A Conversation with Grandma

TN Ready testing has been this week. Fortunately for me as a parent with a child that attends a private school, I didn’t have the experience of preparing my child for this week and what it meant for her academically-however, I’ve had the esteemed pleasure of hearing various stories from both parents and teachers who have worked tirelessly to ensure their students are ready for the test.

One encounter with a 65-year old grandmother piqued my interest the most. She volunteered to serve as a proctor for the test in an elementary setting. As a retired city employee, she felt compelled to volunteer to serve at the school her granddaughter attends.

Just in us having a very generic conversation around a variety of topics related to Education the week of TN Ready testing surfaced. As a grandmother, she admitted to being totally clueless of the new way of assessing students and still couldn’t comprehend why the measure of assessments had continued to change over the course of 50 plus years, dating back to her own adolescent years. She spoke passionately about wanting the best for her granddaughter and though being highly pleased with her granddaughter’s current learning environment, she was not all the way sold on the new assessment piece. What exactly is TN Ready? What will it do differently? As someone who’s had to answer these kinds of questions before, I did my best in dissecting the purpose of TN Ready, its comparison to the TCAP and the stated reasons from the department of Education around the shift, the change and the concerns. As I continued our conversation, I wondered how many other families, parents, grandparents and guardians still have questions. Yes, there is the online material. Yes, there have been countless of conversations from the district level, school to home communication, but still, do the community at large or the grandparent who is just concerned understand fully what’s now happening inside of schools around assessment?

The most intriguing piece of our 2-hour conversation though wasn’t around the testing itself, but rather the testing environments and the behavior of students. She said students were given snacks, juice, water, and putty to play with during the testing to keep students alert and focused. She was amazed to witness such a thing, replaying her times as a student and as a mom of her only son who remembers nothing about snacks being given or manipulatives to play with in order for students to remain alert. “You sat there and did what you were supposed to do, bottom line,” she exclaimed. I sat there smiling while listening to this grandma. Truth is, I don’t remember having snacks either, but I do know from observing enough classrooms, as a teacher, you do what you have to do to keep students focused. Yes, it sounds like a no-brainer that students will come in, have a seat and pay attention, however, that’s just not always the case. Whether I agree with all of the addendum items is I guess what I’ll wrestle with.

Her tone shifted to such frustration having the describe the environment and the day and time when kids just do not know how to sit still and drifted off in wonder of what we’re really teaching our students if, in order to take a test, they must be fed, given things to play with, and/or accommodated for in order for them to be successful. Or wait, is this even about being successful at all, or at the least, being able to sit still through a test.

We concluded our time together hoping for the best of all students this week. Both of us, though growing up in different times, have witnessed various shifts within the educational dynamics here in Memphis. However, we both agree-not only have the times and assessment measures changed, but the techniques and strategies have too. Ironically, we both have to also admit, students, teaching, and learning have all drastically changed as well.