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.