The clock said 2:15 today as I surveyed my class of fifth graders hard at work reading articles and taking notes to prepare for opinion writing. Well, some of them were working hard; a few others were hardly working. I walked by a boy who had not taken any notes in quite a while and asked how it was going. He replied, “I am really tired. I have been working all day long.” He was right. As the rigor in the classroom has increased over the past few years, so has the demands on the students.
There is much pressure on teachers today to bring all students to mastery in all subject areas. Teachers and kids are on a merry-go-round of teaching, testing, re-teaching, and re-testing until every student has “mastered” the targeted standard. ( In reality, I wonder if some students truly master the standard, or do they master the test after taking it multiple times?) Common sense tells us that children are human beings who develop at different rates, especially in the elementary grades, and they should not all be expected to learn at the same rate. This push to reach that achievement bar that has been raised high above their heads is causing a few to give up because they don’t feel that they can reach it, and others to dislike school because it is simply not fun; it is too much work.
While I cannot derail the common core train, I can make a difference to my students in my classroom. We do work hard. There are high expectations. But I must balance that with their attitude toward learning. There must be moments in the classroom when students can laugh every day. There must be times when every student feels successful and is recognized for it. There must be an effort to support the emotional/social part of each student. If the kids do not like coming to school or have good social skills, what is the cost of this rigorous education?
I looked down at the boy and told him how proud I was of how much work he had done today. Then I told him that I thought he had earned a break. The brightness returned to his eyes and he sat up a little taller, intrigued. When I said, “Let’s go out for a recess,” he grinned broadly and shouted with glee. Now if I can only get him to do that when I say it is time for writing…