Today I proctored our state test. It is a computer test, so I spent the entire day in the computer lab testing seventh graders. I didn’t expect it to be a day to fill my energy tank.
But it did.
In my position, I get to see kids as they travel from grade to grade. I’ve known these seventh graders since kindergarten. I’ve watched them grow as writers moving from scribbles and pretend words to composing essays, speeches, and articles. It is remarkable how a few years can bring so much change.
No matter how often it happens, I’m always caught off guard when students are surprised that I remember their names. (Except for the handful who I always get wrong. “At least you always use the same wrong name, so I know you mean me,” one student said.) I remember faces and am able to lock a classroom full of student names in my head after spending a single workshop with them.
I remember their names because I want them to know they matter. I only have a small amount of time with them. Unlike a classroom teacher, I don’t have the luxury of time to build a relationship. I need to be resourceful and intentional in showing I care about them.
So I remember their names, and I smile. I smile when I see them. I smile when they crack a joke. I smile when they try to think of an answer. I give space for their thinking and instead of rushing to the next thing on my agenda, I smile.
I smile, and I expect the best. Humans naturally want to do the right thing. I tap into this truth and trust kids to make the best choices possible. Instead of saying, “Close your mouths and get quiet now!” I choose these words, ” Finish your conversation because we need silence to begin testing.” You can imagine my tone too, right? It only takes moments and they are silent. They stay that way too, until the end.
The only thing they are allowed to have in the testing room is a book to read. This makes it only natural to end testing by talking about books. I added several to my list of future reads. I have a stack ready to take to school and share with some seventh graders.
I can’t believe that a day of proctoring standardized testing made me long to return to the middle school classroom. Those kids just steal my heart and give me energy.