1st-4th Math Coach Constantly Searching for New Ideas
During the ELA test this week, I have been proctoring a student one-to-one. As I was walking by other classrooms to bring this student back to class I noticed something on many of the classroom doors.
I’m not an ELA teacher so I don’t know the official definition of irony. I think this is it though. I’ve addressed the Common Core Backlash in a previous post. This is my next rant…
As teachers, we get a possible 180 days with our students. Of those days, there are guaranteed to be at least a few absences (for most), and a few days where school-wide activities make it difficult to cover new material. I am a huge fan of school-wise math activities like March Math Madness. While these activities are memorable and effective in their own way, they do take away from the teachers ability to teach new concepts. State testing is shortening the school year even more. Instead of getting the full 180 days to learn, discuss, and explore new concepts, we end up with somewhere between 120-130 days to cover new topics more in depth than before. True, there are less concepts which is a good thing, but the depth with which teachers are expected to go into each concept far outweighs the actual quantity of topics. In addition to all of that, students are missing conceptual links in their learning because the standards were started all of a sudden in every grade. They didn’t slowly roll it out over time, allowing students and teachers to prepare themselves. In a perfect world, it would have started with a particular kindergarten class and followed them up through the grades, slowly implementing it over time. These knowledge gaps are going to expose themselves as we as educators go through the next few years.
Testing is a disturbance. There’s no way around it. It interrupts all the great ideas and modes of teaching that we train for as educators for years. Our professors in college told us that we’d be able to do as much as we’d like in our class. That the only limits put on our classrooms would be the limitations we have personally. The world is your oyster, go out and reach for the stars!
I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been thanks to this great, new position I am in as a math coach. But every single day, another teacher (most with more experience) tells me how defeated they are by all this test prep. The test is viewed as the big culmination of everything that has been done during the year…but then we still have two full months. Many times, kids are checked out by this point. Frankly, who can blame them? The teachers are checked out too because of the rigor of these tests. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe if the teachers weren’t checked out, the kids wouldn’t be…but I doubt it. Test prep is exhausting because it isn’t learning. Learning is fun…or it can be. I have “Ready” Test Prep Books, I have “Buckle Down” test prep books, and all I want to do is gather them up and throw them out the window. I’m done with test prep. I have about 8 school days worth of test prep coming up and my pledge is that I won’t use one of these books. The disturbance is no more. We’re going to learn about fractions on a number line through an awesome activity like Are We There Yet?. We’re going to learn elapsed time through How Many Movies Can You See in One Day? The test prep books are officially in the trash. Maybe it will make a difference, maybe it won’t. But I know that I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that the kids had no clue they learned anything.