Thoughts on Standardized Testing

Until lecture this past week I thought of standardized testing as an annoying, but mandatory, part of teaching without giving much thought to it. However, if there is one thing that university has taught me it’s how to think critically. 

I am still conflicted on this issue. I know that many educators are 100% against standardized testing, and I understand why. Maybe I haven’t had quite enough time to reflect on the issue yet, but as of now I can say I do have conflicting thoughts on it. 

On one hand, it does go against everything that we have been taught. There is a huge emphasis on differentiation, individualization, equity, and multiple intelligences in this program, all which I strongly believe in and am 100% going to practice in my own classroom one day. Standardized tests don’t allow for any of that, and increase feelings of incompetence and frustration for students. That is obviously not setting students up for lifelong learning. Another huge disadvantage is for those ESL students, as they are at a huge disadvantage. With Canada becoming more and more diverse and multicultural, there is no way to get around that. 

That being said, and at the risk of being disagreed with, I don’t want to take standardized testing off the table just yet. I think that I would like to see where my students stack up against the average. I think more than anything i would use the testing as a guide. I’m not sure that there is anything wrong with that. I’m not sure if this is naive or not, but I feel like there could be a way to use standardized testing to foster learning. 

I’m not saying I’m eager to use standardized testing whatsoever, but I’m not sure the idea has to be dismissed so harshly yet. I would find it beneficial if they took standardized testing out of school altogether, but while they are still in the classrooms, I think we should take advantage of them in any way that we can. Thoughts?

Students in Poverty

Last week we had a guest speaker, Bonnie, talking on poverty and the education system. I think that her words resonated so clearly because she had lived what she was talking about. It will stick with me better than if I read about a similar situation in a textbook. 

I believe that this is where equity versus equality comes into play. I can’t imagine that treating a hungry child who may not know where they will sleep that night the exact same as a well-fed, well-rested child. A blog I recently read talked about children in poverty starting at the beginning of a race with a trap on, while other kids are starting half way with no trap. We expect those students in poverty to just deal with it and try harder than anyone else to achieve the same results. I do not think this is possible. 

This is all a new area of interest for me, and I have not quite been able to process these types of situations in my own classroom. However, it is something I want to keep on my mind and keep working to be aware of so that I can give the appropriate care to all my students, but to make sure they get exactly what you need.

What would be some things you would take on to help students living in poverty in your classroom?

The Heart of a Teacher by Parker Palmer

“Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”

Sometimes in my education classes I feel as though we aren’t talking enough about strategies and methods and practical things to use in the classroom. Most of it seems theoretical and all about who we are as teachers. I’ve never tried to ask why we do this. This article explains why. There is no “right” way to teach, and no two good teachers teach exactly the same way. They don’t use the same strategies and methods as everyone else.

Palmer also states that “we teach who we are” which i’ve heard numerous times since being in the education program. I’m starting to believe that this is true. If we are engaged and believe in what we are teaching the students will follow suit. I don’t think that it is possible to be unbiased towards certain issues we may face, sometimes it is simply who we are. If we think that we can be completely unbiased I think we are lying to ourselves. However it’s how we approach these issues and what our hearts are like as teachers that will make the difference for our students.

If you really want to examine how you feel about being a teacher, I encourage you to read the article.

The Heart of a Teacher

Reconsidering My Autobiography

A couple months ago, I was asked to write an autobiography looking at the experiences that have shaped me. In this assignment I was asked to reconsider my autobiography and consider what hidden messages are now visible to me in what I could offer as my autobiography? Why did I not include race, gender, or sexuality?

My answer to this is not simple. I took it for granted that I fit into all the norms. White, female, straight. If I had fallen into any minority norms, maybe I would have thought to include those, giving additional perspective to my experiences. I know that the experiences I have had in some ways have come from being part of the norm, but the fact is that the things that were important to ME, the experiences that have made me who I am today haven’t been dependent on my race, gender, or sexuality.

As a teacher I think we need to be able to decide what is most important. There is an abundance of information in the world, and we can’t teach, or use, it all. For each of our assignments we have to dig through and find what is most important. With my autobiography, I chose what was most important to me. With someone of minority in any shape or form, maybe that makes them who they are. 

Everybody is different. What experiences have made you who you are?