My eye twitched for 5 days straight this past week.
Beginning Wednesday afternoon, my left eye started having twitching spasms. The twitching got so bad my middle school kids commented on it (darn those boogers – they catch everything, I swear). But why, you may ask? What led my eye to begin to twitch uncontrollably when it had never done this before? It wasn’t an overdose of caffeine or a weird issue with my contacts. I can narrow it down to one particular cause: stress.
You see, I knew being a senior in college was going to be stressful. I have a lot on my plate at the moment; between the looming cloud of student teaching and my hours of work, it can all become a bit overwhelming. However, those factors didn’t play into the twitching of last week. Instead, the twitching started when I felt my values being tossed away. The stress came from sitting in a classroom, listening to a professor lecture on assessment and numbers. It was being told that my future classroom wouldn’t be tough or rigorous enough. It was a by-product of already feeling the need to assign numbers to my students’ heads that I haven’t met yet, pricing them on whether they are “good” enough. It was watching an entire class be taught to measure students. It was, to put it bluntly, the unfair practices of education being brought to fruition for a group of 30+ future teachers.
There are parts of assessment that make sense to me. In order to know what our students need from us, we must be able to assess how they are doing in the class. But to say that we must assign a number value to each student seems to be a futile practice. No two kids will write the same way; does that make one student a “good” writer and the other an awful one?
We put a large amount of emphasis on a single moment in time and neglect to realize that our students are walking into our classroom every day from something else. One student could be coming from a stable home while another was up caring for her siblings all night because her parents were no where to be found. Playing the comparison game is an unfair way to judge our students’ performance. Penny Kittle’s thoughts mirror mine in her article “No Evidence of Achievement:”
Our days are numbered: as teachers, as human beings. Will we waste our time comparing one child to another – pretending that the myriad of life experiences each brings to their desk has no bearing on their performance that day? Will we continue labeling and numbering children to determine where they fall short, even when we know that encouragement and love will move them forward faster and more humanely than this beating with scores and labels and inappropriate expectations?
Being a teacher is a big job title to fill. Each day, kids will walk into my classroom and need something from me. It’s my job to give them what they need to be successful, because I quite literally have their life in my hands. Students give pieces of themselves as they write and speak; I think it’s time we get back to the foundation of Language Arts and build something our students can flourish in.
As I stress about the numbers and how to create an environment where kids don’t feel less than, I am reminded of the foundation we outlined for LA: we read, we write, we talk. If we do more of that and less trying to squeeze everyone into the same box, less kids would walk away feeling worthless.