Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Standardized Testing and Technology Meditation

Among all the things you can say about six days (over two weeks) of standardized test "administration" is that it gives the "administrator" a lot of time to think.

Many of those thoughts center, of course, on finding a sharp object to slit your wrists in sheer test administration boredom, but eventually selfish thoughts of suicide subside, and are replaced by myriad others. As much as a teacher tries, thoughts on the subject of education cannot be avoided.

And this is where the Internet comes in, for you might have heard of an application called "email". It allows bored teachers in various hermetically-sealed testing cells to communicate with one another as they have these occasional thoughts about education. Your humble blogger is a notorious "emailer" at my school, not only during testing, and about 2/3rds of the staff has emails from me immediately deleted, trashed, and "spam reported".

The other unfortunate 1/3rd who hasn't figured out how to "report spam" is forced, largely by their own testing coma o' boredom, to actually read my insipid thoughts. I'm perhaps the biggest insipid thought provider at my school, but there are others now vying for the unwanted crown. We send and reply various emails on subjects so banal as to immediately cause unconsciousness upon reading by the general public.

So given that I'm writing this first thing in the morning, I'll spare you, dear reader, instant sleep, and focus instead on another aspect of this "email" thing. The technological aspect.

My school is like many other workplaces, comprised of a wide range of ages. We've got young, first-year teacher types and we've got grizzled veterans. Okay, maybe we have a few more grizzled veterans than newbies. Maybe a lot more than the average school. Let's face it, we're overrun with extremely grizzled 20 years of service and up types. I myself am approaching grizzlement, and show the first signs of grizzle (grumpiness, constant reference to "the good old days", dismissive looks at the hair styles of today's youth, etc.) .

Fortunately for me, my school keeps me looking young by hosting an array of those in a state of extreme grizzleocity. Despite being 47 years old, being in my 15th year of teaching and having a head of hair bereft of even one hair not colored gray, I am generally considered young. And yes, a big part of this is that I act like I'm roughly 13 years old all the time. But it's more than that. There's grizzleaciousness to consider.

Anyway, the high grizzle-o-meter count at my workplace impacts the whole "email" thing. Generally we have two types of email users/lurkers at my school: 1. a smaller group of folks who use the Internet and email at a higher level, roughly on par with the average person in the "real world". These people are used to reading message boards, blogs, stupid comments sections of blogs, etc.; 2. a larger group of folks who occasionally stop by the Internet, but still generally consider the Internet another sign of some sort of technological apocalypse involving robots, evil nerds wearing white smocks and online banking. These, generally more grizzle-heavy types tend to view "email" with a combination of derision (because it's not face-to-face discussion) and fear.

It is into this mix (and percentage) of typologies that these insipid testing coma-induced emails are sent by myself and a few others. Perhaps you can guess what happens then. Perhaps you have a similar situation at your workplace. Perhaps I don't even need to mention the hilarious fallout from each of these missives given that this is still a universal situation. Perhaps I don't need to really get into the massive miscommunications, yelling, screaming, hurt feelings, overreactions, defensive reactions, valiant defenses of others, snippy attacks on others, passive/aggressive lurking and roiling dissatisfaction inevitably left by these "emails".

I probably don't need to get into it.

So I'll just go with my personal favorite tidbit o' the moment. I love my principal. He's a great guy. In the two types of people listed above, he's of the non-Internet variety. When you need to tell my principal something, you don't email him. Ever. You would only email him about something you are legally bound to tell him but really don't want to tell him. Emailing him accomplishes the same thing as driving to the Grand Canyon and muttering the thing you're telling my Principal about while the Principal is at my school hundreds of miles away.

Which is fine.

Anyway, long story short, my Principal very often makes the following announcement over the intercom: "Teachers, be sure to look at your email for instructions on how to do X..." Then he proceeds, over the intercom, to tell us the instructions on how to do X. Then he reminds us to look at our email for these instructions.

I never fail to find this anything less than hilarious. Well, except for when there is anything approaching "important" going on in my class that is being interrupted by a guy telling me to look at my email, then obviating my need to look at my email by reciting the entire email over my 1957-era intercom speaker.

Good times, bro. Good times.

And speaking of good times....ONE MORE DAY OF TESTING LEFT!!!! Whoo-hoo!!!

Have a good three day weekend, everybody, whether you consider blogs and "email" a sinister plot or not.


Anonymous said...

We are taking nine days to give the SBA in my little corner of the teaching world. Far too long! I wish parents had a solid sense of what this does to kids.

It's time for a testing revolt!

Middle school teacher said...

What anonymous said. Then we can do make ups for a week or two....

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


steve said...

Apparently you didn't get the email about not emailing during testing.
I'm a firm believer that all school board members should be required to take the 8th grade test as a pre-requisite for their position. (I know that most of the teachers couldn't pass the math or science section)
I also find it intriguing that 1/2 the test results have no bearing whatsoever on curriculum, or measurement of student achievement. I've never seen or discussed the results of the science and writing portions.

jscotkey said...

Steve: I got the email about not emailing. I think it's also stuck somewhere in the 57-slide "Test Administrators' PowerPoint Handbook of Doom" somewhere between "kids can't draw" and "take posters in your testing classrooms down that have anything to do with learning".

One wonders who sits around making up these ridiculous rules and the thought process they derive from.

It, like Camelot in MPATHG, is a silly place, this testing "1984".

Anonymous said...

I got the email about not emailing.

Well hells bells, if the kids can break all the ridiculous rules in place for them with no consequences, it is way past time for teachers to follow their lead! ;)