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The first day of this year’s state testing is tomorrow. I know I shouldn’t be nervous, especially after being a teacher all these years, but I am. Our first test is writing and, of course, the weight of the first assessment is on my shoulders since I am the writing teacher.
I’ve worked hard to teach my seventh graders, and I know they have worked hard also (well, most of them). I love reading their work and really can see a big difference from when they were with me in fifth grade. Two years with me – I hope I’ve done them justice.
Today was my last day to practice with them, and I tried to review every possible thing I could. I reviewed the state writing rubric (for the 100th time), and I reminded the kids that I’ve been using it all year long to grade their work. I talked about playing the game right and how to get the most points possible.
Sal sighed and said, “Mr. Ramsey, I’m really nervous. I’ll try to do my best.”
This boy stands inches above me, but has a goofy, kind kid inside him. Last year, he came downstairs from his sixth grade class every day to say good morning and to have me read his latest story or essay.
“You are one of my best writers, Sal. You have nothing to be nervous about. Just take your time and give me your all.”
“But you said the test is graded by a computer. Does that mean I can’t add my own special humor to my work?”
“I think you should add as much of you as you can to your essay,” I replied. “The computer will just have to deal.”
A few minutes later, Stefan interrupted our four-square practice. “I’ll make you proud, Mr. Ramsey!” he said.
“I bet you will,” I responded.
Then, while I stood at the front of the school for duty, Alan stopped me. “Mr. Ramsey, I am so nervous. I hope I can do okay on the test tomorrow.”
I took the boy by the shoulders, looked him in the eye, and said, “You are a great writer. Just write from your heart, like you have done all year. You will do great! Now go home, and don’t worry!”
Maybe I should take my own advice. But I will be worrying all night long. I always do this time of year.
As I headed back to my classroom, Josue stopped me and gave me a high-five. “I’m going to do my best tomorrow, Mr. Ramsey. You know, before fifth grade, I was pretty bad at writing. But after that first year with you, I really started to like writing. And this year, I’ve gotten even better. It’s all because of you.”
It’s only one day, one test. My reputation as a writing teacher is on the line. I will be labelled by the State and then by the district.
But the only evaluation that matters is in the words of Josue and his friends.
Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2019.
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