I don't know about you, but this past week flew by with a speed that almost takes my breath away. MAP testing at the junior high and all elementaries is in full swing and EOC starts at the high school Monday. Maybe that's what did it. The silence in the hallways, the respectfulness of the kids, the large block of time to get some much needed work done...it was glorious. The MAP continues in the elementaries until the 22nd, then the true mad dash to the end of the year shall begin.
I love this time of year, spring is emerging, it's warming up and the winter doldrums are going away. I also loathe it because it is so jam-packed full of concert stress, it's "testing season". All of us are on edge because we know that these scores determine the answer(s) to a lot of issues such as who's going to get to keep their job, will we maintain our accreditation, how much bashing is going to be heaped on-top of us after the results are released, and the like. It's quite stressful, and I'm not even a core teacher! I just hope that a majority of the kids took it seriously and tried their hardest instead of getting all mad and defensive then giving up.
That's what gets me about this whole standardized test thing. I don't understand how *their* performance determines the security of *my* job. I mean, out there in the corporate world you're rated on *Your* performance of *your* job correct? So, if we're evaluated by our administrators and deemed to be competent in our position and possibly even excel at it how can it be that in reality a group of teenagers who have said "Psht *lip smack* I don't care about this test. It's stupid, it's boring, it doesn't matter", are the ones to determine the fate of the teacher. So interesting.
We had a chat about it in my 8th grade Orchestra class last Friday then Monday, the day before the testing started, it's where the above comment was said. I stopped rehearsal and told them the truth, as I saw it, about the MAP. I told them that not only do their scores have some bearing on their "beyond high school" life, but that their scores translate into money for the district, which there in turn translates into how many teachers get to keep their jobs because if the district doesn't have enough money to pay us all, some of us have to go, and when that happens their class size increases which isn't good for the kids, and the teachers who are left have their work load increase so that they're even *more* over-worked and under-paid which isn't good for anyone.
They were pretty shocked when I put it in those terms. I asked if anyone had ever talked to them about the MAP before in that way. Here's what I got back "No! I'm just told to do my best because it's important", there's the trick...they're never told *why* exactly. Now, I am probably over-simplifying it all but that's basically how those state standardized work in my (and other teacher friends of mine) opinion(s).
Then we talked about the state of the funding for schools and how incredibly scary it is for someone in my position; a "non-core" teacher. We talked about the fact that each and every one of them have a dollar sign on their rear ends. "What do you mean Mz Stout?" I told them about ADA, which for those of you not in the know stands for "Average Daily Attendance", and how every day they are here the school gets money. So every time they decide to skip, or stay home when they're not sick, the school doesn't get their ADA which as the year progresses, this number grows because there is *always* that percentage of kids who don't care about school so they don't come. Therefore, that's why we stress attendance so much, because the district needs that money to keep running, and it's also a part of the accreditation process.
They told me that it wouldn't matter because the school always gets money from the state and government and I had to laugh at that. I told them how a neighboring district is facing a $40million dollar deficit, and that they had already cut some music programs last year, and there would possibly be more on the chopping block this year. I asked them what they thought about only having Math, Science, English, and Social Studies in school. No art, no PE, no band, no orchestra, no shop, no FACS, nothing but the core subjects. A raucous chorus of protests rang through the air.
Them: "I wouldn't go to that school, I'd move"
Me: "Uh-huh, you're 15 how are you going to manage that one on your own, and I highly doubt you could persuade your parents to uproot their lives, pack up the house to try and sell it in this horrible housing market, try to find a decent house to buy but possibly won't qualify for a loan because the economy sucks so instead choose to rent an apartment then they wind up spending *more* money because they're paying rent AND mortgage cause lord knows their house won't sell very fast. Cramming you and your family into a smaller space with all your stuff, just to satisfy the whim of a young teenager? Riiiight. What else ya got?"
Them: "I'd tell them they can't get rid of those programs"
Me: "That's going to be like shouting in the wind. Now, one person may not be able to make a big enough difference, but if you all were to organize and connect with other students across the nation, *maybe* you could make a difference."
Me: "What else ya got? Thoughts? Comments? Concerns?" *Silence* "Do you comprehend now why it's important for you to do the absolute best that you can on the MAP, and not just on the MAP but in school in general? Do you now understand why it's important you're here, respectful, and ready to learn?"
Them: "I do now".
Where else out there does your job security depend upon the actions of other people, and more specifically teenagers? Yes I realize that it's only one piece of the job security puzzle, but it's an intricate piece to the whole works. Since those conversations in class, and take it all with a grain of salt as those are paraphrased in my brain/from memory, but since those conversations I have noticed a slight upward trend in respectfullness and self-awareness. Will it last? Probably not, they're teenagers and I'm sure my parents can attest to the fact that my attention span/memory wasn't that long when I was their age.
*Shrug* I don't know. I just try to bring the reality of the situation to the kids. They all say they want to be taken seriously, so here ya go...here are some serious issues that you *will* be dealing with when you get older unless the world goes off the deep end in 2012. I try to make them look past their little bubble of lipgloss, teenage hormones, iPod's, texting, sagging pants, horrible language, and skinny jeans so tight I swear the girl's circulation gets cut off to the greater world around them and how they fit into the collective conscious of the greater whole. Maybe I'll make a diff, and maybe I won't. Only time will tell.
On a *completely* different note, I just started up another blog called "Just call me Imelda!; What I wore to school today" because apparently my shoes, ensembles, and hair have been creating quite a stir with not only the kids but the teachers/staff as well. Thursday after school as I was moving bak and forth between the Band and Choir room getting the Drum Line set and ready for rehearsal, I walked past the group of kids who always hang out in the Band room after school, and one of the gals says to me "You're really pretty Mrs. Stout!"...What?! Me?! You're crazy girl! *laugh* It's honestly quite surreal, because I alternate between feeling like the gangly legged, knobby kneed, crooked teethed, stringy haired awkward teenage girl, to the out of shape, trying to find her way, insecure college girl, all.the.time. Sure, there are plenty of moments of feeling completely comfortable in my own skin and body, but the "ugly duckling" syndrome will always be a constant undercurrent in my brain. In the mean time I figured that this blog would not only be a resource for all the girls out there who want my shoes, "OOooo! Mz Stout! I'mma steal yur shoez!" *laugh* but also a nice chronicle for me of the transformation of my hair. So check it out and be super cool.
7 More Mondays!!!!!!!