In a pandemic, hugs are not allowed. That is, until one of your students pulls at your heartstrings and then all rules are out the window. That's what happened this past week on our first day of WIDA testing at our high school. It was the second week back for students in-person after distance learning for almost a year. And only some students returned to our building to learn in-person (about 10%).
In the testing room, Maria (name is changed) was mixed in with some higher proficiency level students and she is a newcomer. We could tell she was getting flustered and frustrated as her tech wasn't working right and as she struggled to understand the directions. I wanted to pull her aside and tell her, "This test doesn't count! It's not for a grade! It's only to let us know where are you and how we can help you more."
I ended up doing that of course when all the other students finished and she was left alone with us in the room. She shut the computer and the tears started to well up in her eyes. I tried to communicate with her but my speaking in Spanish is probably like her level of English. Finally after some Google translating, her tears started to subside and I gave her some space. I ended up walking her down to her class after offering her a hug; she took it immediately.
What message are we telling our students when we return to class after one of the most stressful events in their lives? After something that they may never see again in their lifetimes? We are telling them that their personal lives and emotions don't matter. We are telling them that the state thinks they are just a number and we need their number no matter how they feel in this moment of this crazy year.
The next day, my sweet student was fine. I offered her some chocolate for breakfast as an offering and a symbol to show her that I still care and am here for her. She didn't want it (what teenager does this!) but I hope she knows I care. Would I cancel testing this year? Yep. Can it wait until next year? Yep. What would happen in one year without testing? After all, it's the teaching that matters.
So, what am I going to do as soon as testing is done? I'm going to teach something fun! We have a curriculum to dive back in to and Romeo and Juliet to read (which can be fun with the right scaffolds!) but I will probably do a fun little spring lesson to lighten their spirits.
What do you do as a fun brain break after testing? What do you do to calm nerves and emotions during state testing? Comment below with your ideas and I'd love to hear your thoughts on testing during this time!
I teach high school ESL and peer coach high school ESL teachers in my district. I enjoy sharing my strategies and materials online and love learning new things from other teachers of Emergent Bilinguals! Let's learn together!