Much has been said and written lately about testing and its impact on student learning. As a teacher, high school principal and superintendent of schools for more than 42 years, the most important thing was not what I taught every day. Rather, it was what I learned each day that really mattered.
-I learned that every profession, no matter how lofty, begins with a teacher.
-I learned that every child was different and special.
-I learned that every child wanted to learn and grow and become something.
-I learned that every child was born to be successful.
-I learned that every child was easy to understand one day and a complex puzzle the next.
-I learned that every child trusted me and needed my help.
-I learned that I played an important role in their lives, but that they played a more important role in mine.
-Most importantly, I learned that every student was on a journey in school, and I was there to help guide.
While testing plays a role in learning, it is not the be all and end all. There is no test that can measure the entirety of any child. There is no test that accurately measures creativity, desire, determination, and work ethic. A test is a tool that I used to measure a student’s growth but more importantly his or her potential for more growth. Most importantly, I, like most teachers, used the results of a test to measure the job I was doing with my students, because that was what was most important.
That self-reflection did much more to improve my teaching than any evaluation I received from my superiors. However, the most important evaluation was that which I received from my students when then told me, “You made a difference in my life,” or “thank you for never giving up on me,” or “thank you for believing in me.” I have also read their final school evaluations as most of them have gone on to be successful in myriad professions. I am also proud that many of them remember me more than the lessons I taught or the tests I gave.
Unfortunately, war has been waged by some wrong-headed politicians on one of our most precious institutions, our public schools. We cannot and will not lose that war, because our schools are just too important to be lost in a political game, and we will not let it happen. The strength and dedication of our public school teachers will outlast the efforts of any politician whose interest and concern are generally a mile wide, yet an inch deep.
Teachers, stay the course. Parents and students stick with your teachers and your schools. That is what really matters. Always remember, a school is not a place where you go to prepare for a standardized test or to hear what type of problem you are.
A school is a place you go that is magical. It is a place where you are cared for and nurtured and where you learn that you can explore and learn and grow into anything you want to be in a safe and caring environment surrounded by people who truly care about you.
Also remember your teachers to not see what you are on any given day….they see what you can be, and that is what is really important.
Dr. John Metallo is a retired teacher and administrator. Among the positions he has held are the principal of Albany High School and adjunct instructor at the University at Albany and SUNY Plattsburgh. He lives in Slingerlands and can be reached at (518) 577-7530 or [email protected]