The Girl Who Brought a Book to Testing

I know there are many other, bigger issue in education in Florida, but I must say that the whole attitude of Florida towards its teachers is summed up best by Teacher Appreciation Week, which is the week when Florida chooses to go all in on standardized test administration, so that teachers don’t actually get to teach that much but instead get to deal with the tension and stress of administering computer-based tests of Reading to our 9th and 10th graders. Forcing us to not teach is not a way to show us appreciation. Is there Teacher Appreciation Week breakfast way down in the workroom? You can’t go get it, because you have to set up the classroom you’ve been displaced to to test a bunch of students you don’t know.

The message Florida is sending us? We don’t really appreciate you. Teachers are terrible. But testing? Oooh! We love testing!

Having testing during Teacher Appreciation Week is like giving your mother liver and onions in bed for Mother’s Day. (Unless your mother is really into liver and onions for breakfast – in which case she is possibly a secret werewolf.)

I just came through two days of said testing – my wife starts her stint of not teaching but testing tomorrow – and there will be more in the weeks to come. I get to test Math for two days, Biology, and also U.S. Government.

All of that said, there was a bright spot today. I had mentioned to students after Monday’s test that if they didn’t want to be so bored after they finished the test on Tuesday, they could bring a book, put it in the basket under the desks, and read once their test was submitted and their computer was off. Several students took me up on the offer and showed up with books.

This is a minor miracle. So many students have been turned off to reading by our endless skills and drills to get them ready for state testing, I sometimes fear the post-literate society Ray Bradbury imagined in Fahrenheit 451 will be arriving next week.

But one girl in particular gave me hope.

She asked if she could annotate her book and put tabs in it after the test. She had with her a book she’s read before, obviously much-loved. It already had some tabs in it, and she had already taken notes in the margins. She loved this book. She loved this book enough to revisit it again and again and find new things in it. She loved reading enough to want to take notes about what she was reading. She loved reading enough that she tabbed favorite passages to go back to.

I told her that as long as she had finalized her test and closed her laptop, tabs and notes and reading were fine. So she finished her test, and she tabbed and annotated and read. And it was good.

I have no idea what score she might get on the Florida Standards Assessment. She may crash and burn on that lame-duck, digital monstrosity.

If we worried more about whether our students were readers and less about whether they could pass an arbitrary test, we’d all be a lot better off.

In my book, this student had already passed the reading test simply by being a reader.