(For the layman, all teachers are required to advance their licensure to remain highly qualified in their certification. This weekend, I will be completing my dossier to jump from Level I to Level II. I am in the process of creating a portfolio to demonstrate my ability to work with my community and colleagues, plan highly effective lessons with measurable outcomes, and analyze student work. In the end, the dossier needs to be about 100-130 pages and requires at least 25 hours. Fun times tomorrow! And thus the inspiration for the structure of today’s work.)
Sometimes I have to deviate from my core beliefs about teaching and reframe the learning process in light of egregious interruptions. Today was one of those days. Test prep!
My class professionalizes students. When we interview community members and share their stories, we are ethnographers.
When we clean up a watershed marred by illegal dumping and bullet casings to make a mural of our community’s laziness, we are civic activists.
When we record podcasts exploring our relationship with drug addiction and abuse, we are radio storytellers.
When we prepare for the tests we are ninjas. Highly trained, clandestine, centered, focused and immortal.
Today’s lesson began with a venting of student fear, frustration and negativity concerning standardized testing. Students wrote on one side of an index card to release their tensions. The lesson proceeded with test taking strategies and reminders of their ninja training. During a lesson like this, motivational throwaways demand seriousness and presence from the ninjas and resolve and honesty from their ninja master. You have been molded for this moment. You are as ready as you need to be for such an inferior foe. Ready for the challenge ahead, the students reflected at the end of the session with their positive energy and faith in their abilities.
Student A demonstrates a proficient creative expression of penmanship developed from forging parent signatures for the last five years and exploring the many ways of signing one’s name for the days when their celebrity may be famous. The variety of ways to spell FAIL is impressive in its scope and presentation. Some variations are bubble or block letters while many seem to be intentionally sloppy to signify the metaphor of rushing for quality work on a test. In the lower right corner, FAIL is encircled by a nebulous creation juxtaposing this experience with the barbed wire fence enclosing our school.
By the end of the class, Student A reflected with a similar presentation of the word PASS. Again there are many derivations of the basic way of writing. But gone are the block and bubble letter; this speaks of the prescient moment at hand and the attitude that passing will demand a level of consistency not originally emphasized in Artifact 1. This student is ready.
Student B is a rhetorician using pathos and alliteration. This student is speaking from the heart and addressing the emptiness of the ‘Buricratic Bull Shit! Becoming of a Stupified System. Spelling is overlooked, but passion abounds. This student has a deep belief in the efficacy of the class and school underlining ‘Vista Will Kill It.’ This phrase demonstrates a grade level understanding of metaphor and voice. Although not advised, ‘Fuck you system’ is a stinging reproach of education today.
Student B was an active participant in the lesson and the second reflection demonstrates a corner has been turned. In Artifact 2, Student B wastes not a word. The metaphor of murdering an inanimate object remains, but now the word ‘test’ completes an interesting rhymed couplet. The self-confidence remains strong and will be an asset for this student in the coming days.
Student C is a bit more tangential and paradoxical. One can recognize both an affirming attitude and deeply troubling laments. The writer wisely parodies the structure of a multiple choice test filling in the negative space with A, B, C, D. As a whole, the reflection screams of Jackson Pollock’s earlier work rendered anew trading the paint for print. Obviously, this student is an artist and a highly interesting human being.
After completing the lesson, Student C demonstrates an exasperation of the entire process. Gone is the self-motivation, the confusion and put downs. The prompt reads simply and the answers are empty. This student grasps the greater shortcomings of a testing culture in education while reframing the classic trope of a multiple-choice question. High-level interpretation indeed. This student is ready to move on with life.