My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

ACT Out

6 Comments


March 4, 2015 Dear Readers,

I recognize academic burnout when I see it.  Most, if not all of us, have had it a time or two in our lifetime.  I mean, let’s face it, from about the age of 4 or 5, upwards toward 18, we have an excess of compulsory school days in this country.  So yeah, at one time or another, even I, lover of school and all things academic, have had academic burnout.  It is what caused me to dropout of college after only 1 year.  However, by that time, I had been going to school for 14 years.  The thought of continuing another 2 was simply too much for me to take.  I recognize academic burnout.

Unfortunately, I am seeing this phenomenon in my students.  “Ho-hum,” some of you might sigh, “it happens to the best of us.”  And indubitably, I would agree.  However, signs of academic burnout in 12 and 13 year-olds used to be few and far between, it was the exception, not the rule.

When academic burnout hit me, at age 19, I emptied out my brain of anything and everything remotely school-y, I dropped out of the college scene, and I began working as a cashier at a convenience store.  Now granted, it was certainly not the academic accolades I had always dreamt of receiving, but I worked hard, I began raising my family, and I was a contributing member of society.  And truly, what more could society expect from this college drop-out?

Eventually, and by eventually I mean 14 years later, I returned to school, earned a Secondary Education/English B.A, graduated with honors, and became the teacher I knew I was always meant to be.

But that was me.  That was 19, 20 year-old me.  What path is there for a 12, 13 year-old academic burnout?

Even as I say it, it sounds ludicrous, “12, 13 year-old academic burnout!”  But I’ve seen it; am seeing it.  And it breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart not because they will have an adverse effect on society, although chances are…  No, it breaks my heart because the joy of learning has all been sucked out of education and out of my students’ lives, if in fact, it was ever there to begin with.

My students cannot recall a time in their education when they weren’t being tested to death.  And that, dear Readers, breaks my heart.

This past Tuesday marked the 21st instructional day my students have given up to testing.  Wait, scratch that; the 21st instructional day that has been stolen from my students.  Of the mere 51 school days so far this year, my students have slogged through 8 Common Formative Assessments (CFAs), 8 re-take CFAs, 4 days of Galileo Summative Assessments, and now, the ACT Explore.  The 16 CFAs to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, the 4 days of Galileo to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, and the ACT as a pre-cursor as to how well they should expect to do on their college entrance exam!  Seriously?  Seriously.

As I walked up and down the rows of 8th graders, I wanted them to act out, act up, act indignant, act insulted, act like they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore.  Admittedly, all they could do was act lethargic.  And sadly, that was no act.  21 of my students’ 51 school days have been eaten up with testing.  A full 41% of their time under my tutelage has been snatched away because of testing.  Almost every other day.  Testing.

Today, and I’m no social scientist here, but today’s junior high school students are exhibiting signs of academic burnout so frequently as to be considered normal.  Is this what we, as a nation, are striving for?  Is this the goal of our education communities?  Is this how academia as we know it will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper?  Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.  Peace, ~v.

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6 thoughts on “ACT Out

  1. Whats really sad is that I teach 4th grade, and students are doing the same things in my classroom. ALL I ever do anymore is TEST!!!! I’m frustrated. I took today off to figure out if I wanted to go back to work on Monday or quit my job…enough is enough

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    • I am sorry to hear about the decision you are facing. I know how very difficult it is and I know it is not something you are taking lightly. I will keep you in my prayers. Thank you for reading!

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  2. I question why we are testing so much. I also question what we are questioning. For what purpose are we testing. Is it to get numbers which will be useless. Thirty percent of the students do not know where Korea is. So, what. What does it mean? Why is it important?
    Maybe yes, maybe no. If I am a financial planner at Berkley does it matter? If I work in a department store, is it important? What is important?

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  3. I am passionate about learning and sad to say that as a parent of 3 teenagers I have had the “chore” of trying to get my kids to buckle down and do the work and take the tests. Even though I know that in the grand scheme of things, the way education is structured these days with so much assessment and not enough nurturing toward being able to follow their interests, I almost rather throw up my hands and say “work beside me and you will learn more”. I feel your pain and appreciate you sharing it so openly. I pray that our education system will be totally overhauled within my lifetime to make learning enjoyable for children once again..

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    • thank you for your response. It is good to hear that you can see the state education is in today – “so much assessment and not enough nurturing toward being able to follow their interests.” I pray the system will be overhauled in my lifetime as well.

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  4. I have good news my book is on create a space. If you wish to buy one that would be great. Send me an e-mail and I will send you the information.

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