It was testing day. Only eight-thirty in the morning, and all I could see were the blue dividers barricading my students to a long, wasteful day of learning. They were taking their Math District Benchmark Test to see how much they learned throughout the first and second six weeks. What would be in store for me- the teacher? -An exhausting day of walking around the room making sure students were working and not falling asleep during the test. I couldn’t help to admit that I held on to a water bottle and some tick tacks for dear life so that I wouldn’t fall asleep either. Slowly, the minute hand moved on the clock on the wall. At ten-thirty, I allowed all of my students to stretch, gave them some mints, and time to go to the bathroom to wash their faces. Still, only fifteen minutes after our break, their eyes began to droop and their faces became weary again. I knew another dose of sugar would not save them.
I pulled Crazy Loco by David Rice from my backpack. It is a collection of short stories written about Weslaco in South Texas. I began to read out loud. Instantly, life was brought back into their tiny faces. Some student smiled, others had their eyes locked on my expressive face peering above their dividers while I read from the middle of the room. All had stopped testing and I continued read, line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, stopping only to dramatically pause for effect and join them to laugh. All of my students were engaged by the life these fictional, but relatable characters were bringing into our stagnant day. I continued to read, aware that I could perhaps be breaking school rules by taking time away from testing, but it seemed a perfect time for some authentic literature.
After completing the first chapter, my students automatically began to discuss the events in the story. What book is that? Who are these characters? Was this book made here in the valley? Why is it called Crazy Loco? It was their innate nature to begin to respond to the literature freely.
Should schools continue wasting time on testing when real learning could be taking place? My read aloud saved the day, but how many school days will be wasted before anything changes?