Tomorrow the process of renumbering shall begin.
My students and I will cautiously enter the classroom that we have shared for eight months with the full weight of the last round of testing resting squarely upon our shoulders. We have sworn our allegiance to the keepers of the tests and vowed our silence with regard to the contents of such documents lest the public discovers the true measures of our self-worth. After all, the only thing anyone really needs is a number, a ranking, a label. We have worked for 165 days to master the prescribed standards - and so much more - yet a mere handful of questionable questions will determine our fate - as teacher and learners - at the end of the day.
And we shall be renumbered.
Ernie raised his hand in class on Friday. "Mr. Ramsey," he inquired, "why don't they let our teachers write these tests? You know what we can do. You've been with us all year." This boy is right. All of the assessments - formal and informal - that I have conducted during the school year have given me so much more insight than the high stakes tests ever will yield.
Every morning, my kids recite a Kids at Hope pledge which includes the words, "I am talented, smart and capable of success." I follow this up daily with my own pledge and declare that "I am committed to search for all of the skills, talents and intelligence that exists in all children and youth." My students know that these words are our promises to one another to achieve personal success and to support one another as we do so.
Success in school is not simply limited to solving math problems and finding the main idea of a reading passage. Yes, these are essential skills that all children must acquire in order to prepare them for their future adult lives. But so too are the skills embedded in team-building, public speaking, artistic expression, athletic participation, and musical performance. These are not reflected in the renumbering process.
My students have grown considerably as caring human beings this year. We have spent numerous hours honing important skills in the areas of gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. The children have learned to respect the adults in their lives, to respect their peers, and to respect themselves. They've developed a stronger sense of patriotism and citizenship and have learned to honor and respect those who have helped to secure the rights with which they are endowed. They truly understand and believe the words from the Declaration of Independence recited each morning regarding "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." These attributes cannot be quantified by a test score either.
I know that I have done a good job of teaching. My kids have risen to the occasion and have worked as hard as they possibly can. Their vocabulary and critical thinking abilities are phenomenal. They are intelligent children, many of whom will feel dejected and devalued at the end of our testing session. But they are very much valued by me. Ernie is right. I do know my kids best. I know their skills, talents and intelligence. But I also know their hopes and their dreams. I know them as beautiful human beings.
Yet tomorrow, we will enter the classroom with trepidation. We will look at the test booklets, the bubble sheets and the number two pencils and then take a huge breath. Exhaling slowly, we will say a prayer that we will do fine - that we will be fine - at the end of the day. We will promise ourselves that we will allow no one to erase our dignity...
As we are renumbered.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.