By day three we had all lost focus. They wiggled in their seats and my heart raced as I walked around and observed them. They all had numerous stretch breaks. Julius dropped his pencils at least 30 times. Iran wore his glasses on the back of his head. Mario spent more time coloring in the letters in the text than he did answering the questions.
"Focus." I said.
"Sorry," they replied.
They didn't want to disappoint me. I had already disappointed them. It was too hard. Some of them didn't have a chance. I took the test along with them in my head as I walked around. Some of them chose wrong answer after wrong answer. Some of them used the strategies I taught and did well. Others were in between and I won't know how they did until we get the test results back next fall.
All of them looked for my approval constantly. In pats on the back, high fives, lottery tickets, thumbs up....I couldn't give them anything. When they didn't get it they second guessed themselves and changed answers over and over. Christopher erased one answer so much it made a hole in his paper.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"I NEED YOU TO HELP ME!" he said in the most intense whisper I'd ever heard.
"I can't, but you know this. Just do your best," I said, putting my hand on his back.
Just then the region monitor walked by and gave me a dirty look.
I walked away.
Christopher broke his pencil, threw it at the board and looked at his test as tears began to fall.
He did well - probably passed. Even so, he spent the next 3 days glaring at me. He felt betrayed.
I've allowed them to become overly dependent on me without even realizing it.
We take the state math test in March. Before then I must teach them to be confident in their own abilities. To not look to me for every little thing...to not say my name 100 times a day...to not need me there to feel successful.
I failed them by being there too much. By not allowing them to handle their own situations. By protecting them too much...advocating for them too much.
We've all failed them by teaching them test prep instead of content.
On Friday test prep for the math test started. We take it in March. After the math test, Science test prep starts. We take the state Science test in April.
I can't handle any more countdowns.
On Friday during reader's workshop Julius wouldn't quit smiling.
"What are you so happy about?" I asked.
"We can finally learn something again!" he said.
And then I smiled...for the rest of the day.