Feeling the Love from Fellow Teachers
It puts fear into the hearts of students, parents, and teachers alike. It evokes judgment from government officials and those who have never walked a mile in a teacher's shoes. In some places, it unfairly determines an educator's salary. And in our school district, it will torment our lives for the next 5 days the same way a foreboding black cloud torments the spirited on a beautiful summer day.
This unrelenting force is better known as standardized testing.
I have been particularly tense over the CRCT this year with it being my first year teaching 5th grade. Any grade change can feel like your first year as an educator all over again, especially when moving from one high-stakes grade to another. You see, in the state of Georgia, students in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades have to pass certain sections of the CRCT in order to be promoted to the next grade. The "Big Test" has stressed me out enough for the past 2 years while teaching 3rd grade to send me to the doctor with gut-wrenching stomach spasms. While I have spasm-free so far this testing season, I have been witness to my fellow teachers experiencing rises in their blood pressure, loss of sleep, extra sessions with a therapist, and increases in anxiety meds.
In other words, we take the CRCT so incredibly seriously, we internalize everything related to it. And that's just from the pressure we put on ourselves! Think about the pressure from the child who cries every day because they think they will fail the test. Consider the parent who thinks you're making it up when you express your fear that their child may not pass. Imagine the sorrow when one of your students suddenly has a drop in their motivation because their parents divorce or their dog dies or they lose their house. Everything--and I mean EVERYTHING--has an affect on us as it relates to this test.
No wonder we need medication and visit with shrinks.
And sometimes, you might be pushed past your CRCT stressed-out-beyond-all-reason limit because even your fellow teachers want to throw your last shred of positivity under the bus. I have heard such horror stories, but thankfully, that is not even close to the kind of school environment in which I work.
On Friday, the 5th grade team was presented with what I call the Bucket O' Goodness from our teacher friends in 2nd grade. This blue tub of fun was filled with sodas, chips, fruit, Play-Doh, Crystal Light, bottled water, chocolate, and more than I could even see through the sides. And like any memorable gift, there was a card attached, signed by all the 2nd grade teachers and their words of encouragement for their friends three grades up. They realize the stress we all put on ourselves, but they are even more aware of the anxiety we 5th grade teachers cannot shake due to it being a high-stakes grade. Not only that, but they realize that our 5th graders aren't just tested on dates in history and scientific methods. They are the culmination of every math and reading standard taught from grades kindergarten all the way through 5th, making our students have to reach that much deeper into their prior knowledge learned in past years.
The thought alone was enough to make any teacher feel the love and sheer blessing of being in a supportive working environment. And when I thought the feeling of love couldn't go any deeper, we were informed that the kindergarten and 1st grade teachers would refill the Bucket O' Goodness once we consumed everything in it. I stepped out of my classroom for a moment to bow down to two of the passing 2nd grade teachers, Debbie and Alicia, to show an immediate thanks. Alicia smiled and pointed toward my belly, "We have to take care of each other, especially when there's a baby to feed!"
Yes, we teachers stress ourselves out over the CRCT enough to go grey before we reach the age of 25. We bring some of it on ourselves. It can also be passed down from politicians, parents, and X-factors over which we have no control. But I am confident to say that in my school, the teachers are in this battle as one working unit. We have each other's backs, even if the support comes in a blue plastic bucket.