Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's the most dreaded time of the year... my students at least. That's right, for the third through eighth graders at my school, April/May means standardized testing time. Here at Trinity, we use a test called the ERB. And unlike public schools, Trinity doesn't teach year round for the sole purpose of getting our kids to pass an arbitrary test. Our philosophy is that you can't measure what a student has learned in one year by how they do on a test in one week. I appreciate that about my school and so there's a much more relaxed attitude towards it all. Yet every year, I feel like I have to literally pull my kids down from the rafters as their eyes grow wide and their bladders go weak at the mere mention of "ERB".

I don't know what they're complaining about. I mean, it's a whole week of no homework for crying out loud! That's gotta count for something. I always LOVED this time of year when I was a kid. We took the CAT tests. California Achievement Tests. I was one of those obnoxious kids who tested well. I always scored in the 97th or 98th percentile. And I don't say that to brag because I realize now that those tests are not true indications of intelligence. Believe you me, my intelligence was not as great as those tests said. It just meant I could pick out the right answer amidst three wrong ones. That's not a skill I'm particularly proud of.

However, since I was a good tester, I was always done waaaaaaay before time was called. I prided myself on this actually. As if it somehow made me better than the other kids. Poor, weak brained elementary classmates. You can't answer 50 questions in ten minutes flat? Pah, what lowly creatures you are! Yes, this was my nine year old, coke bottle glasses wearing, freak show of a test-taker attitude. The other thing I loved about finishing quickly was that I could then read a book.

Yup, it should come as no surprise to some of you that I was a bookworm back in the day. Mom and Dad encouraged this, as their reward for a good report card was a trip to the bookstore. I was such a geek I didn't realize I could be pumping them for money instead. I devoured books whenever and wherever I could. During math class I would slide an open book inside my desk so that I could fake attentiveness and then look down to read a page or two in between. Don't think I haven't seen this in my own classroom! I suppose it's just payback for what I put my teachers through. I was a speed reader too which drove my cousin Audrey crazy because it meant that I could get to the next Nancy Drew mystery or Babysitter's Club book before she did. Hah! Take that slow reader! Yeah...she's made up for it now though because while she is at one of the most prestigious business schools in the nation (and kicking butt I might add), I'm lucky if I can explain fourth grade science to my students and understand it myself. A fast reader does not a smart person make.

Over the last year, I've rediscovered my love of reading just for fun. There's so much that you have to read as a grown up that is decidedly Not Fun. I've been lucky to work at a school where there is required summer reading for faculty, staff, parents and students. Last summer, I got to read "Watership Down", a wonderful tale that speaks of the importance of community and knowing your own story. I enjoyed reading so much that it prompted a new discovery of the public library and more books that I could read for fun. And for free!

So while my kids dread ERB week, I love it. Less planning, no homework to grade, extra recess so the kids get a break after working so hard. And I get to read. Just for fun. As much as I want while they take the test.


  1. Marmee5:51 PM

    Those "coke bottle glasses" had transparent blue, I believe Carolina Blue, frames and the frames were quite oversized and squarish, the epitome of fashion in eyewear for 9 year olds "back in the day"! You were stylin' even then. That's what I remember. You da girl!

  2. Okay. I did not test well. So does that mean I'm really smart? Because I've never tested well (okay, my GRE wasn't too shabby, but still....), and I always figured that's because I'm, well, Not Smart.

    You finished-early-so-now-I'm-reading-a-book-people always made me nervous. That's why I didn't test well. Thanks a lot.


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