As I was reading pg. 374, I was reminded of the cliche, “Rome wasn't built in a day,” and yet, as the author acknowledges, “Our fear makes us frenzied and impatient,” and “because the test is looming, we simultaneously look back over our shoulders to see if the education critics are closing in.” I could relate to these feelings of insecurity caused by pressure to score well on the tests. While I am not naive to the fact that this year's Common Core ELA test will be more challenging than the 5th grade writing PSSA I was responsible for preparing my students for before, I am a bit glad that the instructional responsibility no longer lies entirely on my shoulders. It also makes me sad to say that. In the past, a vast majority of my students scored proficient on the writing PSSA, but it was a very rare occasion that any 5th grader at our school earned an advanced score. While I respect and feel supported by my principal, I admit that she made her awareness of this statistic known to me on more than one occasion. I suppose that is why I appreciated the seven beliefs that Spandel urges us to cling to. Thank goodness someone believes in us!
I was most drawn to belief #3 with it’s key points supporting choice, time, resources, and real revision. Sometimes I get a bit down on myself about the amount of time a writing project takes, especially with my 4th graders, but they are really learning some important fundamentals, and honestly, it does take time. Currently, we are working on an argumentative piece where they have to use evidence from an article to support their chosen claim of whether cats or dogs make better pets. We have spent a week on the pre-writing planner. I find myself getting impatient. This chapter was just what I needed to read right now. Writing is messy and time-consuming! And, then on top of our hard work, we beat ourselves up about it. I need to stop this mental self-torment.
I also felt re-inspired and validated when I read the recommendation pg. 380 about using the book The Dot to encourage students that they all have a writer inside of them...I have and use this book with my own kids! It is a great little ditty with a powerful theme. I have found that even older kids like it!
This chapter reminded me of this letter sent home to students in the United Kingdom, which I came across over the summer. I loved it because it reminded students that the tests did not define them as unique individuals. As the administrators of this school remind their parents and students, “There are many ways of being smart.” Why aren't we doing this too?!