Day 120: Today was the ELA MCAS – the state-wide high-stakes tests that show students how they match up against their counterparts all over Massachusetts, and show schools, teachers and administrators how effectively they are teaching their students core skills and knowledge.
For me, this meant that I spent the entire day proctoring tests. Passing out pencils. Picking pencil sharpeners up off some desks and putting them down on other tests. Escorting students to the bathroom, and down to the cafeteria for movement breaks. Getting up to respond to student questions and, given the admonitions against coaching students, doling out such helpful phrases such as “I can’t tell you that” and “Just do your best.”
To put it mildly, I was bored. I was proud of my kids for working so hard, but it’s tough to get excited about keeping a list of who gets to go to the bathroom after whom. Somewhere around the 100-minute mark, 6th graders get antsy, and it doesn’t get any easier from there. Dealing with that is not the sort of teaching challenge that gets me out of bed in the morning.
I’m not writing this because I think high-stakes tests are silly. I don’t know enough about high-stakes tests to say whether or not they are silly. I’m writing this simply to point out that proctoring standardized tests is really, really boring. And, maybe a little more surprising, teachers are serious adrenaline junkies.
I teach better when I’m rested. But I can definitely teach when I’m tired. I get in front of the class, put on a smile, and get into the lesson. Then I do this for another 150 minutes. So, what happens when I’m not teaching? Let’s just say I’m not dabbling in quantum mechanics. I’m sluggish, and I have to do menial tasks like copying or grading if I want to be productive. I’ve fallen asleep in professional development sessions … even once during an IEP meeting.
Now expand that sluggish non-teaching feeling to fill a whole day of, say, proctoring a test. Teaching has its challenges, but I’ll take the adrenaline of the classroom over the in-school break from teaching any day.