Saturday is THE.DAY. CSET testing day. Five Hours. 162 multiple choice questions, 11 short essays, covering Columbus to genetics, quadratic equations to your mom, and everything in between. If I pass, things are great. If I don’t….there will be ___________ involved. Suggest a fill for that blank. It’s probably already on the table.

I’ve been holed up in my hermitage studying like cray cray. I think my brain has reached capacity. The textbooks have sucked my personality out my eye sockets. A dull throbbing has commenced at the base of my skull and it travels down my spine, which is permanently slouched over flashcards and practice scantrons, and down to my butt, flattened by hours on the couch.

But I admit….the nerdy part of me has actually been enjoying some of the studying. Perhaps its the flashbacks to college days, or feeling justified to fuel my study power hours with SourPatch kids. This test covers all subjects learned in the classroom for a K-8 child in CA. Plus child development. So I have learned and relearned quite a bit of material. At the turn of every thick page a little “oh yeaaahhhh….i remember this” escapes my lips. Test your own knowledge….

How well do you remember the following?

  • Life cycle of a frog vs. the life cycle of a butterfly
  • How to find the surface area and volume of a cylinder
  • Plate tectonics
  • the rock cycle
  • the contributions of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome
  • Mesopotamian society
  • the digestive system
  • plant cells vs animal cells
  • the Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution
  • the deciding battles of the Civil War
and all kinds of “fun” word problems like….if you have a bag with 23 marbles with numbers written on them from 1-23 inclusive, what is the probability that you will pull out a yellow die with an irrational number on it written in Chinese, that is moving on a train heading 60mph off a short dock?

Um….here, I brought you a glass of WhatTheWhat?!

The crazy thing is that in the real world, if I had to teach a unit on, say, the classification of plants and their asexual versus sexual reproduction (note: teaching junior high has immatured me…i totally giggled when reading this section. “flowers have ovaries? STAMEN? haha that sounds like semen. gross.”) I could look it up in advance and make sure I know what I’m talking about. We have curriculum and standards to reach, otherwise we can’t keep our jobs. And I have too much pride to not know everything I need to know to teach a great lesson. I want authority in my classroom that comes from the students knowing I am the expert in the room on whatever we are learning. But I don’t think you can prove that with a test. Yet I don’t know any other way.

I think that the best teachers are not the ones who try to cram in all information needed to pass tests. They might not even be the ones that you learn the most facts from. I don’t remember a lot of “facts-y” teachers.

The ones I remember are the ones with hugs, with smiles, that were interested in what we thought, that offered positive and constructive feedback, and told stories. They were passionate about what they taught and it unfolded into every area of their lives. I wanted to learn what they taught and do well in their class to please them. I’ll always remember their personal touch they added to their curriculum, and remember their love.

And as I cram, I’m trying to remind myself that this test, if I pass with glory or bomb with shame, is not the final measure of the teacher I am, or the better teacher I will become. The measure of that is to be found in my students; the way they have grown in their knowledge over the years, and the way our relationships have grown, too.

Now back to the books, back to the books. With some thoughts from those who have said it better:

A teacher affects eternity:
he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry Adams

One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes
change a delinquent into a solid citizen.
Philip Wylie

The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

And my favorite…

Education should consist of a series of enchantments, each raising the individual to a higher level of awareness, understanding, and kinship with all living things.