Saturday, I ran my first 5k; or should I say, attempted it. (I actually did practice for it.) This was an eye-opening experience; a cause for personal reflection--with clear parallels between my experience in racing to those of our less proficient students in long academic assessments. I'll summarize my race by saying that it ended up being a 2.5k, a beginning for me, a baseline to measure growth. So here are my musings comparing my racing to preparing the kids for the rigors of academic assessments:
- Make sure you come with no hunger, thirst or other basic issues either for a race or for any academics (either classwork or assessments). The race was on a hot afternoon and I was a little lacking in the water bottle department, which wasn't helping me concentrate on the task at hand. (My brain was screaming--THIRSTY!) The same is true for those kids who attempt a long test without physical needs being met. Whether it's breakfast, a home, a safe environment, or physical health, basic needs must be met before a valid assessment can really happen. Maybe that's not always the school's responsibility, but it is something to keep in the forefront of the mind (which most teachers do). If a teacher knows that fundamental needs are not met, standardized assessment results need to be taken with a grain of salt.
- Work your way up to the race, test, marathon, trial, or any other ordeal. No one can literally hit the ground running--I certainly have learned that I can't. By the same token, in school, kids need to practice their newly learned reading skills for long stretches, independently, before being expected to do a big assessment in May.
- Remember that this is all for a good cause. Saturday's 5k was a fundraiser to help families of children with cancer; while the statewide assessments were started as a way to make sure that children are actually learning what they need to learn in school. Good reasons; good causes; 5ks and assessments are both difficult for some.
- Growth is totally important--perhaps more important than 'passing' or 'winning'. I consider myself currently non-proficient in the 5k area since I actually didn't complete the full race. Now I have my own baseline performance data, and will show growth--my next 5k is on October 13th! My goal is not to 'win' but to get better. Our struggling readers also need to show accelerated growth over time.
- Immediate feedback really helped me last Saturday. The instant I crossed the finish line, I saw my time (18 minutes for 1.6 miles). I now know my baseline. Students should know their baselines and goals too. Our current EOG tests are not great for immediate feedback or meaningful information; however, I'm sure that in most classrooms, there are ways to provide this to help children set some goals for themselves.
The race itself was tons of fun, and the fact that I ran at all is growth for me. I'm so excited about the Run for Autism in October!!! I'll let you know how that goes, and I'll also keep working with my students, who for the most part, are struggling readers along with their speech and language impairments. More on that in future blogs!