Thursday, March 30, 2017

What I Hope My Children (and Students) Learn from State-Mandated Testing

It’s that time of year again. STAAR is here. We’ve had a lot of complaining, questioning, and even some crying at our house this week. Let me let you in on a little secret, teachers don’t like it either. And, like you, we pray that someday legislation will do away with state-mandated testing. But that day isn’t today, so here’s what I hope my children (and my students) will learn from taking the STAAR test. These state-mandated tests aren’t everything, but I want you to do your best. I promise you can learn a great many things through this experience if you do.

#1. I hope you learn that you can do hard things. These tests are hard y’all! And regardless of the outcome, you do it; you tackle the monstrous challenge again and again and again.  You forge through figurative language, fraction problems, and facts. Armed with only a pencil, you slay the dragon every year. Multiple times. You’re a knight, a ninja, a new-aged rock star! And don’t you forget it! Mom and dad are proud of you!

#2. I hope you learn that no score defines you. These tests do not define you. Nor do they determine your future, regardless of what anyone might say. It’s a snapshot of a few hours of your life. Whether your score is advanced or unsatisfactory does not determine if you will be advanced or unsatisfactory as an adult. You determine that by your willingness to work hard. Numbers on tests like these sometimes feel like they carry a lot of weight, but in truth, your small day-to-day actions weigh more than any paper score ever could.

#3. I hope you learn to accept that sometimes you have to buckle down and do things you don’t want to do. Whether it’s chores at home, tasks at school, or responsibilities at work, you’ll find there will often be things outside of your comfort zone, things that you detest, things that are exhausting, and, sometimes, things that are disgusting that you simply must do anyway. And that’s okay. It’s part of life. Just as sprouting seeds must push their way through the dirt, we all have to push through unpleasant things to grow.

#4. I hope you learn that your teachers are invested in you. You. They are there to teach you. Not to teach content, not to teach test strategies. More than anything, they want to give you valuable life lessons that will carry you into adulthood and help you become a happy, healthy, productive adult. Your teachers are aware that the results of state-mandated testing do not predict your future. They know these tests don’t define you. *See #2. And they see you. You beyond the test. The kid who comes to class burdened by unnecessary anxiety, hunger, family stress, bullying, financial concerns, identity crises. They see you. They love you. They worry over you, pray for you, dream of ways of helping you while they sleep. You are so loved.

#5. I hope you learn that God is in the little things, even the STAAR test. He cares about you and every detail of your life. He knows that sometimes you have to do hard, unwanted, unfair, daunting tasks that don’t prove anything about your intelligence. He knows that these test cause you a lot of unwanted anxiety. He knows you desperately want to succeed. He knows sometimes you fall short. He’s okay with that. He’s got your back. He hears your prayers and pleas and He will answer you. He will not leave you alone in anything great or small. He’s in the details. He’s with you. Learn to lean into Him… even in, especial in, the big-little things.

Above all else, I pray that you learn to trust in yourself. To trust that you are a wonderfully creative, capable, remarkable person. To trust that you are good enough, smart enough, valuable enough. I hope you grow to learn that you do not need validation from a test designed by someone who doesn't know you and doesn't get to see you progress like I and your teachers do. You are amazing. Never forget that. Trust in who you are. "You is smart... You is important." Don't let anyone or anything take that knowledge from you. Ever.

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