Spring is here and with it comes rain. Today, as I write, it has been raining all day long. The sky is dark and gray. I am a stay-at-home mom and an outdoor person. I do a lot of things for my family. Besides taking care of my children’s physical and emotional needs, I provide simple luxuries that we as a family agree enhance our lives. I bake bread, I make yogurt, and I grow a huge garden that provides us with fresh vegetables all summer long and jarred food throughout the winter.
It is the weather that dictates my days and what I will be doing. There is usually plenty to keep me busy inside or out, so I normally don’t complain. On this rainy day, I got to thinking about rain and weather, and about the life waiting to emerge just under the surface of my garden. A steady rain can provide the water necessary to germinate seeds and make things grow. Together with the proper balance of sunshine, it kickstarts spring into a flourish of green grass, budding leaves, and blooming flowers. A steady rain is natural, the earth absorbs it and things grow!
But not all weather is so nurturing. A massive storm can bring bursts of torrential rain that comes too quickly and too harshly. The earth cannot absorb it and utilize it. It floods the land, eroding soil and washing away seeds before they germinate and can establish themselves. This is especially true of soil that has not been well stewarded. The harsh weather of a storm can cause damage to surrounding trees and man-made structures. People are also at risk if not properly prepared. Storms can be dangerous.
I began thinking that weather is a lot like education. It has the potential to nourish and grow the minds of our children. But the wrong kind of education has the potential to destroy. In this way, excessive testing—especially the upcoming high-stakes state tests—is a lot like the destructive forces of a storm. We all know it’s coming. We can seen the sky darken in the distance and we are all worried. We do what we can to prepare for it and to minimize its potential damage. How much enriching, authentic learning will be eroded? And how many students will fall victim to anxiety and to the potential of failure. Like misused soil, children already disenfranchised with learning will suffer most. When a storm comes, it hampers activities that we’d rather be doing. Excessive testing replaces real learning, and we become narrowly focused on simply being as prepared as we can to weather the approaching event.
And we all know what happens when bad weather stays around for a while. We become depressed and impatient. We feel unmotivated and bored. We wish we were doing something else. This is how our children feel in school. They are weathering an extended season of testing and hoping the climate will change so they can do something else. We need to provide the right educational environment so kids can reconnect to learning, so they can learn to love learning once again. We need to provide them with a nourishing and well-balanced education so that they can truly grow and flourish. It’s time for the storm to end. It’s time to repair the damage and move forward into a sunnier, more hopeful educational future.