Last night there was something in my school email that really got my attention. Sure there was something about AIR testing continuing this week. AIR (American Institute of Research) is a refreshing acronym for a suffocating set of tests that we have to give our students to determine whether they learned what they needed to learn. These tests will take some of my students out of my classes three days this week alone. And that’s only part of the educational time they will strangle from us.
But that wasn’t the email that got my attention.
Of course there was another email reminding all of us about OTES (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System) and our SGM (Student Growth Measures) –these are yet more acronyms the powers-that-be have come up with to try to hide the obvious fact that they believe a certain test given on a certain day can accurately deduce whether a teacher is effective. This email was about the final steps involved in this year’s process to determine our success.
But, that wasn’t the email that struck me, either.
The email that got my attention last night was from a student. She wrote the email early in the morning when she couldn’t sleep. “I had to get this off my chest,” she began. Then she attached the poem she had written. This poem was raw and deep and powerful and painful.
And yes, I have this young lady in my Creative Writing class, but this poem was not an assignment. She wrote out of her darkness, in an attempt to find light. Her words were about secrets and hurt, but when I read between those pain-filled lines, I saw a plea for help. I wrote her back telling her that her poem was powerful and beautiful –like she is. Then I notified her guidance counselor.
Today, that young girl was smiling. I don’t profess that all her problems are gone. But I can confidently claim that she knows she is more than a test score to us. Her worth is not determined by a data point. And there is no acronym invented that can tell me more assuredly what kind of success we are having this year.
Something about the card I received almost 18 years ago wouldn’t let me throw it away. Of course, my husband might argue I lean towards that tendency for too many things –but this was different. This was special.