Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Crusty Biscuits

**Sorry this is so long, but I just had to express myself today. Even if it's lousy, it felt good to write it.

So ends another day of TAKSfest 2005. I have now rested for my requisite two hours of recovery time and am at last able to consider rehashing my day for your reading pleasure. My beagle is howling relentlessly outside my window and I am blissfully full of homemade pizza and beer. I think I can now cope with my day of disturbing events. Wait…must go get beagle. No one can think, much less write, amid such cacophony.


My day dawned misty and gray as I…forget all that. It’s TAKS Reading, my test. Math was yesterday, but this is one I teach. I pulled all the kids from both classes whose ability to bomb the test and ruin me was higher than the other kids’ into my classroom and packed ‘em in like sausages. I carefully separated desks and strategically placed kids facing walls, near me, away from the door, apart from other kids, in front of the color purple and behind an easel, respectively. (I aim to meet all testing styles. That’s just how flexible I am. Heh.)

At last, we got past the excitement of new seats and crusty sausage biscuits from the cafeteria and began The Test. I read my obligatory robotic speech directly from the TAKS Manual and tried to convey the gravity of this situation to the kids by placing emphasis on specific words without deviating one letter from the booklet. [“You MAY take NOTES if you should CHOOSE to in the booklet.”] They began and I relaxed. I paced the room to make sure everyone was on the right page and then I settled in to read my book. Or so I planned.

That was approximately the time at which the bathroom/food syndromes simultaneously began. Little did I know I was not to sit down for the next 4 hours. It turns out that a passage about Vietnamese holidays might not be as intriguing to ten year olds as you’d think.

I have this student to whom I am strangely attached despite the fact that he has moved away (and come back) twice this school year, doesn’t complete work of any kind, possesses a locker which is a notorious biohazard, bullies other kids, and generally wears copious amounts of cafeteria breakfast on his face for the better part of a day. Again, strangely, inexplicably attached. I spent most of my time today begging him to just try on the test. Just try! That’s all I wanted. He’s very capable of passing, just uninterested in the idea. He took 11 bathroom breaks. When returning from the fourth, he waved me over excitedly. I eagerly rushed to his side, anticipating that he was ready to buckle down and tackle that test when he said, “Mrs.! Guess what?!” “What?” I asked, ready to receive the good news. “After I washed my hands, I shot the paper towel backhand around my waist from six feet away and made it!” He grinned and bounced. I gritted my teeth and pointed to his test. He frowned. I walked away to resume monitoring.

I cruised by Munchkin’s desk ten minutes later to realize he had misappropriated my “teacher chair” on the sly. He was joyfully spinning back and forth on the cushy splendor that is my coveted seat. I returned him to his chair and tried to keep his distractions to a dull roar as the rest of my kids attempted to solicit food from me. Last year, the third grade teachers must have plied them with food for the duration of the testing session because my students find TAKS to be synonymous with Eat Fest. “Can I have a Jolly Rancher?” “Is there more juice?” “Can I have two bags of pretzels?” “Do you have any gum?” and my personal favorite… “Can we take off our shoes?” Bahr? Are you taking a test or having a party??

I finally got things moving and the grumblers testing. I was just sinking into my rocking chair when…the power went off. Now, we have a skylight instead of a ceiling, so there was really no problem, but a power outage nearly shut down any work I had managed to get started in the last hour. It took a good twenty minutes to convince my students that the world wasn’t ending and that school would not, in fact, be called off. I sighed and looked around to find that my teacher chair had again been commandeered, this time by the child who believes herself a cat.

The students in my class are treated kindly but very firmly and were apparently placed in my room for that reason. They test every rule, regulation and social norm that exist. At home, they are not made to follow directions and at school, their parents make excuses for any of their wrongdoings. Usually, I am able to tease them into behaving or win them over and make them believe that they want to be good. Not today. Today, their true colors, evil twins, and deep seeded souls came out. I’ve never seen them act like this around me all year. Other people? Yes. But not me!

I agitatedly reclaimed my chair while patting Fluffy on the head and turned to find Munchkin finished with his test, wearing the frog sticker from his pretzel bag prominently on his forehead. I snatched his test from him and grumpily sent him to the “done” room.

The rest of the day went much the same as I saved one of my best students from a tragic breakdown when he burst into flames of stress and decided he would never finish on time and he was going to fail fourth grade. I took him outside and reassured him until he felt able to finish the test. I’ve never seen this kid cry, ever. TAKS does funny things to us all. The afternoon found me defending myself when a kid discovered that their desk could make a whizzpopper-like squeak and all the kids stared at me. Me! The teacher who has not cropdusted them in months. Honestly, there is no trust.

And after all that, guess who got “chosen” to give the make up tests tomorrow?? Me!! Little ‘ol me. I’m going to hook myself up with a laptop and go to town. At least I’ll only have 5 kids and some tests. Going to bed now…

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