The Ravings of a Lunatic (NJ) Special Education Teacher – part 2
After this afternoon's rant, I was in the car. I do most of my thinking in the car and often wish for a voice recorder to record my musings.
I was still thinking about the testing that we subject our students to, specifically about the standardized test. I remembered the first time I was subjected to them as an educator. I was a paraprofessional at my first job in a public school. A one-to-one aide for a middle school student.
The first morning of the test he approached the door to the classroom...and promptly...threw up.
That was how much anxiety he was feeling about this test. It was as if someone had told him that he would never see his parents again if he did not perform well on the test. Of course, he did not test that day and had to be subjected to restarting with the anxiety again the next morning.
My next role within the testing regime was as a proctor of the assessment while being employed at an out-of-district placement school for emotionally and behaviorally troubled children. Truthfully, most of these stuents landed in this placement because of violent behaviors that endangered themselves or others within a regular public school setting. Along with most of these classifications came the classification of specific learning disabled and communications impaired. Basically the students were a few grade levels below their truthful age appropriate grade level. I had a few students that were at a middle school age but were academically equivalent to a kindergarten level reader. Try telling these students that they needed to sit still for hours at a time, trying to read a test that they could not understand while asking them to write a page essay about what they had read. If ever there was a time that I hated being a teacher, this was it. It was a rude slap in the face to these children. We were basically saying...here, this is what you should be able to do. I know you can't do it. But here it is anyway. Sit and stare at it for a few hours until it really sinks in, how far behind you are academically.
At least I was able to complete Alternative Proficiency Portfolios for two of these students. The rest of them, there was nothing else I could do but assure them that I would still care about them and that in my eyes, every word that they did read, every math problem that they were able to solve while we were in the classroom was brilliant. I could also be there when the meltdowns occurred and behaviors manifested.My next NJ ASK assignment involved proctoring the exam in a Public School setting. As a special education teacher, I was placed in charge of a group of random classified students and students with medical 504 plans that were allowed modifications. This meant that there were students in that group that did not know who I was. I had always thought that the student had a right to have the test administered by someone that was familiar to them. Maybe I was wrong
After that – I was able to proctor my own group of students in my own classroom. I was kind of excited at the prospect, being able to experience the test with my own students. Being able to watch them give the test their all time best.
This was the year that broke my heart.
These were my students. The ones that I had grown close to for seven months. The ones that were used to my voice, my inflections, my facial expressions, my little reassurances that I knew they were trying hard. As I sat there and watched them I began to notice a few things. I noticed the students lifting their heads and looking around the room as if searching for something. It took me a little while to figure out what was going on. They were looking for the visual clues that I always had hanging in the classroom, little saying and signs I had painstakingly made to remind the students of certain concepts, such as Same sign = SUM and KHDODCM. I had removed them to follow the testing guidelines. I could only hope that they heard my voice in their head saying the different sayings. I had spewed them enough times during the year!
Next I began to notice glances at me. Students were afraid of letting me down. They were afraid that I would see them answer a question incorrectly. They were watching to see if I could give them a little gesture to show them that they were on the right track.
Most of all, I noticed the look of pain in my students' eyes when they asked me what a word meant and my response could only be, “I am sorry, I cannot tell you that.” I felt like I was letting them down. In their eyes, I was. In their minds, they felt like they were letting me down.
I have diligently watched over many different groups as they take these state tests. I have seen a lot of different things. I have seen students not read passages or questions and randomly fill in bubbles. I have seen students write a page without doing any pre-planning or organizing. I have seen math questions answered with no scratch work being done. I have seen too many eyes glaze over at the sight of that test booklet on the fourth, third, second, even first day. I have seen students refuse to even take a guess on a questions because “I simply do not know that.” I have seen students that have not come to school during testing because the test itself has no meaning to them. I have seen melt-downs, violent outbursts, and even self-injurious behavior during the testing week. I am sure there are teachers out there that have seen more then me.
Excuse me while I go cry again.