Boy howdy, I’m really milking this one, huh?

I think, after a week and a half, we’re up to number three on our list of teacher tips for state testing. (This pace reminds me of the classic Sr. Mary Elephant bit from Cheech and Chong back in the day: “Now class, Sr. Rosetta Stone has told me that your assignment for the past two months has been to write an essay…”  And then none of them have it finished yet.)

[audio:http://teachingtheoutsiders.com/Cheech & Chong – Sister Mary Elephant.mp3] Sister Mary Elephant

Ok. So far we have:
1. Teach ’em to game the test.
2. Teach ’em how to erase.

So, on to number three.

3. Somehow get them to buy into the conflicting ideas that a) the test is important to them and b) not to worry. News alert: Unless they are gluey high-schoolers in danger of failing the graduation requirement or unless they have parents who take these scores seriously, right now there really is no down side to doing poorly, other than pride. Our VP tries to scare the 8th graders by saying the high school (yes, in our town there’s only one) will take away their electives and put them into remedial classes if they lame out, but I doubt the veracity of his claim, and as a motivational strategy it would have to rank near the bottom. Plus, the whole test changes in two years anyway. How important could it be?

I try to appeal to their pride, their sense of competition. I do say say that people will make judgments about you based on these scores, but that it’s really about you, not other people.

The truth is that the test is much more important to us teachers and the administrators and city/county/state “officials” than it will ever be to them. But it’s kind of awkward to say, “Please do well, because everyone will think that I did a bad job if you don’t.”

4. Make sure the kids have something else to do. There is ALWAYS too much time allotted for most kids. ALWAYS. Whether you provide an activity or whether you require the kids to have a book or whatever (guess which one I prefer), make sure they have something else to do. Forty-plus minutes of shushing while you wait for that one kid is more work than teaching.

5. Bring a book, or stockpile stuff to grade. I never grade or read anything in the week leading up to testing. I know I will have plenty of time on my hands, so I save it up and plow through everything. Over the course of four days worth of testing, I usually end up with at least 5-7 extra hours of prep time. If you ain’t caught up by the end of testing, you’re assigning too much work to grade.

6. Relax.. Ain’t nuthin’ you can do about it now.