Monday, April 25, 2016

Can Teachers Do What Students Are Asked

RE-POST: From Mazenglish - September 2012

Recently a colleague asked me for a copy of a practice or released-ACT test.  After a relative with a science background had taken the science section and aced it, and a math-oriented friend had taken the math section and scored a 100%, my colleague was wondering how he would do on the English and reading section of the ACT.  Because I am in charge of our grammar program and have access to many of the standardized resources, he asked for a test.

And it made me wonder.

How many high school teachers test themselves against the ACT or SAT or AP tests in their field?  How many trust themselves to do well?  How many teachers can - and do - actually write the high quality essay or research paper in response to their own questions?  And should we know if we can or not?  Years ago, while taking a staff development class on grammar instruction, I sat with a group of English teachers and took the ACT and SAT tests.  It was exciting and interesting and even intimidating for some.  But it revealed a lot.

The same type of challenge occurred in an assessment of writing class.  Our instructor put an essay prompt in front of us based on some common reading and told us to write the best essay we could.  The terror of the blank page came storming back at some people, and it was an inspired and insightful lesson.  One great activity that addresses this issue is the National Writing Project.  Writing teachers should write, and because it was promoted to me as a great opportunity, I have challenged myself twice during the summer by taking the Colorado Writing Project.  In fact, that class led to success in publishing my writing and inspired my foray into the blogosphere.  Because I regularly write on-line and occasionally publish pieces in the Denver Post, I am pretty confident in my skills and the ability to produce high quality content.  The same goes for my grammar skills because I spend so much time taking the sample tests our committee writes.

But, I have to be honest.  I am not so confident about the rest of the teacher corps in this country.  And perhaps scoring poorly on a standardized test - or writing a weak essay - has no correlation to success in teaching and inspiring students.  However, if for nothing more than a bit of empathy and compassion, I believe we should regularly challenge ourselves to do that which we ask of children, day in and day out.

Think about it.

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