As teachers, we have been taught to teach to the test along with teaching in general. How do we make that distinction without confusing our students of our intentions? It doesn’t seem very fair to the teacher or the learner. Throughout my observations I have noticed two extremely different students that I have watched extremely closely, and who I have spoken to in detail about their writing.
The first student Steven** is a track two “learner” who writes to the test. Everything he does he’s writing as if he is taking a test or getting a grade even when he’s told to just write, to not worry about punctuation or grammar. I sat down with him while he was doing a free writing exercise and just watched for a bit. I obviously asked him if it was okay with him if I read what he wrote. Everything was perfect, and as I looked around, I noticed where the other students were typing away with no hesitation, Steven was stopping after every single sentence, going into the view portion of the word document, and checking his spelling and grammar. I asked him why he was doing that and he said “because I have to.”
Because I have to. Those are pretty heavy words and feelings for an eleventh grader. I asked him why he felt that he had to, and he told me that it’s not a feeling, that he really has to make everything perfect. He explained to me that if he doesn’t write like he’s taking a test, regular or standardized, that he won’t get into a good school. He said that everything is about school and everything is about the test. I asked him if he feels that he’s missing out on the fun of writing and he said to me that writing is not supposed to be fun at his age. I wanted to laugh and shake him at the same time. It was hard because I know how he feels. Maybe he gets a lot more pressure at home, but there still is that pressure in school to be the best you can, and to try to not make mistakes; getting into a good school is your goal even in eleventh grade, even when your teacher tells you not to worry about anything but writing something.
The other student is the complete opposite of Steven. I had a great conversation with Jonathan** my first day of observation about books. He hates to read, and they had to read over the summer, so I asked him how he got into his book when he hates to read. He told me that he chose the book because it was the “most freaky sounding book they offered.” I actually read the book after he told me about it, and it is quite awkward and freaky. It’s amazing and sick all at once. It’s called The Collector and I highly recommend it.
I digress. I didn’t get the chance to write with him about the book, which is what I would have loved to have been able to do, but I did read what he wrote, and he said he didn’t mind if I read while he was typing so that was pretty good. I can just tell you that he obviously listened to the teacher when she said not to worry about punctuation, grammar or sequence. Jonathan just wrote. And he wrote so amazing even with the mistakes I saw, and even when there was something that didn’t make sense at all, it somehow did make sense because of the freedom he seemed to have felt when he was writing. I didn’t have to really ask him any questions because while he was writing he would just talk to me about his writing. He told me he hates writing but he loves it at the same time. The reason why he hates writing is because when it matters, he freezes, but when he can just write, he doesn’t get worried. He thinks it’s easier to write without worry.
Both students did exactly as they were told. Neither one of them writes a wrong way. They just write. They write well hating it and loving it.