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Today, the first day after the state writing test, was a day of decompressing, reflecting, and celebrating.  I began each class with my assessment of how I thought the day had gone.

“I’m not allowed to read your work,” I explained.  “None of us are.  But all of your teachers spent the entire day circulating through our classrooms and making sure that all of you were on task.  Let me tell you, our feet are tired.”

I paused for a moment and then continued, “I was so impressed that you listened to me and that you all filled those giant four-squares to the max!  Hallelujah!  We all were impressed.  Truthfully, none of us have ever seen kids spend so much time planning, writing, and revising a rough draft!  There is simply no way your scores can be low!  I am so proud of you!”

Marni raised her hand.  “Mr. Ramsey, you turned some really awful writers into great writers!”

“Thank you,” I replied.  “But you all were already good writers.  That little seed of creativity was buried inside of you.  It just needed a little attention and time.”

Alan waved his hand.  He had his usual big smile spreading across his face.  “I did good because of you, Mr. Ramsey.”

I didn’t correct his grammar.  “Thanks, Alan.  I guess you and I worried for nothing the day before the test.”  The boy nodded his smiling head.

Nick, always looking for a laugh, exclaimed in a mock-Southern voice, “I made my paper look pretty!”

“I’m sure you did, Nick.  I hope that pretty paper had some good ideas written on it!” 

The boy laughed and said, “Come on, Mr. Ramsey, you know it did.  It was MY paper!”

“I wish I could have read it, Nick,” I said.  “Your papers always put a smile on my face.  But the rule is that teachers cannot read student work.  We signed a legal document.”

Nick rolled his eyes.

My turn to laugh.  Then several kids, all at once, began asking questions. “Did you see mine?  Did you see how much I wrote?  Did you see how long I spent writing?  Did you see mine?”

I motioned for them to all quiet down.  “I saw all of you work on your desks.  I would have had to have been blind to not SEE your papers.  But I couldn’t read what you wrote.  I was really impressed to see how much lead you were using to fill up your papers!  But I was more impressed with how quiet you were for six hours!”

A lot of rolling eyes!

“What did I get on my paper, Mr. Ramsey?” asked Malachi.  This boy is one of my best writers.  Everything that pours from his head to his hand to his pen to his paper is gold.  He was the last to finish his test, with only eleven minutes left in the school day.

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “Remember, I’m not allowed to read your work.  The State has to grade thousands of tests, including yours.  The State lets their computer read them all.  We won’t get the scores back until the beginning of summer, and you won’t find out how you did until the start of next school year.”

So much for immediate feedback…

Malachi accepted my answer but looked a bit deflated.

“Hey!” I exclaimed.  “Who cares what score any of you got?  I know you are wonderful writers.  I’ve been reading your work all year long.  Man, have you improved!  We are not going to let this one score define us!  You.  Are.  Good.  Writers.”

One more hand rose in the air. 

“Yes, Andres?”

“Mr. Ramsey,” the boy asked, “what does ‘hallelujah’ mean?”

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2019.

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Tim Ramsey has been an educator since 1983.  He taught middle school and high school for 15 years and served as a school administrator for 15 years before retiring in 2013.  He returned to the classroom where he now teaches writing to seventh graders by day and reading to college freshmen by night.  Tim is an avid writer and has been featured in six Chicken Soup for the Soul compilations.  In addition he has received several first place honors from the Arizona English Teachers Association for its annual “Teachers as Writers Contest.”

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Guest Thursday, 18 July 2019