!

  12. Ah yes Hours and hour of perp. Do you do a mock test helping them learn how to take a test? Do teach them to not feel afraid? They need all those boosts. Here's to you and them!

  13. Amen Sister! We had all the same requirements just different names. 3 weeks left to our OAAs (Ohio Achievement Assessment). We have the same problems with our 6th graders with extended response questions (essays). They come in 2-part, 3-part, and 4-part questions and getting them to answer past the first one is a major challenge. They do well with me, but individually they forget or are too lazy to do it.

    I wish the powers that be will learn the one size doesn't fit all learn soon!

    So much stress on me, on them, on our district! We moved one boy from beginner reader to end of the year 4th grade reading, but his progess will be missed by the state because he unfortunately will not pass the test.

    Good luck!

  14. It was in the fifth grade that I had my Katie tested for learning disorders. She is and has been in the slower classes ever since although she has a high IQ she has problems with long term memory and testing is a nightmare for her. She gets all A's and B's until she has to test. She was just retested in this her Junior year of h.s. I have a meeting in two weeks to see what our next plan will be.
    Many teachers I have spoke to have blamed the no child left behind act for these problems today.
    Anyway Sandi, enjoy your break!! Love Di ♥

  15. Hi Sandi, Luckily, here in CO, my Grands are finished testing. Being a former teacher, I feel that the teachers today are forced to spend way too much time on state and federal testing mandates. Children need creative and individualized learning - not hours of testing. Good luck to you & your students! Hope you & Deb have a great day Wed - I'll be having some dental surgery, so have some fun for me, too!

  16. You are going to need that antique-ing day! It will be the rest and relaxation you and Deb need and well and truly deserve. Enjoy. Glad to read of your travel plans Sandi - as you say you've worked hard for the opportunity.Bless you for being so dedicated - although rewarding, it's a hard job.

  17. My 2nd gr. granddaughter and I were reading her math homework. The language used in the questions was more on 4th. gr. level. What will the next new state standards be??


Thank you for visiting my blog. I enjoy the connections made with others, and welcome feedback! I make every effort to read and comment on the blogs of all who visit my site. Seek the light!