Today was the first day of the state English Language Arts exam, known as the ELA for short. This test, along with state math and science exams, will determine whether my students pass the fourth grade. The fourth grade scores are also the ones examined by the state to determine whether my school gets certain funding. In other word: no pressure.

Four months have been spent preparing for this three-day test. Unfortunately half of that time was spent on me getting my bearings in the classroom. So, right as I was grasping the basic concepts of teaching I started to realize how important this test was, and how little time I had to get my students ready. With that in mind, it was hard not to feel frustration at myself and the situation.

I also felt another surprising emotion as I proctored the exam and watched one of my particularly low-performing students as he pored over his exam. He's a small boy, one who has cried on a few occasions when teased, only making him more of a pariah in a tough neighborhood where he's already expected to "be a man". This is all to say, I already feel a protective instinct towards him.

He was using the strategies I taught him. He underlined clue words in the questions. He went back to look for the answer in the story. And he was getting every answer I checked wrong. I wanted to jump in and help him. I wanted to do something. But, there was nothing I could do but watch helpless as he bubbled in each bubble carefully, naive to his own failure.


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