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Today’s entry is near and dear to my heart.  Fit Soul and Spice is my passion and my dream, and I believe in my heart that someday, it will grow into what I have planned and envisioned for it.  Many people do not know that aside from pursuing my goals with FSS, I am also a teacher.  I teach middle school Language Arts in Northern New Jersey. I initially entered this career because, similar to the mission of Fit Soul and Spice, it is ultimately about helping others and inspiring individuals to create, find success, and lead a happy life.

I’ve been thinking about this topic a LOT constantly lately.  I wanted, better yet, needed, to write this entry today partially to vent, and partially in hopes of inspiring and connecting with other teachers like myself out there, who love what they do, but have recently entered state testing season, or are preparing for it to begin within the next few weeks.

For those out there who are unaware of the current state testing procedures throughout the country, the demands and pressure on everyone involved in the testing process has become increasingly intense, controversial, and demanding.  This year, a new state test called PARCC is being administered in several states, New Jersey being one of them.  Long story short, this extremely rigorous PARCC test has created a great deal of controversy among educators, administrators, political figures, parents, and many other individuals in many different communities.

But today’s entry isn’t just about PARCC or any other specific state test.  It’s not really about the controversy of state testing at all.  It’s really about the realization that testing is now a HUGE part of teaching and education, and even more so, remembering not to lose our path as teachers, inspirers, and life changers.  It’s about reaching into our hearts and our minds, and remembering why we started teaching in the first place.

Lately, throughout all of the rigorous preparation, skilling and drilling, and constant pressure of preparing kids for the high demands that must be met on the test, I’ve found that I’m constantly asking myself the same question: what happened to the creativity that this job once allowed, fostered, and drove?

No matter what age any teacher is or how much experience anyone has, we can probably all agree that we didn’t get into this career for skilling and drilling, teaching to a specific test, or doing what is beginning to seem like an endless amounts of paperwork every single day.  But, the truth of that matter is this: rigorous state testing (and all the paperwork that follows) is here, and it will continue to be here.  We can’t allow our love of teaching to be destroyed by it. We must figure out ways to incorporate it into the evolving world of education.  Today is about an inspiring reality checkI really need it myself, so I know that there must be some other teacher out there who needs it, too.

I’ve noticed something this year more than ever before: kids are beginning to dread and resent reading, writing, learning new things, and the idea of going to school for another day of “preparing for the test.” Even if I don’t mention the test, they have been doing the “skill and drill” test prep for so many years now, that they base their ideas, questions, and thought process around the question, “Will this be on the test?”

Even if a student enjoys writing, the pressure of what’s coming is robbing them of that childlike, effortless joy and creativity that learning is supposed to be.  Not only do they feel smothered as learners, but we are beginning to feel smothered as educators.  Testing is supposed to measure and drive student, teacher, and school growth, but judging by the feelings of so many people involved, it seems to be increasingly having the opposite impact.  Instead, it seems to be stifling the education process.  As a teacher who loves reading and writing so much and truly enjoys being a part of drawing out the literary creativity from within my students, it breaks my heart to see such creative, innovative-minded kids viewing their gifts as a job, or a burden surrounded by such pressures.

Often, I come home thinking about how it seems as though students are losing sight of the importance of what learning is supposed to be. Learning is supposed to foster personal skills and individuality.  If we all mastered the exact same skills and possessed the exact same passions, gifts, and talents, what would the world be like?  How would society thrive?  We’re not all brilliant mathematicians.  We’re not all literary geniuses.  We’re not all expert historians.  We’re not all scientists in the making.  Individuality mustn’t lose it’s value.  We became teachers to ensure that it does not.

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Let’s remind ourselves today why we became teachers, and how we must continue our teachings, no matter how many demands we must meet, and no matter how many things might evolve or change…

Teachers are artists.  We create, inspire, motivate, and change lives.  We aspire to use our creative energy in order to educate and broaden young, brilliant minds.

Teachers are helpers.  Our job is to help children every single day, whether they are five or 18.  We help them to learn, to create, to explore, and to ask questions.  They appreciate our help, and they value our help, even on the days we feel like they don’t.

Teachers are motivators.  Every day we enter the room ready to push our students to do well and to become more well-rounded, driven individuals.  We believe in them, even on the days they don’t really believe in themselves.

Teachers are listeners.  Our ears are open, we understand, and we empathize with the needs of our students.  We don’t just hear as teachers — we listen.

Teachers are mind readers.  We know when they’re happy.  We know when they’re sad.  We know when they’re wide awake.  We know when they’e having a bad day.  We can read their expressions.  We know when something might be wrong, and we ask.  The student that knows that you know, appreciates the support, even if they don’t say it all the time.

Teachers are creators.  We spend a year with our students, and that’s a decent amount of time to impact a life.  We get to impact a bunch of them.  We, as teachers, contribute to the creation and formation of our society’s future.

Teachers are actors.  — but they can read us like a book.  They know when we’re proud.  They know when we’re enthusiastic.  They know when we’re disappointed.  They know when we’re stressed.  They know when it’s really crunch time.  They know that we care.  And they care, too.

Teachers are motivational speakers.  There is no pep talk like the pep talk from the teacher that cares; the teacher that wants the best for their students.  That talk can stick with your for the rest of your life.  The teacher that wants their kids to do well can reach them with a force like nothing else.

Teachers are friends.  (We don’t tell them we are, but we are.)  We support them.  There is a trust.  We want the best for them.  We know when they need to slow their roll, and we tell them like it is.  We have their back, and they appreciate that.  We are protective of them.  We’re upset when they do wrong or make poor decisions.  There is a mutual respect between a compassionate teacher and their students.

Teachers are builders.  We build knowledge.  We build confidence.  We build motivation.  We build learners.  We build teachers.  We build drive. We build ideas.  We build people.  We build creativity.  And now we also build rigorous test takers! Add it to the resume!

Testing is not who we are.  The above list is who we are – and there’s more where that came from!  This is why we do what we do.  It feels good to write this today, and it feels good to vent.  So whoever may be reading this – thanks for listening.  I think I needed to put this in writing to explore my own feelings as an educator currently pressured by testing, and I hope that it will help to re-inspire, if you will, other teachers out there who are also pushing through this ever evolving world of testing, teaching, and education.

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Be well, be wise, be inspired.  Much love 🙂

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