Slice of Life: Testing, Testing

Standardized testing.

It has me feeling some kind of way.

I can’t be alone in this. I know we are legion, those of us wanting to teach in a way that aligns with our moral compass. We are legion, those of us in systems that say they are student-centered, that focus on the development of the whole child, that tell us it’s not about test scores are teaching to the test.

Until test season rolls around, and the conversation becomes about student growth.

As measured by said testing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a data-and-number-phile. Give me test scores, and I am ALL about the error analysis and conclusions to be drawn. I am all about the whole where-are-we-where-do-we-want-to-be-how-will-we-get-there quest.

I just…worry. I worry that colleagues of mine across districts find themselves more often in a march towards Progress, toward Growth, which require Standardization and Consistency. Which are important means, but for many it is an end. I worry we’re losing the heart of things.

That teachers are losing heart.

And so, in the hopes that we can find a better way, and with apologies to William Carlos Williams, I offer the following poems to mark standardized test season:

The Grade School Student

So much depends

A grade-school

Taking a test

In front of an

This is Just to Say

I have taught
the students
that were in
my classroom

and which
you were probably
met standards

Forgive me
they were curious
so ready
and so earnest

Slice of Life: Passover Fun

Today, for my Slice of Life post, I decided to share something I’m working on for the Passover seder this coming Friday. I’m generally the one who leads the service, and I’m always looking for ways to make the evening more fun. Because FUN. A few years ago, I started my take on Passover “Tom Switfties” to pepper around the table, and I thought I’d share my list with you. I’d like to think my dad is somewhere looking down on me and groaning in approval. Got any more ideas? Questions about what stuff means? Drop me a comment below!

“We don’t put anything on our matzo,” he said drily.

“Grandma’s matzo balls are just as I remember them,” she recalled heavily.

“Please pass the charoset,” he asked sweetly.

“Do we have to raise our cups AGAIN?” he whined. 

“Here we go again with the Hillel sandwich,” he complained bitterly.

“But you need olives on the seder plate,” she pressed.

“Oy! Gefilte fish again!?” she carped.

“Hmm. I didn’t think peas were Pesadik,” he snapped.

“I give this seder one star,” he yelped.

“And this is the point where Moses comes with the Israelites to the Red Sea,” she imparted.

“Dayenu is my favorite song,” he noted.

“Perhaps you’d like another pillow?” she inclined.

“Thank goodness Passover joke day is after tax day,” she declared.

“It’s so wonderful to have all of the family here,” he related.

“It’s getting drafty with that door for Elijah open,” he vented.

“I’ve got the afikomen money right here in this envelope,” she flapped.

“C’mon! This Passover seder could go much more efficiently,” he expressed.

“Man, we’re not gonna be done ‘til the sun comes up,” he mourned.

“I bet the matzos are bigger in Texas,” she stated.

“This discussion is getting way too academic for me,” he professed.

Poetry Month Day 11: Emptying the Pockets

From April 21, 2016. I thought about writing a poem that described how I was feeling. Realized I had already written one:

She told me
That someone told her
To set aside
Each day for a
A counting of things
One carries.

After checking my pockets,
My shoulders,
My soul, I have this
Of what I brought to school today:
My tea thermos
A school bag
The weight of my brother’s passing
Eighteen mental reminders
A wish to do today better
Four separate to-do lists
The grief and anger of loved ones
The burden of self-expectation
The need for self-forgiveness,
And the restorative power of

Poetry Month Day 10: On Streaks

Since when did streaking
become something poets did
each day in April?

All I really know
is I’m not as ambitious
as WordPress would think

And while statistics
can offer encouragement
they’re sometimes heavy:

an extra bag to
sling over a tired shoulder,
drag to the next day

or so, until I
decide enough is enough
and just let it go.

Post-script: What can I say? Deciding to write every day is a commitment. Which, I’m realizing, means that writing every day might not necessarily be a joy. Today, I’m writing. And and some point I will get my energy and mojo back. Another day, I will write something witty or clever or insightful or wise. Today, I will settle for written…

Poetry Month Day 8: Honey, I (should) Love*

There was that podcast the other day
about tacky stuff.
Not the tape
or the glue
or the stick-em-up putty,
but the stuff that doesn’t
love or fandom,
but somehow
gets us.

Things I love more than a person should:
boxed macaroni and cheese,
singing in front of my children,
plain marshmallows,
new school supplies,
the feeling of flossed teeth

Things I love less than a person should:
button mushrooms,
dog kisses,
sitting down to write
in discipline, intention

*with apologies to Eloise Greenfield

Poetry Month Day 7: How I’m Doing

day I
move myself
start to finish,
not quite knowing how

have the
to keep going
but somehow I do…

do think
I could use some
time to just relax.

Sometimes, when I’m looking for a way to post a poem for the day, I’ll look around for a poetic form I’ve been waiting to try. Today, it’s the Arun, a poem with three sets of five lines, with each line increasing in number of syllables from one to five.

Poetry Month Day 6: What it’s Like

Hey kids! In honor
of National Poetry Month
let’s try a little

Ever wonder
what it’s like to teach
a group of
a new thing
in technology?

Forget herding cats
or nailing Jell-o to the wall.

It’s like

putting puppies in a box
cleaning raw egg with your bare hands
riding a bike on top of a skateboard
playing checkers with six people at once
getting the last corner of a full-sized fitted sheet on a queen-sized bed

except harder.

So. Real talk? Today, I worked with a group of fifth-graders to set up their own blogs on a new platform. Don’t get me wrong: there is some REAL excitement in the air about some new stuff we’re doing, and that will forever be infectious. Enthusiasm on the part of my students will always, always get me out of bed in the morning.

Still, there are moments that test a girl. Those moments make up teaching just as much as those flashes of joy and jubilation. Teaching is astounding. AND it’s hard sometimes. It’s okay for it to be both.

Poetry Month Day 5: Life as a Poet

It’s a blessingcurse
live in metaphor:
to see
sun pushing through clouds,
a shoelace refusing to relinquish its knots,
extra-long stoplights,
a stubbed toe,
wondering if
these things carry meaning

or just are what they are

and wondering if
that’s yet
another metaphor

Today’s quadrille was inspired by Raivenne, one of the folks who challenge me to try something new here and there.