Posted in Education, Professional Development, Summer Reading, Teaching, Testing

Thoughts on Summer Reading: Part 11

While I don’t consider myself a genuis in any subject nor did I do extremely well in school.  I did however, grow up to be resilient and creative.  I love finding unique solutions to problems and I never give up until the task has been accomplished.  I consider myself to be a bit of a work horse with a huge side of perfectionism.  Everything I do has to be done to the best of my ability and meet my expectations, which are very high.  I’m able to do this not because of the school I went to or what I was taught by my teachers, but I am who and what I am today because of my environment.  My parents raised me well and provided for me in a supportive yet strict manner.  I was told to do well in school and had to suffer consequences when I did not meet their expectations, which were high but attainable.  My parents raised me to be kind and patient.  No schooling could have possibly provided me with all this.  These character traits come from home life and family.  

In Amanda Ripley’s book The Smartest Kids in the World, she does propose that what makes kids so strong and academically driven to do well is family and home life.  I agree with that 100%.  It comes down to character.  If you have the ability to be smart and knowledgeable but suffer trauma, have a difficult family upbringing, or school and academics just aren’t focused on in your family, then you will not grow into a creative, smart, or driven individual.  Sure, external factors can help or hinder character building, but it does need to start at home.  On this point she is spot on.  Her stories and research support this claim in a meaningful and relevant manner that makes sense.  However, she keeps coming back to the idea that smart and knowledgeable is measured by a high-stakes standardized test.  Tests prove nothing.  I was a horrible test taker in school and did poorly on all standardized tests, but I was a member of my school’s branch of the National Honor Society.  Tests prove and tell nothing.  Just because a country scores high on the PISA test, doesn’t mean that they are the smartest country in the world.  Schools and teachers teach to the test in most countries and so while those students fare well on the standardized test, they end up being negatively impacted in the long run.  They don’t learn how to think critically, how to solve problems in unique ways, or how to work collaboratively.  They miss the skills that can help them grow into the next Steve Jobs or great innovator.  

So, while the author suggests that family life is where much character building takes place, I disagree with how that drive and intelligence needs to be measured.  Testing is a waste of our world’s time, money, and energy.  Instead of spending all this time on building and implimenting a national curriculum that helps prepare students for a high-stakes test, let’s build more innovative and open school buildings, let’s better prepare teachers to teach students how to think critically, be creative, and collaborate effectively, let’s spend that money helping parents learn how to best support their students, let’s take that time and money and put it into helping big cities fight crime and other sreious issues.  We have lots of needs in our world when it comes to educating our children, and testing is not one of them.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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