Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Fates Shackled to a Scantron
A hush comes over the entire building as the students sit in their janitorial rows. Harsh fluorescent lights cast an ominous glow of fear and nervousness over their quiet, innocent faces. The room looks like a prison cell since the brightly colored posters that once made the room look more cozy, were snatched down and now the children are bound to their desks. No there are no smiles, no happy sounds of children’s laugher—only solemn faces fixed with anxiety as if they have met their fates. And all I can do is look on. I have the urge to reach out and comfort them, but I’m not permitted to. Our fates are actually tied together on this day—a year’s work thrust upon them in one hour as they take the state standardized test.
I hate this time of the year…it’s when I tell my students to tuck away their talents and forget what makes them individuals to serve a common cause…to pass a darn multiple choice test. In a way we reward the children who excel at regurgitating information with labels like “gifted” or “honors’” just based off the results of a test which honestly doesn’t evaluate them to their full potential. We then shun the talents of students who cannot pass this paper/pencil test. How dare you be able to read music, but have trouble comprehending vocabulary. How dare you be an artistic genius, but struggle with numerical values. We’re taking round pegs and attempting to place them in square holes. In a country that boasts diversity, by admonishing teachers for NOT teaching for all intelligences and all learning styles…at the end of the day evaluates our students’ academic abilties using a very narrow and discriminating scope.
And I, like other educators who are aware of this unforgiving society, know that I have to teach beyond what is required. Not because they cannot grasp the material, but because they need be critical thinkers. I have to teach my students to be doubly conscious—to know their surroundings and how others view them as well as how they view themselves. I have to teach them not to hide, but to know when to share their gifts and their talents because there are people out there who are not interested and who tear them down for not imitating their likeness. I have to teach my students that passing the test may help them gain acceptance into the “larger community”, but it does mean that they will nurture you. Hell they will never know who YOU really are and were never concerned with that, or they would find another means of getting to know your needs, your wants, your talents. So it is frustrating to watch them as they cautiously bubble in their answers—knowing they have been reduced to student number 45766223 where only their test score matters, and the score keeper will never know what else they had to offer.