Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Testing: Day One... plus added flashback at no extra charge!

(I kinda feel like A.Rotterham over at eduwonk writing the ellipsical portion of that title)

The flashback first:
Last year we begin the grand testing period by calling all kids into the quad. There, the Rocky Anthem plays and POY stands atop the roof with a microphone and a hand-held video camera. "I want to see the highest scoring 7th grade class in school history!" he shouts, and the kids surge forward. "I want to see the group that will go worst to first."*** Then he's leading the chant "Worst to-" and the kids answer "First!"

When it is time to head to the rooms and actually begin the tests I'm all fired up, feel better about this group than ever before, just know they're gonna do it, really do it. On the glass portion over my door is a sign that read: "Work like a champion today." I want them to enter the room like countless high school football teams take the field, slapping the sign and making a commitment to excellence. What I don't want to see is wimpy little taps. I want pounds. I demonstrate by leaping up and slamming my hand into the poster and through the glass upon which it is taped. It sounds like a gunshot. The glass explodes, covering the floor. I'm bleeding, kids are coming out of other rooms, my kids are either cracking up or staring blankly, and I'm still fired up: "I don't care! Hit it anyway! Worst to first! Let's go!" Past references to me as a loose cannon are obviously accurate.

This Year
I manage to avoid breaking anything.

We have jettisoned the Rocky music in favor of something that doesn't engage the underdog mythology so heavily. Yes, the Imperial March from Star Wars. Yes. The one Darth Vader enters to in Episode III: A New Hope ("I hope so Commander, for your sake...") POY is again on the roof, this time working a new angle on the motivational chants. We've been talking about setting goals beyond district comparisons, looking to become one of the top ten achieving middle schools in the city as a whole.

"Where're you from?"
"San Jose!"
"Where're you going?"
"Top Ten!"

At my door we do the fist-pound-thing, they hit the frame just beneath the poster -- constant learning, see -- and then tear into it. You can tell by their faces its hard for them, but I'm so proud of their effort, their commitment. I'm so proud to watch them utilize the strategies they've been taught in service of the skills they've mastered. No one whines. No one complains. No one heaves great put-upon sighs. They bear down and don't back down.

***among district middle schools


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