Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Pressure Mounts

If I'm counting right (and, this late in the school year, that is a very big "if"), there are 14 school days until the English Regents.  And, at this stage of the game, it's very hard to get hung up on the love of literature when the paragraphs we've been working on writing all year long are still a struggle for some of my students.

I freely admit that I'm not handling this well.  I'm taking it personally, practically as an affront to me, that my kids don't seem 100% ready this close to the test.  I'm comparing my students to the other teachers' student and blaming myself for them not measuring up.  I'm making myself sick over it, wondering what I've been doing wrong all year, talking myself down from freaking out on whatever child or colleague happens to be nearest by.  And then the talk goes in a bigger circle, expanding into indignation against the Board of Regents for making my kids take such a stupid test and eventually the universe for a long list of tangentially related sins.  I'm being hyperbolic, but you get my point.

I don't know what my deal is here.  I taught middle school ELA for three years and never got this worked up about the state exams.  Maybe the stakes seem so much higher because it's high school, because it's a graduation requirement.  Maybe because the middle school exam is SO divorced from what happens in the classroom, killing oneself and one's students with test prep always seemed sort of counterproductive to me, so I never worried about it much.  And, yes, I'll say it, I was teaching in a middle school with a different group of kids.  A lot of my current students came into high school with 1s and 2s on the state exam, whereas I had very few 2s and no 1s at all in my old middle school.

And if this all seems pretty self-centered, well, it is.  I'll own that.  This is my outlet because I know that sharing these feelings with the kids, or letting them inform my teaching for the last three weeks, would be unhealthy and unhelpful.  With them, I have to be serious, purposeful, and encouraging, even when (especially when) I don't feel that way myself.

I wish I had a point or an answer.  I just couldn't think of anything of anything else to write today, not for a lack of interesting news in the educational world or other topics currently getting my goat.  It's just that all the pressure has really come home to roost for me in the last couple of days.

Anyone else feeling it out there?
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