Schools, Testing Etc.

Glorious Grace...Connecticut granddaughter, first day of school

Glorious Grace…Connecticut granddaughter, first day of school

The girls are doing fine at school  I’m keeping track of what Lana’s doing because her teachers “tweet” photos of the day’s activities every day.  Wonder how long that will last.   We’re asking more and more of teachers.  Daily updates on Twitter with photos is way above and beyond the call of duty.

I asked a friend who sent a daughter off to first grade around here last week how things were going.

Okay, she sighed.

Just okay? I asked.

Well, I got a note from the teacher saying she talked too much.

Really, says I…the first week of school?

And her friend’s mom got a note saying her daughter would only play with my daughter…that she needs to make more friends.

Really?  You have to be kidding.

Why on earth would a teacher send negative notes home on Day Four of school?  What is the matter with her?  Of course, the kids are playing with the friends they know.  Of course they’re talking when they’re not supposed to.  They’re six. It’s the beginning of school.  They haven’t even gotten over summer vacation yet.  They haven’t had to keep their mouths shut for indefinite periods of time for ten weeks.  And now, all of a sudden, we expect them to go cold turkey?

If I ever had the time or energy to send a parent a note the first week of school, it said “Your kid is terrific.  Your kid is wonderful. Your kid is so ready to learn.  Thanks for sharing him with me.”  That’s IF I had the time or energy.  Mostly I just crawled home, made sure I was ready for the next day, had something to eat and crawled into bed. And done it again for the rest of the week and slept all weekend (except when I was working on lesson plans for the second week of school)

And seeing as my goal, aside from wanting the kids to want to come back for the second day of school (and third, fourth and fifth), was to reassure parents that their child, the one they adored beyond all reason, was safe and would be loved and cared for that year, I would NEVER send a negative note the first week of school. What is that teacher thinking of?

It made me so angry…just breathe, Mary…just breathe.

Lee County just took a huge leap…the school committee has voted to opt out of the state testing program.  They just aren’t going to do it this year.  It’s going to be so interesting to watch what happens next.  The superintendent had been urging the committee to go slowly, investigate the consequences before they made such a huge decision but they voted last night and it passed 3-2.  I’m sure that those of you who know my feelings about high stakes testing will be surprised but honestly, if I were on the committee I would have voted no…I would have needed to know the consequences before I voted yes.  I’d need to go in with my eyes wide open.  So much is tied to testing, especially in Florida…promotion to third grade, graduation, teacher salaries, bonuses for schools and teachers, scholarships for high school kids going to state schools…not to mention state and federal money.  I sure hope they know what they’re doing.  Still it’s a brave move and I hope they can serve as a model for other districts who want to do the same.

Facebook is loaded with little ones heading off to school and I love seeing the bright, happy, hopeful faces.  And I hope every one of them has a teacher who will give them a year filled with learning and laughter and love.  And who doesn’t send a note home to their parents the first week of school saying they talk too much or need to make new friends ASAP.

My nephew, Jason, ready for senior year at Andover High

My nephew, Jason, ready for senior year at Andover High

My nephew's kids, Ben and Madeline, ready for school in Vermont

My nephew’s kids, Ben and Madeline, ready for school in Vermont

Lana in Texas







13 thoughts on “Schools, Testing Etc.

  1. Love your insights!

  2. Dorothy Cresswell

    Well, you did surprise me there, Mary!! I am so happy for those kids, but one can’t help but wonder what the consequences will be. But I DO commend the right-spirit of the vote!
    The photos are GREAT. Where in Vermont?

  3. This is why you were (and will always be) such a magnificent teacher. Go, Mary! I wish you were U.S. Secretary of Education!

  4. Moriarty Geraldine

    Happy Day!!

  5. Calm down, Mary. Things will even out! Can’t wait to see I all

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. You must’ve been a wonderful, caring teacher!

  7. Deirdre Christman

    How true. The way you treat your students the first week determines how they’ll feel about school all year. Everything a teacher does should say, “Isn’t this the most exciting thing we could ever do?!!! Note the “we.” The classroom should be a community of learners, every person valued and every person contributing. I’m sure your classroom was just like that!

  8. Aunt Mary , I wished I had you for a teacher. I read your blog to Katie who’s sitting next to me right now. She mentioned you gave her the best books while growing up. She so enjoyed them.

  9. I should have taken a first day picture so you could include it in the blog!


  10. In hopes of washing out that awful Day #4 comment from that insensitive teacher, and helping you breathe…our grandson, 6 year old Andrew, is quite, quite shy. Releasing his grasp of Dad’s leg, before walking into class, took quite a bit of urging. His parents walked away, holding back the tears. By 9:15, Andrew’s teacher, texted my daughter, to report that Andrew was well-integrated, smiling and chatting with the kids. Phew! Now, Mary, please continue breathing.


  11. Negative notes the first week?! No way to start out.

    Wendie Sent from my iPhone


  12. No wonder you were the top teacher in MA. You knew exactly what should be done- the first day of school and beyond. Splendid insights. Love, Barb.

  13. Oh my, first, I must say those first day of school pictures are too precious.

    Second, I cannot believe how a teacher could think her negative notes would impact behavior positively. When teachers project negativity and low expectations, that is what they reap. Parents either believe there is a problem and project concern or grow to dislike the teacher. In turn, the children do not feel safe to learn. Children are transformed when teachers are positive role models who show that they care for each child for their unique individuality and developmental abilities. Children rise to high expectations wanting to please the adults they admire and who believe in them. We want our students (and parents) to believe their child is safe to take risks. That is how to encourage growth. UGH!

    As far as opting out of state assessments…I think I would agree if the schools have alternative authentic assessment plans that document growth overtime. In this way, the schools can argue that high stakes testing does not provide accurate information alone and could hold up portfolios, multiple & varied formative and summative testing designs, teacher observations and more. Throwing the baby out with the bath water could backfire. There has to be a conscienscious middle ground to inform teaching practice.

    Thanks for the interesting food for thought!

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