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Friday, April 12, 2013

17 Playing with assessments

All our meeting that afternoon focused on ideas on how motivate to children don’t see assessments as something threatening. My mentor showed me a research indicating the index of stress causing evaluations on students, reaching the point that just hearing the word caused horror to students. But at the end, as they explained me, when you have a job rarely suffer these stormy experiences, in return, the more ability you have to adapt to the environment and to solve problems, greater the check.

In teachers case, we receive orders and follow agendas, maybe that’s the reason  more and more people write about the unfortunate teaching profession, reaching the point that  miserable a salary  isn’t worth the liability. That is true, but I still believe that children deserve a bit of effort.

Over the weekend, all of us thought of questions and possible answers that could be found at any tests, validate them and put them in an application in which when responding allows you to  see if the answer is correct or not, but even if it sounds great, the truth is that  never stops to analyze the answers. Thats what we would be doing with children, give them the ability to analyze all answers together, and don’t feel that aversive, hoping that we could break with the idea that the assessment does not matter.

 On Monday I got to the classroom and proposed a game that we would start each day, would be a sort of competition as Jeopardy and all children would take turns to respond. Unlike the common error work in groups, the responses would be individually, because ultimately, the qualifications are individual, so it would avoid the bias that trust the abilities of others, because each one must create them and use them to their advantage.

The game was to respond, analyze the response and compare it with the correct answer. The group was divided into 4 and they would take turns to answer, the group that could win 5 points had the right to decide the next activity, which could be reading, writing, math or science. That would give us flexibility during the class and to them that sounds like  a Prize .

I also learned that if a response was confusing to them, I could work during the day's activities to consolidate their knowledge. We laughed so much that by themselves began to measure the speed of responses.

Each scoring what they learned during the day wrote it in a blog that we improvise on the south
wall of the room, thus creating ideas that everyone saw and of course employed in their own benefit.

It is true that not all children have the same motivation, so those who I saw more reticent, were invited them  to pop up the questions, read answers, and little by little all joined.

In 15 days the game was the most fascinating activity of the  day. We had only 10 days before the tests. While my stomach shrank more thought that children would have tension, they seemed to enjoy most of our simulation, even the time stopped being annoying for them. Perhaps it was on the right track, perhaps would come out well left of the whole process.

Friday, April 5, 2013

16. The evaluation and its errors

I was checking the schedule of tests that included State, national and school evaluations and I began to feel  stomachache, since I had the same  feeling since I was a child, thinking I would not be able to repeat what someone else wanted me to say always had put me very badly. I have not been able to understand why repeat what someone else says, or respond with a letter made me a better person, but it certainly had an impact on my life.

When I was able to sit next somebody who had bought the best test, things were going well and when I got back home, there was no problem, but when I failed and got less than a C, my father recited me a litany that I learned from memory and even now I can't repeat without thinking too much about it: "your grandfather arrived from far away without a penny in his pockets and built an empire, which I've cared carefully and  you pretend to come and landslides it, it is not possible you can´t  even choose from 4 letters correctly, I want you to study so you can   do something even better with the company". 

So, no, the exams were never my thing, and now I should be asking children to answer them. 

My head began to spin, but stopped when I received a notification from Facebook, my father had just posted the picture I sent  him of our blue ribbon  obtained at the science fair and added a message: "my son now inspires others so they can learn". Without a doubt it was his way that showed me that he was proud of me...

My phone rang at that and with reluctance, I looked in my pocket,  I saw the screen and it was a call from  Gaby, how could I deny something to her?. Her voice sounded between noise, but told me: David, we are thinking to enjoy few drinks, if you agree to join us, someone will pick you up, please, say yes go!.

I said it ,  I could not refuse something to her. I could also imagine her with her shoes in her hand, her crumpled dress and singing Karaoke, and no doubt, she  had some experience with drinks because it was 3 o'clock,  I was sure to 6 o'clock, we would all be vomiting sidewalks... who care about exams?, I changed my shirt and waited to hear the bell ringing.

My mentor was in front of the door, when I opened, she smiled and told me that she and her husband were there to take me to a meeting, I was on the verge of a heart attack when I saw the car: a Prius!, while I closed the door I could not avoid the question: is there a Awards State by buying Prius? 

-No, there is not, replied her husband, but it saves a lot on gasoline and allows you to go unnoticed, because many believe that it doesn't have enough power.

I knew the Prius’s power very well, but this time, it felt different, the car moved soft and I didn't have to holding to the seat belt, when we arrived at our destination, I did not kissed the ground, I was alive and complete.

When we walk down the sidewalk, I saw Gaby with her phone on her ear, when we saw us, she waved and started walking was a place of smoothies called Jamba Juice, I figured out we would start there to have something in our stomach before the alcohol flooded in it.

We all looked for several minutes the menu, except for my mentor, she directly asked what she wanted. When all had our drink I couldn't stop asking her what she had chosen and why, but she just said: taste it!. It was the most insipid which had proven in life!.

Gaby started the conversation: David, we invited you here because the statewide assessments will begin soon, that means teachers and students begin to feel sleepless and rates of gastritis and stress-related problems  will intensify. It is time to prepare the children so that they will not suffer all that and they can survive the process.

But how we can prepare them?, they must demonstrate what they know, what I've taught them!.
-       That is the first mistake, answered my mentor. Actually nobody evaluate what children know, education is evaluated, not the learning. We use  children as an excuse to measure the impact of schools and thus politicians can say if they are doing their job well or not. Children don't matter in this equation. If they learn or not, no one returns and responds with the tests with calm consideration so children understand why  they answered right or wrong way and of course, nobody will take the time to analyze how child came to answer who believed that it was correct.

Gaby added to it:
-       The assessments are only to create numbers that indicate if the schools deserve or not a budget, everything is a matter of money. But at this moment in particular, when the State is closing more than 60 schools, the pressure will be greater.

Yes, I had already heard about the closure of schools, I had not felt threatened so far. How can I prepare children?. My mentor began to speak:

-You have done a great job showing that motivation is power, but so far, you've used constructivist techniques that usually hit the wall at the time of the assessments, as children play in class and learn, but on examination there is no possibility of interpretations, a computer analyzes only if you write A, B, or C. don't matter, names or how many hours children studied. So that from now on will help you to design a strategy so that the children are familiar with the exams, study together to minimize the  pressure. The worst thing we can do is to believe that they are alone in this, we have put them in a good place for learning, but the system is the system, and they won't know how to deal with this without a little help.

Without a doubt the assessments were more than the promise of learning, we had to work on them.

We spent all evening chatting, laughing and thinking of ideas. No, we did not drink a drop of alcohol, only ate fruit pies and fill our cups with more smoothies, in my second round asked the insipid drink and I thought perhaps less sugar would help me o be more creative... maybe?, because I  could not stop open my eyes with all the ideas flowing in the environment. We were planning a strategy that I would have liked to know when I was student, many years ago.