Today I walked out of a voluntary meeting where our principal was lecturing us on our unacceptable performance during an unexpected walk-through of our school by a new, non-elected, mayoral appointee of our city board of education: a draconian woman who stalked into my classroom on her walk-through with her shoulders hunched like a linebacker and her face frozen into a snarl. She marched into my classroom, took one look at what I was doing – a heinous spelling test I have cringed at giving since teaching at my current school – and then marched right back out with an even bigger grimace than when she tromped in.
Now, let me make one thing clear from the beginning: I DESPISE SPELLING TESTS! In fact, I have never given a spelling test any of my students in my entire career until working at my current school. Yes, I taught about word patterns, but never gave a traditional spelling test until my 13 year of teaching.
The sole reason I was forced to administer them? I was told to give spelling tests weekly because it was part of the designated basal reading curriculum. A curriculum, by the way, that has been deemed the only reason our test scores have risen by our assistant principal who, replying to my inquiry about why our school’s reading scores rose a whopping 14 %, adamantly stated “Our tests scores have risen because to due diligence – fidelity to the curriculum.” By they way, fidelity to the curriculum has included weekly spelling tests for the past three years at every grade level, or so I assumed a I have never taught fifth and sixth grade using the curriculum before.
The principal held up my classroom as an example of what not to do: the school board harridan’s visit to my classroom was held up to be exactly what the board member said she didn’t want to see in our classrooms. Hating spelling tests as I do – this made me see red! After all, the only reason I have given spelling tests is because I, and every other teacher, have been told give them! And did I mention I HATE giving spelling tests?
Anyway, when I brought up the fact teachers have been required to give spelling tests as part of the mandatory curriculum, the principal ignored me and acted as if I hadn’t said anything and went on to give a brief lecture as to why spelling tests SHOULDN’T be given – AND THIS IS THE SAME RATIONALE I USED TO JUSTIFY NOT GIVING SPELLING TESTS FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS – BUT TO NO AVAIL! Succinctly, she expounded upon the fact students can receive 100% on a spelling test and then chronically misspell words while writing, another thing I have said to justify not giving them, to no avail.
This is exactly the type of situation that makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland as an educator because, like Alice I am pointing out gross inconsistencies in administrative directives and I am completely dismissed – just like the Queen of Hearts saying “Off with their heads!” In the book, no matter what Alice says to justify heads not being cut off she is ignored. In fact, when the assistant principal asked who told me to give spelling tests I simply replied “You” to which she quickly shoot back “I never told you to give spelling tests! Your aren’t teaching first grade anymore, you’re teaching middle school!”
This is when it became apparent I had to leave the room because if I hadn’t walked out I could have said something in anger I would have regretted such as “Well, taking spelling tests has been a part of my lesson plans for a month now and no one has mentioned this. Did you even read my lesson plans? Did you ever tell me ever NOT to give spelling tests? Why have you approved my lesson plans containing spelling tests since school began this year? I’LL TELL YOU WHY – BECAUSE YOU HAVE NEVER READ MY LESSON PLANS – YOU’VE ONLY GLANCED AT THEM TO SEE HOW THICK THEY WERE! “ But of course, I left the room fuming, demoralized and mortified an administrator had used me as an example of what not to do. After all I’ve taught first grade the past three years and have never taught middle school language arts before. Could I have a little guidance here?
Now, you might wonder what the big deal is about spelling tests and why I just can’t let this go. For me, the big deal is the difference between higher order thinking and lower level thinking based upon a little hierarchy of knowledge called Bloom’s Taxonomy. To simplify things, following you will find a diagram of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As you can see, “Remembering” is at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy because it is the lowest level form of knowledge and remembering is exactly what a spelling test relies upon because a spelling test creates nothing new. Unlike the crowning glory at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy – creating -spelling tests are mere rote memory and do not require students to take information and create something new with it – which is the true test of a student understanding what they have learned.
And this my friends is exactly why I hate giving spelling tests and why I have NEVER, EVER administered them to any of my previous students before working at my current school and why I have spent this entire blog ranting on about being called out for giving a spelling test when I don’t even want to giving them in the first place. Luckily, now I WILL NEVER HAVE TO GIVE A SPELLING TEST AGAIN! At least not while the current school board member who visited my class today has her way…