Wednesday’s Woes (or Stop nagging me, Dad!)

I’ve learned there is little I disapprove of, loathe, or angers me more than outright defiance. When someone is specifically told to do, or not do, something and they do it, or not, anyway. They do the exact opposite of what was asked of them.

In this case I speak of our rebellious little Crash. I use “rebellious” lightly. He’s not really rebelling. It’s more like “I heard you, but I don’t want to.” Defiance. For example, a few evenings ago it was time to come inside to start getting ready for bed – snack and so forth. He knows the routine. We’ve had it for years. Instead, Crash got on his bike and said he was going to ride around the house once. I told him “No, it’s time to come in.” He took off anyway. It’s not that he wasn’t allowed to ride it around. It’s not that it was dangerous or going to hurt someone. It was that I had told him not to and he did it anyway. It was that all he was trying to do was delay bedtime.

And, speaking of bedtime. Ugh. the past few morning both Crash and Bang have been waking at 5:30am. 0530. Butt crack of dawn. IT’S STILL DARK O’CLOCK!! Will they go back to sleep? HA! We can’t keep them up late because they’ll still be up oh dark thirty. You know the old adage, to bed early awake early. To bed late late, awake early. And no one wants the wrath of overtired, cranky kids.

Anyway, back to this defiance thing. Maybe it’s part of being a kid. At first, I thought he’s testing boundaries. But it’s regular. Tell him to wear a heavier coat because it’s 5 degrees (40F) outside. He puts on a spring coat anyway. Tell him to wear his boots to school because it’s raining. He puts on sneakers anyway. Tell him to go up and take a shower. He takes a bubble bath.

Of course, telling him to clean something is equivalent to telling him to cut off a hand. We’re hoping to alter this with an allowance. I told him to clean his room. All he had to do was pile his books (there’s no room on his bookshelf), make his bed, put laundry away, and put a few dirty clothes in his hamper. An hour later all he had done was put a couple books in a pile. I nagged and he at least put away his clean clothes.

Which brings me to my last exasperation. Nagging. DW and I are constantly having to nag him to get moving – to clean up his mess after a meal, to get ready for bed, to hang up his sweatshirt. Naturally, he despises our nagging as much as we despise nagging him. So I’m just going to go over to Lifehacker and reread “How I Learned to Stop Nagging My Kids and Start Motivating Them” until it sinks in and hopefully make it work.


My Inner Teacher

testMy inner teacher needs to vent today.

About Standardized testing.

It’s that time of year when schools across the globe are testing their students and by default, their teachers. The tests are high stakes. These tests are meant to determine where instruction needs to improve. These tests are stressful, expensive, and arguably arbitrary.

Also, because the tests often occur about a month before school officially ends for the ultimate teacher perk, summer break, most students believe that once testing is complete so is school. Tests are over, hence there must be nothing more to learn. Assignments become a chore. One grade 8 student even asked me, “We already took our test. Why do we still have to do work?” There were so many responses I wanted to give him, but I bit my tongue and just told him because the school year’s not over yet and this is what his teacher assigned. Didn’t help, he still refused to it.

I digress.

When I taught 4th grade in Virgina, testing was a big deal. They were S.O.L. tests. Technically, Standards Of Learning tests. But, of course, we all know what s.o.l. really means, right? We unofficially tested students periodically through the year on the standards we had covered. Any students who were in danger of failing were then kept after school for S.O.L. tutoring. Come test time, we did what we could to relieve stress on our students. However, they knew how important the tests were and it showed. Some were reduced to tears. “How can I take the test when I can even read?” came a desperate plea from a student struggling to learn.

According to a quick Google search, testing costs in the U.S. are as high as $1.7 billion. That’s billion! With a B! No wonder schools are having trouble financially.

Then there’s the whole “differential instruction” buzz word. In simple terms it means varying your teaching methods so that all students learn the necessary material. For example, some kids learn kinetically and therefore will need hands on instruction and manipulatives. Some students learn by hearing. Some learn by doing. Some learn musically. And so on and so forth. So teachers are using every trick in their bag (while always learning new tricks) to help their students learn everything from algebra to the moon to the war of 1812. Yet we have standardized tests! Why is it that we need to teach our student through a diverse number of methods, yet test them all the same way.


How is this even remotely fair?

To top this off, there are school boards who use the tests students take to analyze their teachers. To analyze a teacher based on their student’s results does have merit if done correctly. The school board I worked for  would dissect test results to see where students struggled the most. Steps would then be taken to ensure teachers were teaching these outcomes in the most proficient manner. I enjoyed this method as it allowed me to become a better teacher without the stress of being fired. Therein lies a problem some schools have. They equate their teachers with coaches/managers of a major league sports team. If a team does poor enough their coach will be replaced. Some school boards hold this same standard. Replacing teachers vs. educating teachers.

Comparisons are easy to make, but are ultimately meaningless. It’s easy to compare students, classes, schools, districts, and states based on testing results. However, if you compared the oranges grown in Canada vs the oranges grown in Florida you’ll find a major difference. Many factors effect the growth of oranges. Same as students. There are environmental, financial, social, behavioral, physical, mental, and plethora of factors that effect how students and schools test. Even just from classroom to classroom there so many factors determining how well students will test. The dynamics of a classroom, the camaraderie, the needs, the behavior are just a few elements in determining how a specific class will test.

I understand the benefits of this testing. Personally, I believe the results from such testing should be used a guide. They can show us which outcomes require more attention, which outcomes need better strategies, or how to better educate our teachers in order to increase student success. Used as a guide, we find our way to better schools, smarter students and happier teachers. Used to make comparisons and we will continue this cycle of stress and failure rates will continue to escalate as schools strive to raise funds they aren’t receiving in order to establish necessary programs to help their students achieve.

Should tests be used as a measuring stick to determine good, better, best? Used to determine how much money schools receive? Used to determine who gets to keep their job? Not in my opinion. But what do I know? I’m just a teacher.