a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Friday, March 8, 2013


The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by TWO WRITING TEACHERS

One NEEDS to take a 10-minute bathroom break as soon as the second testing session begins. 

One is stretching his arms up to the ceiling.  I keep thinking he has a question.  I think this is his game. 

One is massaging his face.  Maybe the blood flow will wake him up?

One is flipping his eyelid inside out. He grins when I give him the look.

One is staring.  Just staring.

One puts his hood up.  I am thinking it is not worth it to request he remove it.  Perhaps retreating into his own world inside the comfort of the hood will help him focus.

One just turned to the next page of his test and pretended to vomit on it.

One needs a band-aid mid-test.  To stick on his forehead.  Now he needs hand sanitizer.  Now he is requesting I throw out an old wrapper for him, since (he whispers to me) he has already stood up 7 times. 

One is pretending his calculator is a cell-phone.

They are silent, I swear. 

They are not communicating with each other.  I am watching.

They are restless.

They are the boys of my 21 Voices Strong class.

They have gifts that will not be measured by this test designed for robotic children who I’ve never had the misfortune of meeting. 

Have I failed them by not preparing them to sit still, to sit silent, to stay interested in work even a robot would tire of? 

Or maybe it’s that the system is failing to measure what is truly of value in these humans—the boys of my 21 Voices Strong class.


  1. I think it's probably door #2. Really.

  2. Wow, I can so relate. Last year I had an 8th period class of 19 boys and 7 girls. We actually did some research and the students wrote a paper on how schools are not boy-friendly and how that is hurting their academic achievement.

    Hang in there!

  3. a lovely and perceptive post. Your students are so lucky to have you to understand them! I just cracked up reading the little snippets of their behaviors! I'm sure I will see most of those during our state testing next week. You're right, the tests do not measure who they are or what they can really do, but as teachers we can let them know that we acknowledge and value those things.

  4. I love them already! They sound very much like my 7th grade boys. Out of the corner of my eye, today, I caught one of my boys, who was sitting on a chair with his hand on his friend's head (friend was sitting on the floor next to him) tousling his friend's hair. Boy on the floor smiled at him and said, "What are you doing?????" Hahaha!

  5. I love your description of all they were doing! But, my favorite part is your truth that they have gifts that will never be measured on a bubble sheet. Great post!

  6. I love that you look beyond the surface of these students who others write off. They are so lucky to have you in their lives.

    1. Glad you said this, Elsie! I agree. Plus, I had to tell you, Christy, how much I enjoyed this piece tonight.

  7. I would say you have not failed them in any possible way, but instead you are their one solid-real champion. They are lucky. We are lucky you share.

  8. I have sat in your class...and was moved. Love your truthful and perceptive line, "They have gifts that cannot be measured by this test designed for robotic children..." Could see the boys in your class with your descriptive list.
    This testing too shall pass. : )

  9. This slice totally, totally captures your class during this time! I love your description of their behaviors-- they certainly were busy. Even more, I love these lines, "They have gifts that will not be measured by this test designed for robotic children who I’ve never had the misfortune of meeting.
    Have I failed them by not preparing them to sit still, to sit silent, to stay interested in work even a robot would tire of?" How blessed these boys are that you understand them so well!

  10. You observed them closely to record the details. I know that the situation is not humorous, but the picture you created is a bit funny.
    As I said to Michelle once, the test will be over soon, you will stay in the lives of your stuents.

  11. This is pretty much my class come May and the NJ testing. What I love is the way you were able to capture what you saw with such insight and good humor: the pointlessness of the testing, the utter waste of learning time, the effect it has on our kids. I had to smile at some of what you noticed, but it made me sad, too...sad for our kids, and for the state of education in our country today. Sigh...

  12. These boys are lucky to have you as their teacher because you see them and their strengths and gifts they way no standardized test ever will. I'm pretty sure I some of these guys (or their twins) sitting in my classes during testing today.

  13. This pretty much sums up what happens with my first graders and our standardized testing, too! Lots of computer play and bathroom breaks and racing to the finish. Glad to know I'm not alone!

  14. You got me.
    You made me laugh.
    Then you made that lump in my throat.
    Then you twisted the knife through my heart.
    I'm envious that you get to spend every day with those 21 kids.

  15. As I read this, I saw my own little bands of test-takers. The ones who come to a separate room for extra time, for parts read aloud, for a silent-long sitting time.
    But we manage it together. They tell me they're ready whether any of us believe it or not, and my heart bursts with pride in how hard they are trying...as it breaks that they have to go through it at all.

  16. I love your repeating structure. Although I can't see each, your words guide my mental picture of 21 of my sons. Tim said today, "70 minutes. 70 minutes on a trial test. 70 minutes wasted in my day." Keep being strong and advocating for your 21.

  17. Not much has changed in the years that have passed. I know you are still looking deep into the heart of your students.