Dear State – You Got it all Wrong

Dear State,

You got it all wrong. You really did. If I had to assess you off of a one-day parade then I would have to say no. No, you are not acceptable. No, you should not get promoted. You see I have taught 4th grade writing for 8 years. Every year I see kids progress throughout my short span with them. Kids that could not write a sentence are able to write a whole story by the time that they leave my class. Kids that could not put their thoughts down on paper can draft beautiful stories that are focused and creative by May. Then you come in with your bubbles and overwhelming questions and the doom and gloom associated with your name and you ruin it all. You scare my students so badly that they cannot even function the day of the test. Some leave throwing up. Some start the morning off in tears. Students that have grown, students that have learned, students that are proud of their accomplishments will be told that they are not good enough. So, State, I am mad at you. Come May you will saunter in with your numbers and data and teachers that are amazing, teachers that have taught for decades that know the trade in and out will be told that they are not good enough. They will be told to work harder, and then you will give them even more ground to cover when you never let them cover the basics in the first place.

State test you are so omnipotent that it’s all we can think about. The most stressful day for a teacher is the last class day before their “test”. It’s go time. It’s the last inning with two outs and a full count. It’s 2 seconds on the clock and you’re a point behind. And it shouldn’t be. Let me tell you what really bothers me. My grandmother passed away, and I am headed to Dallas the last class day before you show up. I should be grieving for her right now, and I am. I should have the opportunity to reflect upon and honor the matriarch of our family, but because of you State I am not granted that right in full capacity. I am not fully capable of putting all of my focus on my grandmother right now. You are lingering. I’m always thinking about you. Always wondering if I did enough. If my kids are ready to tackle you on Monday. So, today I am grieving for my students because on the last class day before my test, their test, their number one fan will be missing. For the last play of the game I will be gone. And it makes me sick. You’re not a teacher, so you don’t understand how I feel. State, you don’t know how it is to hold 75 hearts in the palm of your hand. To tell them day in and day out that you love them, that you are proud of them, that they can do anything and then not be able to show up and blow the whistle. To give them their final pep talk. You DON’T know. State, you are killing kids, and you are killing teachers. You are way too important. There is way too much focus on you. Some things should take precedence over you. However, you are an attention hog. You are the talk of the town, the belle of the ball, and the shiniest red shoe on display that I’ve ever seen. You have stolen our attention, and you have stolen our thoughts.

Dear State, I hope you realize what you are doing, what you have done. I hope that you come to your senses before it’s too late. I hope that my six year old does not have to endure the pressures of state testing like my eleven year old has. I hope that this one-day parade era will end soon, so that when stuff comes up, when life throws you a curve ball, teachers, students, and parents are able to place their focus where it should be. I hope that you will see that students should be assessed differently. I hope that you will see that every child is different, yet amazing in their own way. I hope that you will let them be. I hope that you will let them learn. I hope that you will let them be kids. State, listen to your parents, your teachers, and your students. Open your ears and your heart. Please.


     Daisy Marino

                        Teacher, Mom, & Human


The Week Before STAAR

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th Grade Class

The week before the dreaded test. The test that makes teachers and students across the state shudder, stress, and scream. I have decided that I am over that mindset. I’m tired. My students have worked incredibly hard this year, and so have I. We are ready. We have made progress. Am I worried about the outcome? No, I am not. How can I say that? I say it because I have full confidence that on the day of the test my students, my babies, will absolutely try their very best. They will do THEIR best under THEIR circumstances. I hope they have slept. I pray that they have eaten. I hope they had running water the night before so that they are able to take a bath. With all the bubbles to fill in and boxes to check on the big STAAR test, the state missed a few. They don’t let us fill in if the kid has running water, electricity, or if their parents are currently going through a divorce. They don’t care if a family member has recently passed away, if their dad is in jail, or if they are sharing a one-room house with ten other people. The state didn’t ask me if I thought my students had slept enough in the past month to even focus at school. I don’t get to check a box that says, “We are simply surviving.” You see I am kind of mad right now. I am a little ticked. I am mad for every momma, every teacher, every administrator and every student that has to adhere to the scrutiny of not being good enough because of one day. I refuse to let one day define me. I refuse to let one day define my students and my school. So this week, the week before the test, we are going to have fun. We are going to be bigger and better than a one-day chance. We are going camping! On Monday morning my students will walk into the school and see a huge sign that says, “Welcome to Camp Write-A-Long – Where every kid is a STAAR!!” I hope that they are beyond surprised. Now let me say this – I’m not fancy, and I’m certainly not rich. All the decorations that I have made are what I had. I also robbed my husband’s camping equipment. The only thing I purchased for this would be the contact paper that looks like wood. It was two dollars a roll from the dollar store. My sweet friend Kaylee Aulbaugh told me about this idea, and I thought it was just what we needed at WES. So Maggie (my 6 yr. old) and I worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in my class in hopes that we could take some stress off the test for these kiddos. Here are some of the pictures of the stations that we created. I think I ended up with 14 stations. Kaylee sent me a camp song to start each morning off with, and let me tell you they are CUTE. On Thursday we will sing all of the songs, and then I will pass out the camp mail – the letters that I write my students each year. We will also have some yummy trail mix. I hope that this week is fun, engaging, and effective. I hope that my students will start the week of the test refreshed and rested. I hope that they know that I love them.

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The creek has writing prompts written on the fish. This is where they will practice introductions and conclusions. I have four tables set up like the one with the whiteboards with different activities at each.

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This activity is described in the picture above.

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The “tent” is where they will write their expository this week. The fishing net is for students to send mail back and forth to each other. The sleeping bag is an area for them to edit examples of stories.

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The index cards have magnets on the back of them. The students will place them with the correct article. The paper covered in wood contact paper is where they will create Sassy Sentences with adjectives. They will be able to write on the contact paper and then erase it right off. Fun!

There are several other stations not listed. Like I said – nothing fancy. However, I know my students are going to have a fun week of learning instead of a dreadful week of drill and kill.