I know you have been experiencing a lot of changes at school over the past year. I’m sure your teachers have seemed a little more stressed and high-strung as they have in the past, your free time and recess hasn’t been as frequent and school has just felt…different. I want to say I’m sorry. You see, none of this is your fault and yet you are at the receiving end of whole bunch of stress and work overload. The extra work your teachers are piling on you is not your fault. It’s not their fault either. When policy makers in high places decided that school needed to become more rigorous and teachers needed to be evaluated more harshly, you became the scapegoat. I’m sorry that the many people in our country think that they know better than your teachers and that your teachers are not working to the best of their ability. I mean, I’m sure there are some not-so-great teachers in every district, just like there are not-so-great athletes on every team, not-so-great doctors, not-so-great actors and singers, not-so-great chefs in restaurants,and not-so-great business owners. Not everyone is the best at what they thought they could do in their career, but that’s not your fault either. What happened was people who have never been in a classroom decided that they knew how school should be run. They knew what would work and they were determined to fix it because obviously, the teachers can’t be trusted to do it. After all, your teachers only have a four-year Bachelors degree along with a Masters degree and many years doing what they love to do–working with all of you. What you need to know is that we, your teachers really love you. We really love kids. You have to believe this because even though you are young and you probably won’t understand this, but teachers do what they do out of love and not for money. I’m okay with the fact that I won’t ever make as much money as many of my friends who have chosen different career paths and that my student loans will take just as many years as I have left of my career to pay off. I’m not embarrassed about my paycheck because I love what I do. Most of your teachers do.
Please believe me when I tell you that all of these tests are not our idea. We know what you need to know. We know what is best for you. And making every kid in every public school starting at the age of 8 take nine hours of tests that are way beyond your comprehension is not it. Even kids who just moved here and don’t speak English very well have to take these tests! How crazy is that? Some of you probably do great with tests. I’m sure there were many of you that did very well. But I’m also sure you have friends who are not good at taking tests. Maybe you’re a kid who really struggles with learning and is granted extra time to finish these tests. That means that you just had to finish eighteen hours of tests over the past two weeks. I’m sorry for that. That’s an entire car ride from New York to Florida. And you know what’s going to happen with those test scores? They’re going to determine if your teacher was a “good” or a “bad” teacher. It doesn’t matter if your teacher brought in an entire slideshow from her recent trip abroad to bring different cultures into your classroom, or if your teacher stayed at work until 6:00 every night planning for each and every one of her 25 students with different learning styles in her classroom, or if your teacher planned pajama lunch dates every Friday where you had a pajama book club. It doesn’t matter if your teacher made you laugh, made you think, made you apologize when you needed to, made you start over and try harder before handing something in, made you more aware of the world around you, or made you wonder. It all comes down to how you did on those darn tests. And so when you could have been playing or creating, you were taking pre-tests, practice tests, post-tests, and field tests. You were bubbling and test-writing. Your were learning, but you were learning how to take a test so your teachers could prove to the policy makers that they deserved to keep their jobs. It’s not your fault and to be honest with you, it stinks.
So kids, hang in there. You’ve been good sports. You’ve rolled with the changes and are adjusting to all being “college and career ready” in elementary school.
Thanks for being you. Now go outside and play.