Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Beyond the Tragedy

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for creating this space to share our stories.  Read other slices or write your own and share here. 

This week my community, and one school in particular, has suffered a great loss. Within two days of each other a second grader passed away unexpectedly, and two other students lost their fathers in separate car accidents.  These tragedies have also hit me close to home because the brother of the second grader and the son of one of the fathers are students in my daughter's classroom.  No college class or textbook could have prepared her for these situations.  But she has handled them with love, grace, and compassion. 

I live in a small, conservative midwestern town with neighborhood schools.  One of the benefits of living here is how our schools pull together in times such as these.   We lean on each other, and we support each other.  All of the schools are participating in a fund raiser to help the families.  It's what we do.

As I was talking to the principal last week, I asked her, "Just think what would have happened if this would have happened a month later?"

She replied, "You mean during ISTEP?"

ISTEP is our state-mandated standardized assessment.  Educators have many conversations about how testing is an unfair snapshot of a student.  What if that student was having a bad day, or had gone through an upsetting event at home, or a number of other situations.

If these tragedies would have been during our testing window, it would have affected the entire school - students, teachers, and administrators.  The results would have been tied to teacher evaluations and salaries.  How fair would this have been?  We often talk about how situations could affect particular students' results; this would have affected so much more.  Although we have several weeks before testing begins, I am sure the results will still not be a true reflection of these students and teachers due to the stress and trauma they have all endured.

I do not mean to diminish the loss or to not be compassionate by talking about testing when lives have been lost.  I hope people do not think less of me for writing about both of these in the same post.  This week has made me think beyond the tragedies.  They have made me stop and shake my head and wonder about the state of our education system.  

My prayers continue to go out to these students and their families.  


  1. We teach the whole person, so of course thoughts like these are important! I've had the experience of a student losing a parent a week before the state testing. It was horrible to see her return to school to have to sit and test. I HATED it!!! You raise important questions that aren't easy to talk about...but must be discussed. Thank you and prayers for the families and your daughter as she deals with the pain and grief these children will carry!

  2. First of all, Leigh Anne, tragedy never comes wrapped up with a to do set of instructions. We try to muddle through them with grace and faith. I have had Megan in thoughts this week. Secondly, you may want to have her join the next NYEDChat convo. I will send you the link.

  3. These tragedies make one sit up and notice how fragile life is. A single test is never a true profile of a student. I've often thought/worried about students who live in tumultuous homes and then they have to come to school and face more anxiety. So sorry for your community.

  4. So sorry about these tragedies and the impact on your school community and you and Megan, and those young lives forever changed. We teachers understand your wonderings about the state of education, we could not think less of you for writing about this. I was recently at the viewing for the mother of a first grader and middle schooler who attended our school, and the niece to whom she was like a mother. She and her yet to be born infant died in a car crash a week before Christmas. Those students returned to school after the break to be faced with MOY testing. They will not have had time to deal with their grief by the time ISTEP rolls around, and neither will your school's children who experienced such loss. It is so sad we have so much emphasis on testing, no matter what else is happening.

  5. How terribly sad for your community. How difficult and challenging for your daughter and you. So many losses at the same time.

  6. I am so sorry for the kids. Your daughter has a long few months ahead and this class will forever be etched in her memory. The "accountability" links to one high stakes test is wrong. Hopefully ISTEP will actually go away and be replaced by something like NWEA that advances with the child and can show individual growth rather than one size fits all standards. Thoughts and prayers with your community as they work toward healing.

  7. Being human is so difficult. And that's what we deal every day. Humanity in all of its messy and painful places. That work is not quantified. It isn't measured. That's the difficulty. Being human and trying to put all of that into a number that measures educational value or worth. It's one dimensionality is so disturbing when you consider things that really matter.

    You are lucky to have such a loving community that knows the right thing to do when bad things happen. No test could possibly measure the strength provided in such a difficult time. Just like the love and caring your daughter has shown those children. It is doesn't show up on any report.
    Love and prayers to you and your community.

  8. Oh, Leigh Anne, I am so sorry for this, the loss for those children. Your daughter has had such a challenging year, and from afar, I am so proud of her, as I know you are. Those of us experienced know how very hard this is, and I'm glad you said that Megan handled the challenge with such grace and caring. It feels to me as if children could have some kind of waver in times like these. No one, not even the most mature, could take an important test during such a stressful time. Hugs to you and your town.

  9. So much loss for your school community. Testing should be the least of the concerns when facing losses such as this. Prayers for all concerned, especially for the teachers who face those sweet children and their siblings each day. What a challenge for your daughter and her students.
    My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

  10. I am so sorry for your loss. It's hard for everyone to deal with tragedies like these. You do raise a valid point about the testing. Both of my boys are in elementary and I feel there's way too much testing going on. We should be focusing on teaching the kids and not gathering data.