It was the afternoon of our fourth day of state testing. In addition to state testing, our fifth graders have another standardized test in Spanish for the first time in the coming weeks. It was the last period of the day, I was working at my desk as our Spanish teacher was helping our students get ready for this test. Every once in awhile I would look up at my class as the students reviewed. Then I noticed one of my boys pull away from the group. I causally walked by him to see why he was sitting away from the others. As I did, I noticed he was upset. I signaled to the Spanish teacher, who I have worked with for over a decade. She immediately went to him. Speaking in soft tones, reassuring him that he only had to try. Our student moved to the back of the room. I gave him a few moments, and checked in on him. When I approached he was sobbing, trying to hide his face. I sat next to him and I could tell he felt my presence. He didn’t look at me but he said, “I don’t know if I can try any more.”
In an instant, I felt his pain. We have been preparing for testing, in reality all year. We all knew it was coming. However, the past two weeks we had a unit of study on the state test. I tried to pass the unit off as a short text unit, but they knew. I tried to reassure my students throughout the progress. I reviewed everything we did. I tried to make it fun. But, the moment I saw D’s tears I felt like a failure. My denial that the test was not going to affect our class too much, vanished in an instant. I was feeling the same way he was. All the testing was taking a toll on me too. I told D how I understood his emotions. I told him I wanted to help. I told him I wanted to make the end of year as fun and fulfilling as possible for him and his classmates. He never looked at me. Then I wondered if I was saying these things for him or for me.
When the bell rang and the students got on their buses. My heart was heavy. I felt confident that I did my best to prepare my students academically for the state test, but did I prepare them emotionally? That afternoon I left my school with a heavy heart, wondering if I truly took care of my students. I know I taught them what they needed to know for the test, but did I get them ready for the endurance of the week long test? Plus, the three more standardized tests that were coming in the last few weeks of school? I couldn’t sleep that night, reliving D’s tears and his hearing his words echoing in my ears.
The next day was Friday, but it didn’t feel like Friday. My heavy heart followed me into school. I tried my best for my students not to see. I am not a good actress, so I was worried. My class got through the morning. They helped guide me through the morning with their energy and conversation about their weekend plans. When we were in the middle of the test, I took a sip of my water bottle. In that moment, I realized I swallowed the wrong way. I felt a cough attack building in my chest. I tried with all my might to stifle my cough. I didn’t want to break the silence and the concentration of my students. However, my body had other plans. I moved to the corner of the classroom where I uncontrollably began coughing into my elbow. All of a sudden D looks up and asks, “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. You can get back to your test.”
D looks me straight in eye and replied, “Oh, I’m doing fine. I just want to make sure you are okay.”
I nodded to reassure him. He returned my nod and got back to his test. Every once in awhile I did feel his gaze on me. I then realized, we were all taking care of each other. We were not going through this alone, we had each other. My heavy heart felt a whole lot lighter.