Well, this past week was one of polar opposites. Grades 3-8 students were immersed in taking the ISTEP, which is Indiana’s standardized test. The children in K-2 classrooms were celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday, which was March 2nd, and is always part of the ‘Read Across America’ initiative complete with Seuss activities galore. See what I mean? The same day in which Indiana kids were either celebrating reading, or plodding through it to place in a certain percentile.
With four of my grandchildren, I was reminding them to go to bed early, get a good breakfast and have that number two pencil, well-sharpened and ready to go. With my other grandchildren, I was hunting up my Dr. Seuss hats, books, t-shirts, and shoes. Why, yes I do have a pair of tennis shoes with the Cat in the Hat picture and Seuss’s name emblazoned on them. Am I rich or what? No Jimmy Choos in this closet, but I am rocking my Seuss shoes. I know you are jealous. But back to the debacle at hand.
As I delved into that ISTEP abyss, I saw the pressure, fear of failure, and stress my sixth graders exhibited. My jovial, loving connection with these kids would soon be replaced by educational alienation. I read directions. I proctor. I write the time on the board. I am a jail warden without the uniform. I feel as though I am betraying them when I am asked a question I cannot answer. The mantra is the same: “I can’t answer that. Just do your best.” And we all know, they can’t do their best without me. I hate every second of standardized testing.
But then my imagination pulled me to the Seuss side. I wondered what it would look like if Dr. Seuss—albeit, any of his characters took a test like ISTEP? Let’s give it a whirl.
Dr. Seuss Takes a Standardized Test
On the second of March in the Jungle of School
Dr Seuss was waiting to begin the I Test Like a Fool;
He had his crayons: purple, orange, and bright blue
But all were replaced with a pencil named Two.
“I am so excited to show what I know
And describe to the Testers all the places I’ll go;
I’ll tell them great jokes and rock this room with laughter-
I’m certain that joy is what they are after.
I’ll show them I’m loving and that I am kind,
And share all my answers to those who fall behind.
I’ll bring out my glitter, my sequins and glue
And show my creativity to the Testers and you!
And if we get scared-from our shirts to our pants-
I’ll lead the class in a brave and bold dance;
We’ll whistle and wiggle and I’ll play the kazoo
The Testers will thrill at the dances we’ll do!”
But the teacher glared at Seuss, and said, “We’ll have none of that-
The I Test Like a Fool is not ‘Cat in the Hat’
It is dark, hard, confusing and strains your brainy
It is serious and stuffy, like cloudy and rainy.
You must not speak, but instead, think and plot
If you are nervous, the Testers care not.
I will read strange directions and stare at the clock
I will wring my hands and pace like a fox.
Some will do well, and others will plummet
To the depths of percentiles ’cause you simply can’t ‘sum’ it;
The story you write must fit on these lines
Even though the best parts are still in your minds.
Now I am your teacher and I know you ‘by heart’
I marvel at your compassion and know you are smart;
And if you don’t pass, don’t think you are dull
Because these numbers don’t measure the whole YOU at all.
I know you may struggle, but when I look in your eyes
I do not see failure, but instead I see ‘tries’
So do not think you’re worthless if you botch up this test
You will do just fine because you are the best!”
Well, my apologies to the great Theodor Geisel who penned books with fun and nonsense so kids would cuddle up to their grown-ups and plead, “Read it to me again!” And in the process these little ones’ minds were mastering receptive language and unraveling this ominous process called literacy. I have taught reading for thirty-six years, and I am amazed any of us can do it—and in thousands of languages! Our brain is so amazing! And so much more fun when wearing a Dr. Seuss hat.
If Horton Hears a Who, it probably will be me. “A person’s a person’s no matter how small”– but ‘Do Not Pass’ a standardized test and that’s not true at all. Tomorrow is a new day. Time to put the Grinch to bed and look forward to all of the ‘creachas’ coming into my classroom eager to use their glue, glitter, and goofy selves to rock my world.
You Testers don’t know what you’re missing.