What Do I Want Them To Walk Away With?


Standardized tests. They look at reading skills, comprehension, and the ability to put thoughts into words. They measure how well students’ take math equations and formulas and apply them to the world. They look at students’ abilities to fill in bubbles and read screens, as well as how well they can synthesize information and make sense of what is set in front of them.

I am not wholly opposed to these tests. I think that when properly educated students should be able to successfully navigate these sorts of tasks and score well. I am opposed to how the tests are used to dictate and govern an entire educational framework that is leaving behind wreckage in its wake.

But in thinking about standardized tests, they leave out so many critical pieces. I read recently (and I wish I could remember the source) that most of what we teach students today may or will be obsolete by the time they enter adulthood. Depressing as that seems, it is not wholly without truth.

Literacy is changing on a daily basis. Literacy is becoming digital literacy, and meaning making is happening in changing forms based on ever changing technology. Science is constantly an altering frontier, and the ways in which questions of math and science are being posed and approached is always in continual flux. History is rewritten each time the stories are told, and we are learning and living new versions of history each time a different perspective comes to light.  There are few constants in what we try to teach our children, and there is no way of predicting what they will need to know to thrive in the future.

I suppose it could be argued that this has always been the state of education, and maybe it has. But it is also clear that modern technology is altering society rapidly.

With all of this in mind, I have been thinking about what I do hope to teach my students. Whatever the tests may look at, and whatever the world may hold for them, what is it that will matter for them?

So here is my current list:

  1. Respect for themselves and others. I want my students to believe in their own worth, and treat themselves accordingly. Likewise, I want them to see and respect the worth of others.
  2. Curiosity. I want my students to wonder how things work, and seek ways to answer their questions. I want them to find the world to be interesting and intriguing.
  3. Perseverance. I want my students to have the stamina to confront challenging tasks, being willing to put time and effort into repeated attempts.
  4. Resilience. I want my students to have the capacity to recover from failures.
  5. Joy. I want my students to find joy in learning, but also in being. I don’t want them to be always preparing for the future, but to be enjoying their current moments.

growing up

This is not all inclusive, and it is likely that as soon as I hit publish I will think of more things to add to this list. However, I think it is important to keep these things in mind. I know it is difficult not to get wrapped up in measurable outcomes, required criteria, and the daily frustrations that come along with teaching. But when I step back and think on what I hope for each child as they leave their time in my classroom, this is what I hope they carry with them.

What is on your list?

I am excited to be participating in the Kinderchat14 summer blogging challenge. Check out  #kinderchat14 to read other bloggers’ “burning” posts.

2 Responses to What Do I Want Them To Walk Away With?

  1. Debbie Arcaro July 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    My list looks like yours. I start teaching it from infancy. I also agree that standardized tests have a place, but they are not the best tool for all children and certainly should not be the foundation of our educational system. In my teacher training, my first mentor told me I’d always have rules to follow, but above that to remember that the best I could give my students was to teach then how to learn. With that skill they could accomplish anything. It wasn’t about the material or answers, but about the process.

    • Karen Langdon July 21, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Teach them how to learn – absolutely. That really sums it up, doesn’t it?