Tis the Season
Ah, April. The showers. The flowers. And, of course, the state testing (aka the reason that absolutely none of us went into education).
As an instructional coach, I am happy to support state testing, so that our kids have the best possible chance to show all that they are learning. . . but it is not the part of my job that fills my heart with joy.
It can be easy to fall into a month of complaining: the stress, the lost instructional time, the unpredictability of falling out of our routines. We can find camaraderie in this coping strategy, but I would argue that it isn’t very productive, and it doesn’t actually impact the experience of adults or kids in a positive way.
Here’s my trick for not losing my mind in April (and my recommendation to others). During testing season, I make sure that there is at least one slice of my day that reminds me why I really do this work. Every day, no matter what. I schedule it, because if I don’t schedule it, it’s too easy for the day to fill up with other, less impactful work.
So while the reality is that I’ll spend my mornings in April supporting state testing in 3rd-5th grade classrooms, I make sure to have in-classroom coaching cycle work going on in the afternoons. I need to be conferring with first grade readers, supporting a kindergarten teacher as she looks to challenge kids in math workshop, co-teaching a fairy tale writing unit in third grade. . .
This work in the afternoons will keep me sane and centered, so that I can be the calm, patient problem-solver—available at a moment’s notice to handle whatever comes our way (with a smile)—in the mornings.
So consider: What is that slice of the day for you? What is the part of your instructional day that lights up your core as an educator? Perhaps it’s read aloud, student book clubs, or writer’s workshop. Think about the piece of the day you (and your kids) would miss most if you didn’t have time for it.
Once you identify your slice, REVEL in planning this part of the day across the month of April. Choose a new read aloud book that you can’t wait to hear kids talking about. Experiment with an unexpected genre in your book clubs (perhaps sci fi/fantasy or graphic novels—something you just know will fascinate kids). Explore an authentic form of writing that you can genuinely dig into side by side with your writers. Delight in placing this slice within each school day—even if the testing schedule affects when that might be. Make it non-negotiable. Be transparent with kids about how important this slice of the day will be for everyone this month.
Think of this routine as a little gift packaged into every day.
Testing isn’t just stressful on the adults in the building (obviously). Our kids are stressed, too. They look to us as emotion regulators in our learning communities, and if we allow testing to consume us, it will consume them as well. Schedule the joy, and keep the focus where it should be: on positive energy for learning. Making space in each day for the kind of teaching and learning work we value most will keep the energy high across the month—which can only have a positive impact on kids’ abilities to demonstrate what they are learning on these state tests.
We may not have control over which tests we give and when (or how) we give them, but we do have control over what the rest of the day looks and feels like. Let’s plan for joyful learning experiences, and let’s work hard this month in particular to stay connected with why we became educators in the first place. (It might even be the perfect time to pull out our notebooks from #CCIRA19 for a little inspiration. . .)