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Thursday, May 1, 2014

You Are Not a Number

I cannot yet wrap my head around the changes this year in the world of standardized testing.  There are many things I want to say as an educator to other educators, to parents, to school officials, etc., but have yet to find the right way to say them. Ironic, I know.  I am a writer, yet the words I need to describe my thoughts and feelings on this subject fail me.

So this post is not for educators, parents, school officials, etc.

This post is for students, because I know exactly what I want to say to you:

You are not a number.

Don't let the world define you in terms of a number.  People are not numbers.  True, sometimes we use numbers to describe certain aspects of ourselves, ie: age, weight, IQ, address..... but I am not these things.  I am not my weight.  I am not my age.  I am not my IQ.  I am not the numbers on my address. I am not the amount of money I make.  These numbers do not define me. They describe certain separate parts of my life, but they do not define me.

And the numbers in your life don't define you either.

You are not a 4, a 3, a 2, or a 1.  You are so much more than that.

So much more.

As grown ups, we know this (at least we should know it.) And yet, we keep finding ways to describe you, our students, our children, our society's most important resource, as a number. We should know that it can't be done.  We should know.

I am going to tell you a secret here.  Sometimes, the grade you get in a class does not reflect the actual learning that took place for you.  I'll give an example from my own life.  Throughout my education, I  received A's in some classes that I really didn't learn that much in. I can't even remember some of the stuff I got an A for.  And I got some grades much lower than A's in which I learned A LOT--some things that I still remember and use in my life as a writer Every Day. The grades I got did not always reflect the learning that occurred for me--no grade can ever take actual learning away from you.

You are not a number.  You are not a grade.  You are not even an SAT score.

You are you and that is such a wonderful thing to be. I wish with all my heart, we would stop trying to lump you into categories and quartiles and quintiles for the sake of data collection.  I wish we would look at our educational system  and stop for a moment and think.

Just think.

The truth is, you learn a lot when you struggle, when things are a little hard at first to grasp. It is such an awesome feeling to master something that is "hard".  Classrooms need to be places where you can struggle, learn, make mistakes, try out theories, have your theory stink, try out another theory, make more mistakes, learn from them etc., without the "high-stakes" of a single number (4, 3, 2, 1) being used to determine the worth of your learning for the entire year.

You are not a number.



Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, Shelley, this is incredible. I hope some children hear and do not crumble. I wish those who create these systems would consider how important it is for children to be allowed to create and think, not just perform for test results.

Janet Johnson said...

I love this so much! My 10-yo was sick about taking his tests. Like crying frenzied tears sick. It took days of assuring him that the tests didn't matter. He worried they would determine his future, what kids would like him (or tease him), how his teacher would treat him, how I would treat him! Poor kid.

I do understand that knowing what kids have learned supposedly helps us improve our teaching, but why does it seem that kids are learning less than in the past? Or is that just me? Frustrating subject.