Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TK- Parent Rant

It's 7:30 pm and I think that the homework is done. Every day a page of math and a page of reading, plus required reading for AR.  That leaves little time for pleasure reading, but we always end the day with pleasure reading together, side-by-side before we fall asleep. It certainly leaves little time for writing.  Tonight is different.

 As I prep for tomorrow, my 8 year-old comes up to me and asks if I have any books on how to get better at writing, "You know how to have similes and other things." 

Hmm, this comes out of the blue. I have a ton of books on the teaching of writing.  These books are not the ones that she is looking, of course.  She is always writing---zombie dialogues, to-do lists, blogging and journaling, but never a request for "studying writing." I dig a little deeper. 
     "Why do you want that?"  
     "Well, tomorrow is a big test."

The only big test I foresee in her future are the two state mandated-tests for reading and math that she will take in April.  

She tells me, "I am a 2 and I want to get a 5."  "Well, "I should be a 3." 

"Oh," I respond nonchalantly seething inside realizing that these are the monthly district-mandated practice writing tests foisted upon everyone to make sure that writing matters. I guess if we monitor it, they must get better.

I tell her that the way to get better at writing is to actually write and she can do that on her blog or on paper. I tell her not to worry about spelling. I tell her that she should write about cats something she knows everything about, cats. She tells me that type of writing, cats, isn't for school.  All of this is heart-breaking and I am tired, getting ready to help other people's kids.  

I was honest. I told her the test didn't matter. She won't take the writing test this year and I won't let her take it next year.  Nothing in her folder that comes home every week tells me that her teacher is preparing for  writing instruction.  My favorite writing teacher was her 1st grade teacher and her kindergarten teacher. She hasn't had decent writing instruction since 1st grade. All that we care about is reading and math. I love her current teacher as a reading instructor. She understands balance. When I visited her class as I as a book fairy, 100% of the students loved reading and were engaged.   Reading and math are the most important subjects this year. Writing is a peripheral subject, except on district mandated progress monitoring days.

I can accept many things about public education. I will not accept defining my 3rd grader as a two using a rubric designed for 4th graders, a rubric created for a test over a year away.  

Check out her blog today at FannyTwoBoots


  1. Awww as a first grade teacher my heart breaks at that. Sadly I feel it's the same at most schools (mine too). I hate that these poor kids are being led to believe that "good writing" is one with a grade. Gak! makes me mad too mom. I feel for you...Luckily, your daughter has you:)

    1. Yes! It is sad, but we will keep writing as a family.

  2. I just tweeted this post out on Twitter and opened with the words, "Imagine if more parents didn't permit their kids to take district-mandated writing tests." I think one of two things would happen:
    1) They'd do away with the tests.
    2) Teachers would take the time to really teach kids how to write so they'd be writers and thereby more capable of take the tests.
    This is a dilemma I'm sure so many parents face, Beth. I know of friends who've told their kids the tests don't matter. While their kids believe them, what happens in school to make them think they do matter (because of the accountability at the school level) seems to seep into their brains.

    1. That is the challenge, especially since she is a "teacher's kid." You don't want to make your child feel too different. I make a stand on the issues that matter most to me. One of her elective teachers now does not have kids copying essays as punishment. A battle that mattered to me. They spend more time at school than they do with their parents during the week. As a teacher, I know it "matters" to the school. Opting out is always a challenge. And PARCC is on the way... What is exciting was that I am her model and it was my slice writing last March that inspired her to start blogging. Thanks for your work that inspired us both!

  3. HOW SAD and yet I know it is a story that could be repeated in countless homes across our nation this spring. Even young kids are very focused on the tests and how they can do better. I suspect it is a function of our society.

  4. Sigh! I'm glad she's got you, but my heart breaks for the kids whose parents don't understand.

  5. I'm crying. Tears streaming down my face--I don't want to be THAT teacher. Still seeking the sacerd in writing. Still trying to be the person the tests say I should be. Still trying to find the balance. Still trying to make my students college and career and high school ready. All the while, telling them to find their own voice--where? Between the four corners of a page. A quote I heard from Bob Probst in a video for his book with Kylene Beers, Notes and Noticings was that students have to have the will and the skill. Dear God, please don't let us kill the will while trying to develop the skill. As we prepare for a practice writing test (the kind your daughter loathes, one of my students asked if CC writing, deep reading, analysis, response to text, etc. would help her become a better writer because she wants to be a novelist one day. I stumbled...we grumbled together...we talked about some of the other stuff we do...thanks for sharing. I DON'T ever want to be that teacher. The will is in the passion--I will find the balance and somehow not kill the will while helping them develop the skill.

  6. Ugh! Particularly sad that a student who actual does write is given the idea that her writing doesn't matter while others of us are doing so much to encourage and inspire all kinds of writing. Good thing Hope has a smart mom!

  7. Okay, this just makes my blood boil and it makes me crazy even reading it. Both of my babies are 29 and another 25. Both are skilled writers love writing, and write daily in their careers....however, for many years the teacher in the classroom had to let us know that they hadn't passed our local writing assessments and that remediation was necessary. Yikes, it isn't getting any better, and it is super frustrating that you can are caring so much for others. I would really talk to admin or someone about the situation.

  8. Wow - I can hear the heart breaking from here. Your words also impart the anger and frustration at a system that is inheretently wrong. When I think back to my methods classes. I learned about checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar. I remember how excited I was when I was selected to participate in one of the National Writing Projects. It changed how I taught. I often find myself wishing that more people could attend similar Writing Projects!

    Then we return to an ongoing irritant - testing that accomplishes nothing. How can education leaders buy into this nonsense? It like telling people to read the drivers manual - take the test and expect them to be safe on the road without practice. Ah you hit a sore spot with many of us.

    Give your daughter an extra hug!


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