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Changing the Lesson Plans and Taking Time to Reflect

Tomorrow marks the end of over six weeks of ACT preparation.

My students are battle-weary, as am I.

In the midst of some of the most boring lessons ever, there’s been an underlying tension.  My students took the FSA Retakes early in October, and we had all been waiting with baited breath for the results.

Well, y’all, we got the scores back two days ago.

My assistant principal quietly delivered them to me late Tuesday afternoon.

My hopes were high as I dug in; my nerves were strung tightly as I eagerly scanned pages and pages of test scores.

My heart soared as I read the names of the students who had acquired the score required to pass, and it plummeted when I saw the scores of those who had fallen short, some by only one or two points.

I took the list home to run some numbers.  I prayed.  Super Sis called me, and I asked her to pray.  I also texted Rebecca and asked her to pray.

You see, the next day, I was tasked with telling my kids if they had passed or not.

Stressful much?

I worried about how I would deliver the news . . . how the kids would respond . . . how I would help them rebound given the ACT test fast approaching.

The next morning, I opened the door between my classroom and the empty one beside it and called each student alphabetically while keeping an eye on the kids in my room.

I had last year’s scores in front of me to help me show the kids how much they had improved (or perhaps regressed) from the spring test administration.

I expected a lot of tears or even anger when I had to deliver less-than-stellar news.  What I got, instead, surprised and impressed me.

Most of the kids took the news well.  Many were quick to reflect and honestly admitted that they’d fallen asleep during the test, had been distracted, or just hadn’t been in the mood that day.

One young lady told me, with a determined look on her face, that she was going to ace the ACT.  Her motivation and confidence had increased ten-fold.

Then, there were the kids who received good news . . . that they had, in fact, passed.

The looks on their faces were priceless as the realization that they wouldn’t have to sit for another FSA test ever again settled in.

One young man, who I’d had the pleasure of teaching two years ago and learned that he’d passed, waltzed back into my classroom and announced his good news.  I heard one of my girls say, “Congratulations!  Now, you get to graduate.”  Her words were sincere; this was a good friend of hers.

My students continued to impress me throughout the day as they handled the news with a grace that eased my tender heart.  A few were disappointed after discovering that they’d barely missed the mark.  Those were the hardest on me.

Overall, though, the day had gone surprisingly well, and I realized that I had not needed to worry so much.  God had prepared the way through the prayers offered up on my behalf.

As a result of yesterday’s test results, I decided to change up my lesson plans for today.

As I’d talked with my kids yesterday, I’d heard their weary voices.

They are test-tired.  With the district’s common assessments, delivered via the computer in most cases, they are constantly being assessed.  Plus, we’d been working on ACT passages for so long that they couldn’t take any more.

So, despite my wanting to review the mock ACT reading test I’d given them on Monday, I decided to allow their voices to alter our course today.

Instead, I had them record their FSA scores on a sheet I’d created for them.  We had done this in August for the spring scores, and it had been illuminating.  Most, at the time, had no clue what they’d made.

Today, I walked them through finding the percentage of correct answers for all sections of the spring and fall FSAs.  Then, they compared their scores to see where they had improved and what they needed to work on.

You should have heard their comments.  One young lady told me that she realized that her score had been affected by the divorce her parents are going through.  They are fighting over who the children will live with.

Doesn’t that just break your heart?

Another young lady told me that she had lost her car keys and drivers license the day of the test, so that’s all she could think about.  I told her that I didn’t blame her, but that on an important test day, she had to find a way to block out everything else.

I told the kids that it was important to take time to reflect . . . that they needed to understand their strengths and weaknesses . . . that their parents couldn’t be the ones managing their academics for them because, ultimately, it was the kids who would be doing the work and trying to pass.

It was during my sixth period class when my principal came into my class for an unannounced observation – part of my yearly evaluation.

He got to witness my high-spirited class ask probing questions about the FSA, the ACT, and if could they get away with not really trying on the ACT (yes, this was really asked).  I absolutely loved watching them take the reins of their learning because this is really the end goal – for the kids to handle their business with a bit of gentle leading.

I am grateful for the last couple of days because, quite honestly, it can be extremely difficult to find time to sit down with over one hundred students and have truly meaningful conversations.  At best, I can do this with two or three in each class each day.

I think that the few minutes we spent chatting, one-on-one, reminded them that I am in their corner, despite pushing them so hard the last few weeks, and that I am listening to their feedback.

While this has been a time of growth for them, it has also been a time of growth for me.  My students continue to remind me what’s important – taking time to reflect and being willing to adjust.

It’s what’s best for them, and really, it’s what’s best for me as well.

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