For the past several months I have been training for a half marathon. Myself and several other colleagues each had a different, unique training regiment leading up to the race. I needed to begin early and gradually increase the distance of my runs each week following a rigorous and prescribed schedule. Others began their training later and were more flexible with their runs. The first few weeks weren’t so bad because I had been running for some time, just not much over four or five miles. Then about a month in, it was time for seven miles, which seemed like a huge leap, when in reality it wasn’t at all. The same feeling of exhaustion and fatigue hit at each mile increase until finally in August and September my body was in sync with the gradual increase in mileage and what seemed like a challenge at the beginning was a norm. Five miles was my new three and eight was my new six and so on. You get it.
Then one morning in August it hit me, how was my training any different then our teachers preparing students for the state assessments? Teachers introduce and teach the standards, spiral back based on formative assessments and spent more time and energy breaking down lessons and concepts to help students’ access and apply new learning. They help students get in sync with shifts in thinking and give them tools to push on their thinking. There I was at 5:00 am thinking about training and testing and students and learning and then two dogs become tangled with the third and boom, I went down, head over heals, headphones flung through the air, knuckle lights flipped off landing in the middle of the street, elbow bruised, covered in gravel, knee scraped and bloodied. At that moment I had a choice. I decided to brush off the dirt, pick up my things and continue on for a few more miles trying to make up time.
And as I put the pain and embarrassment out of my head I started to think back to our kids, what obstacles do they have to overcome each and every day just to get to school? What do they need to access and then to apply the curriculum and standards? What happens when they fall down? Do they have the desire and motivation to get back up and continue? How do we as educators “train” them to be successful? Do we break down the curriculum into manageable pieces and give students the time they need to process, manipulate and relate to their new learning? Do we look at each individual child and create a plan for what they need? How do we respond when students get in their head and can’t see past their mistakes?
And then two weeks before the big run it happened, I lost my motivation. I just didn’t care. I was done training, tired of running and just wanted it to be over. Don’t our kids feel the same way? Think about the amount of testing our students are required to endure in April and May. And we ask them to try their best, what happens when they are just done? When they just don’t care and want it to be over? How do you motivate and keep your students “in the zone?”
Now days before the run I doubt my ability and question what was once a confident feeling. I wonder what on earth I was thinking and why I thought this was a good idea. Ironically I am experiencing the same feelings of exhaustion and fatigue our students have running through their heads during testing time. Except for me it’s just 13.1 miles in one morning, not repeated two times a day for several weeks. As educators we do an amazing job at motivating and creating space for learning, but the reality is there are things we have no control over and yet we are charged with taking the responsibility when state testing is involved. What happens when your students fall? How do they respond?