Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Passed the Test!

I've been a teacher since 1985. However, when I moved to another state a few years ago, with no intention of returning to Florida, I let my teaching certificate lapse. After all, I had no intention of moving back, and I certainly had no intention of teaching in the classroom again.

Never say never.

Here I am teaching in the public school system again, much to my delight! But according to the "rules" I need to take the teacher certification exam again to regain my certificate. I took the test this weekend.

I was incredibly nervous. After all, historically I do poorly on multiple choice tests. I think too much. I read the question and the four possible answers and say to myself, "I don't agree with ANY of these answers!" I actually am operating at a disadvantage with 21 years of teaching behind me. I know that what goes on in a real world classroom is quite different from what they teach you in college it's supposed to be.

For example, here's a question from the test:

At the beginning of the school year, a second grade teacher determines there are children from diverse cultural backgrounds in the class. One of the best ways to study cultural similarities and differences would be to have students:
a. Obtain information from a variety of sources on different cultures and write reports.
b. Describe and compare living conditions in selected countries.
c. Pair students so each does class work with a classmate from a different culture.
d. Participate in a classroom international festival to complete the unit on cultural study.

What do you think is the BEST answer?

According to the key, the answer is D.

On the surface, this seems like a perfectly relevant question. But you see, I think too much. In my mind if a teacher creates a climate of caring and acceptance and models those values, she's done her job and will meet the diverse needs of her students without making a production out of it. But my answer wasn't on the list. So I chose the one (and got it right) based on what I know teachers right out of college would know.

This is all to say that there is so much more to teaching than passing a test. The test tells us very little. And it's PASS or FAIL.

For our children, my students, tests have become the be all and end all of their education. And yet I know, without a doubt, that these tests don't really show me what a child knows and what they're capable of knowing. The stakes are high for kids these days on state tests. If I was nervous about this test, can you imagine how nervous some students are about theirs?

Some people equate life and the trials we face as "tests." I wonder, is it a PASS/FAIL test or are there levels we pass on our way to the top of the class?