Thursday, April 4, 2019

Sitting Still

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  There's a slight breeze, just enough to stir the air.  There are a few wispy high clouds, and the sun is shining brightly.  Too early in the season to be scorching, the warmth is comforting.  It's a Goldilocks Day - just right. 

Grandma's Garden is covered in bird poop, which means that we've had avian visitors snacking on our produce and the insects it attracts.  I tried to wash the bench, but without a towel or a brush the hose water proved to be an insufficient solvent.  I nestled myself into the clean corner and waited for the kids.

Time passed.  Birds perched on the brick wall.  Every once in a while, a scholar emerged at the edge of the playground, took some deep breaths or a turn around the patio, then returned to the classroom from whence he came. There was nobody else around.

So I sat still and waited.  I watched the swings delighting the ghosts of kids gone by, had a laugh at myself for the fantasy, and checked my watch.  45 minutes into recess and there were no scholars in sight.  I wasn't unhappy, alone in the garden, watching the mystery plants grow ever taller, listening to the birds, who were, by now, accustomed to my presence.  But I was curious.

As if by magic, two Garden Club girls appeared at the garden gate, wondering if they could check their hanging basket.  Me and Addie  ("No, Addie is not mean, it's Addie and I had to be repeated a few times before she smiled and went on, correctly) had two lovely little purple petunias, which we deadheaded while I wondered what happened to recess.

There's no recess.  It's Arizona Merit Testing.  They are afraid of the kids making noise on the playground.

We shared some scallions and lettuce before Addie decided that they were needed in math.  I packed up my cart and, avoiding the concrete, crossed the quieter sand and grass of the empty playground.

I remember taking those tests.  They were terrifying but brief, a blip in the school year. I don't remember anyone being particularly exorcised about the fact of them.  I don't remember anyone missing recess for them.  I certainly don't remember the entire school being on Quiet Time for four days.  It appears that I have been sitting still while the world went on without me.

This is what teaching to the test looks like on the ground.  Front office staff , now closeted in small conference rooms, guard the exams both before and after they are taken.  I take in the English ones, and count them, and check them, then I give them the Math ones, and we count them and check them, she told me, with a smile.  This is her task.  All week. I'm not sure it's the best use of her time.

I was sshhhh-ed in the foyer on Monday, and I didn't understand why my usual exuberance was suddenly frowned upon.  Now I know. 

There's no recess.  It's Arizona Merit Testing.


  1. This is so sad. The heightened importance is, of course, because these tests are no longer just to help students by measuring their progress, but to judge teachers and whole schools for their "merit".

    1. Exactly! I remember the test being about ME. Now, it feels like it's more about the schools and the teachers. It was an odd week.


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