Thoughts from a Public School Student

They hand us a scan-tron and a

number two pencil and then wonder

why we can’t write stories.

They hold standardized tests over us

like swords above necks

then ask why we’re terrified

to open our mouths.

Think outside the box, they say,

but no writing outside of it –

the machines won’t register you.

This is the age of Sparknotes.

This is the age of Sharpee

on the bottom of your shoes

because your worst nightmare

is a wrong answer.

We are the middle of the rope

in a game of tug of war

between learning and testing,

between your thoughts and

the thoughts they’re looking for,

and we are unraveling – fraying – and it

won’t be long before we snap

and hang ourselves with

what’s left over –

but not before they approach

our jumping stool and hand us

an F in living.


22 thoughts on “Thoughts from a Public School Student

      1. Not old, just lucky πŸ˜‰
        They’re these horrifying small sheets of paper that we bubble in answers on. They get run through machines that grade them, which saves the teacher some work, but for the students, they’re ANNOYING. Walking into a class and seeing the paper slips is one of those things that make your stomach sink. 😦

  1. Thanks for writing this. This validates many of the reasons behind my choice to educate my kids at home.

    I get a flack for home education. Some people seem to think that if I’m not administering standardized testing, that my kids aren’t learning. In my own education experiences, standardized tests got in my way of learning. I got to be a very good test taker. This is not a useful skill outside of a school.

    And the same folks who say they admire my boys’ personalities and creativity also fret at me over my home education choice by asking “what about socialization?” As if my kids will grow up unable to hold a polite conversation without 13 plus years of childhood institutionalization imprinted on their souls.

    I’m sorry. Hang in there.

    1. I have tons of friends who are home-schooled, and I think they’re the nicest kids ever. Not to be exposed to standardized testing? Sounds like heaven to me.

      You’re absolutely right. Test taking skills are useful in high school but never will be again – and I think it’s a shame that we put so much time and effort into cultivating them. I prefer discussion-based learning. Putting one’s thoughts and ideas into words is so much more meaningful than filling in circles on a testing sheet.

      Thanks, Alice. Only one more year here, though! πŸ™‚ I know things will be better in college.

      1. Things are better in college. At least they were for me in a small college where class sizes were small enough to talk about things and know each other. There were still a lot of coloring in the circles. So test taking skills will be good for a while longer.

        A year is such a long time at the beginning but quite short at the end.


        1. That is so much of a comfort to me πŸ™‚ My top choice college is exactly like that – small liberal arts school, small classes, focus on learning and discussion and creativity. Can’t wait to find myself in that type of environment someday.

          Thanks again, Alice, for always receiving my work with such support and love.

  2. This is so true, we don’t live in a society of multiple choice questions, so why have that in school? Why should kids have to suffer for the laziness of teachers and administrators?

    1. “We don’t live in a society of multiple choice questions.” I really like how you put this.

      At least at my school, the fault isn’t on the teachers. They’re forced by the education board to use scan-tron testing, and in most cases, they hate it just as much as we do.

      I feel sorry for both parties. So many of my teachers are appalled at the ever-expanding role of standardized testing in the learning process. I think it’s a matter of shifting attitudes toward education in general. We think we’re being progressive, but honestly, we’re stripping the word ‘learning’ of its meaning. And that’s heartbreaking to me.

      You’ve spurred more thoughts on my part, which I appreciate. Thanks for reading!

  3. The best you can hope for is that you leave there having learned how to learn; the good stuff, the stuff that counts, you’ll have to seek out and learn on your own.

Thoughts? I love those.

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