I have exactly 5 days to prepare my students for the New York State Mathematics Test. 40+ multiple-choice questions, 8 short-response, and 4 extended-response.
Cathie Black Dennis Walcott and Co. implicitly put the burner under our butts when they released our Teacher Data Reports a couple of weeks ago for us to peruse and look at the smooth graphics. Fully aware that these reports mean nothing, I can either go into these next 5 days with a kill-and-drill mentality, one I didn’t espouse all year, or get them to remember the more important topics that usually come up on the extended-response questions, and pray for the best. Instead of preparing for these next five days, I thought I’d give a great cheat sheet to all my fellow teachers going through the same struggle I am, and here goes. Here are five things for you to remember in case you’re really nervous about how your students will do on this exam.
5. It’s Not Your Fault
You’re not the only teacher worried. You’ve had 120+ days to teach students by any means necessary all the material you’re possible going to teach them. You think a few more days will somehow make everything click for them? No.
4. It’s Not Your Fault
As I recently researched, these Teacher Data Reports aren’t the end of the world. They’re actually laughable at best, monstrous at worst. They don’t prove your worth as a teacher. Your teaching is. Speaking of which …
3. It’s Not Your Fault
You’ve probably been collecting pieces of evidence showing that 2 hours doesn’t equal a lifetime of learning. All those grids, graphs, and portfolios you’ve been stressing about for the better part of this year? That’s the wave of the future. You’re so ahead of the curve. Fantastic.
2. It’s Not Your Fault
When you see the test, you’re probably going to point at it and say to the test, “Oh man! I knew it!” It’s like when you go out on a date, thinking you should have gone with the maroon sweater instead of the fuschia. If they call you back, great. If they didn’t, then that’s OK, too. At least next time, you’ll wear some black pants to offset your ridiculous sense of wardrobe. And you probably won’t have to wait another year for a date, either.
1. It’s Not Your Fault
What’s on the test tends to fluctuate year-to-year. The kids’ capacity for the material can, too. Frankly, their study habits do. Daily. The economy changes. The environment around them does. Your leadership probably does. The amount of sleep and breakfast they’ve had changes, too. How the state government grades the exam does (and will). Your personal life changes. While it’s great that everyone wants students to succeed on these tests (because I know I do), I know it’s not the end of the world.
Find peace in knowing that we have lots of opportunities to prove your mettle. Just as students need different forms of showing that they’re worth their weight in chalk (or magic marker, or pixels), teachers do too.
And if you didn’t do any of the things I described, then you have lots of cramming to do for the kids. Because as it turns out, it’s probably your fault.
Jose, who has a fancy e-mail button at the bottom of this post, just in case you know someone who needs this now …