Testing is finally over. Every year, we give these state tests to see if we can hit the magic API number for the school. I’m lucky enough to be working at a school that consistently earns the highest scores in the district. I used to stress out about these tests – after all, our names are posted along with the scores. I have since stopped worring about them, however. I just do my best to cover the material and let the scored fall where they may. I used to find myself teaching to the test, and I didn’t find that rewarding at all. The students were bored. I was bored. Teaching wasn’t fun anymore. After 20 years of teaching, I know what kind of material the test will cover, so I make sure to incorporate that into my teaching, but I refuse to let the tests run my class. I want my kids to enjoy American History. It’s interesting and there are so many connections to their own lives, so filling their brains with a bunch of dates and places and events just to do well on a test takes away the heart of history.
Today’s Tip for New Teachers: Don’t let the state tests stress you out. At the beginning of the year, ask a veteran teacher to tell you what topics are most likely going to be on the test. Not all the State Standards are on the test. This will allow you to plan your lessons better. For example, if you have a great two-week lesson on Lewis and Clark, you may want to modify that, since only ONE question in the entire test asks about Lewis and Clark – at least that’s the lesson I learned. Which is sad, because the Lewis and Clark expedition is so amazing, and the kids love learning about it. (I spend a lot of time on it anyway. Shhhh.)