Friday, October 28, 2005

Performance Anxiety

Every Friday, kids take a SKILL QUIZ, assessing their knowledge of the spelling sounds, vocabulary words, and grammar skill we have spent the preceding days working on. The kids have begun to kick the homework into high gear (I'd say we're averaging about 85% homework -- there are 4 assignments nightly), more highly engaged during grammar instruction than at any other time, and consistently demonstrate a high level of understanding on all formative assessment. Then they take the quiz and just shit the bed.

This kills me. I write my quizzes far in advance, working backwards from what I want them to understand. Every quiz contains at least one question from each level of Bloom's Taxonomy, and instruction is planned to match that level of rigor -- each day progressing to a higher level of understanding. They do it all week and then they stand and deliever like a bunch of intoxicated parapelgic mailmen... And the quizzes so completely mirror what we do all week, and they do so well, and I see them in full concentration mode on Fridays, quizzes never delievered first thing in the morning or after lunch, and AAAHHH! AAAHHH! Why can't hit MASTER level consistently?

Last Sunday I could not shut up about this, despite very clearly and plainly being told to by at least three people. After going after the wall briefly, I had a fifteen minute stress relief session with the punching bag in the hallway.

Because I still believe the line about all children being able to learn. So firmly and consistently that I don't even think about all the boxes these kids fill up that speak against that ability. Low-income, ELL, 30% of them in Special Ed, a history of repeated failure, the (you can see it) foreign feeling of giving a shit. Teach For America held its Corp Development Night at my school and I was working in my classroom while a bunch of first-year teachers talked about their Big Goals and how they don't really think that all the kids will get there, that big turd going unchallenged by their presumably competent and experienced learning team leader, and it struck me as so ridiculous, so foreign, because if there was something TFA did well in molding me as an ideal corps member, it was intilling that belief, and indoctrinating me to fight for it endlessly. I look at these quizzes and am furious when I don't see the level of achievement I fight for and expect, this pysical ball of venom at the mediocrity and under-gunning I've thus far brought out in them, and I want to break things and smash things and try to calm down so I can make it better.

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