#sol14 March 19: Classroom Signs

Slice of LIfe

I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March.  You should do it too! Check it out here. Thank you,  Two Writing Teachers

I am staring at a sign in my classroom: “Sorry about the mess, but we are learning here.” It rings true in my classroom for sure.  Peek into my room,  and you will see an elementary eruption. When we are creating our muppets,  fleece scraps are slumped on desk tops, chair tops, and our own tops. Sometimes liquid watercolor is drying on paintings, waiting to be cleaned up on the counter and still in use by some kids. Supply baskets are full and ready to go. (Truth be told, we often lose track of time, so cleaning up is left until later.)

My mess sign is deeper than that though. The mind is messy: jumbled up while the light bulb starts to flicker, before we’ve been able to file our knowledge in the appropriate mind folder. I imagine it looks like my desk in the summer, when I have all my paperwork out in order to organize, de-clutter, and get ready for the next school year. Who am I kidding? That’s what my desk looks like right now. Yikes!

I should probably edit my sign to say: “Sorry about the mess and the noise, but we are learning here.”  In my classroom we value and practice the art of a silent reading, writing and work time. But we aren’t always quiet (just ask my teacher neighbors…). Our learning squawks and giggles, hoots and stomps it’s feet.  We collaborate, debate, articulate and create our own understanding.  I am proud of my students. They take responsibility for gathering information when they need it. They ask questions, and question answers. I facilitate. I guide, scaffold, correct, help, ask and answer along with them. I am proud of our learning environment – walls of student work and helpful charts. We spend almost all day together in this classroom, it may as well be fun and comfortable.

“Sorry about the mess, the noise, and the colorful clutter. . . but we are learning here.”   

But not today, not the rest of this week. This week I need a new sign: “Today we aren’t learning.” These mornings will be silent. All the colorful charts and helpful strategies have been covered. Students are not permitted to ask me for help. I am not empowered to guide them. (I know, I know, I’m still allowed to help by encouragement.)

They are taking their standardized tests you see – and these tests have very little to do with learning.

I know what you want me to say, reader. You want me to say that of course we need some kind of standardized assessment. But I won’t. Because I don’t think we do. It isn’t information that helps me enough to warrant the stress, the time, or the cost. So I’ll keep giving the test this year, and forever more. I’ll follow the rules and regulations. I’ll cover my posters, count and sign for my tests, silence my class, read the directions and monitor my students. I’ll collect the tests, return the tests, sign that I returned the tests. And tomorrow I’ll start again. But I won’t say we need to do this. Because I don’t think we do.

7 thoughts on “#sol14 March 19: Classroom Signs

  1. I loved the first part of this post. Your room sounds like such a great place for learning. I especially loved the line about asking questions and questioning answers. And I loved how the piece built from one word of description, to two words, to three. I was totally surprised then, and more than a little sad, when the post went a totally different way at the end. We will finish testing tomorrow and I totally agree with you. The environment doesn’t in any way resemble real learning, either the kind that kids or adults do. It isn’t beneficial to kids. And ot doesn’t tell me things I don’t know. I hate it!

  2. Thanks, Carol! I was a little worried I was being too controversial… I really appreciate your comments! It really doesn’t seem like real learning (or real assessing for that matter!) to me either.

  3. What a great slice. We are about to go to national testing in a few months and teachers are trying to cram as much of everything into these poor little children’s heads. It’s all they can think about. They can’t wait until it’s over so they can teach. Thanks for sharing a little bit about you fun classroom – during non testing time.

  4. Amen, sister! We test FOUR times per year–once for the State and three times for the District. And our website reminds kids to get sleep, eat breakfast, and attend school during testing weeks, but not during learning weeks. Ugh!

  5. That’s such a good point about the attendance. We actually had a bit of a debate amongst the staff as to whether the test books go inside the answer booklets or vice versa, due to a conflict in rules / paperwork. Really? That’s the kind of educational discourse we now get into. Sad. Whey can’t we be debating the pros and cons of a worthwhile issue. But thanks PDE- I really love covering all the resources that guide learning that I spend weeks planning for and making and then hanging. That’s my favorite part. (See with typing you can’t prove sarcasm and I am thus maintaining my positive attitude “before, during, and after the assessment.” 🙂

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