Stripped Learning

2011-03-01 17.14.03_edit

Cue the Imperial Death March

Testing day.  It’s finally here.  For the last week, my class has been going through labor pains as we prepare for the inevitable day of our state writing test. 

We are in our room this morning, but it’s different.  The whiteboard is blank,  The SMART Board and computers are off.  Our learning artifacts on the walls have all been removed or covered by dull butcher paper.  The fluorescent lights are fully on.  The desks are all in rows facing the front.  It’s still our classroom, but it’s different.  It’s been stripped.  Not only physically stripped, but stripped of its dignity.

Why the formality?  Why the radical transformation?  This environment is not how I teach the students, so why must it be how I assess them?

I caught myself a few times lately saying things like, “When this is over, we can get back to real writing.”  The state test is, unfortunately, real.  It’s just not authentic.  It’s easy to forget the difference.

*     *     *

I paced the room, both anxious and confident, as I actively monitored the students.  I knew many of them were fighting the feeling of being trapped and constrained, just like I was.  Some students sped through, and others took their time.  But, in the end, I’m not completely sure it mattered. The hour hand took six trips around the clock, and it was all over.  The fear, anxiety, and tears came to a close.

Each of my students will now get a number- one number assigned to their learning.  This number is assigned from one day out of their lives.  It reduces their learning down to a quantifiable digit.  This number strips their learning.  It strips it of context and authenticity.  Their learning is stripped of its significance.  There’s a word- significance.  Where does that fit into bubble sheets and scripted prompts?

In our race to the top, there’s pressure to quantify as much as possible, whether that number represents significance or not.  But, we must never forget that there is a face behind that number.  It’s a face of significance.