It’s easy to get down during ISAT week. I’ve started to call it the week that “good teachers go bad.”  I have to admit, I’ve had them meditate, I let them chew gum (only if they brought in an authoritative research article about it), and we’ve even done some, get ready, test prep, to help them get into the standardized mindset.  It’s somewhat unnerving, that we’re told to differentiate, but then we’re told to standardize simultaneously.  It’s rather hypocritical of the educational system, if you ask me.  However, I do understand the need to assess and monitor our kids’ education.

Seeing the Light

Despite superstitions and a week littered with stressful moments and countless situations where I question the work that I do, I was reminded briefly today that I do this for the moment that sparks a thought, the moment where it all comes together, the instant where I see lightbulbs illuminate and understanding blossom from within.

We sat reading Sisters Grimm, which has unfortunately gone to the wayside as of late, due to preparation for ISAT, a snow day, and a conference day.  The kids were excited to pick the novel back up, and so was I.  We began reading Chapter 3, where Mrs. Grimm begins to discuss the origin of Ferryport Landing, helping the girls to understand their ancestry a bit.  Mrs. Grimm goes into vivid detail about the history of the Everafters, and reveals a strong limitation for the Grimms, the fact that, once all of the Grimms have perished, the Everafters will be free from their confinement in Ferryport Landing.

Now, I have many quick readers, and for those students I’ve found that my scaffolding comes in, for them, comes in when I choose places to stop in the text.  Many of them read fluently, accurately, and can answer literal questions on a test, but when it comes to thinking deeply, they fall short.

I paused dramatically from my British accent (yeah, I know she’s technically German), to give the kids a moment of pause before we read on.  Suddenly, one of my fast reader’s eyes light up.

“Wait a second…. Maybe that’s why Mayor Charming wants them gone! Maybe that’s why he’s hiding the giant from them!”

My classroom started buzzing with realizations, inferences, and text examples upon which to draw that conclusion.  Suddenly, everyone was drawing their own conclusions and passionately defending them, even making connections to other more specific parts of the story.

“Oh, then Canis must be an Everafter if the Grimms are the only humans!”
“Mayor Charming is an Everafter too, then!”

Before my very eyes, the kids were understanding the story, not through my explanation, but through a close reading, repeated readings, and specific places where I chose to pause and give them the time to think.  It seems that kids, especially these fast readers, need to be trained to pause. You need to make them pause when you’re training them to be metacognitive.  It’s funny because we assume that even our most proficient readers simply need a harder text.  Rather, they need to be trained to read more closely.

Breaking the Bad

Looking at the magical moment I had today, it’s hard to believe that a week ago I was training them to standardize their thinking. To use deductive reasoning to choose one correct answer, when there isn’t always one correct answer.  The depth of their comprehension today was more so than any standardized test could ever show.  I’m happy to start getting back into real teaching, using smiles and moments of excitement to remind myself why I do what I do.

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