Celebrate: Doubt

celebrate link upThis week I’m celebrating doubt.

Most see doubt as a weakness. And it can be. Doubt can disable.  It can stop the doing and stall progress. But doubt can be something that checks actions.

Doubt keeps me on my toes. Doubt opens me to perspectives that yesterday I vehemently opposed. Doubt makes me look into dark places to consider things that I need to look at in the light.

The more I parent, teach, live, the more I doubt. I believe there are times to employ doubt in order to understand and promote what matters most.

This week I watched my students take the test. I walked up and down aisles, just watching them.

This week I stood beside my students’ reality.  I faced the place students have to go once a year, and doubt creeped in. Students must sit, feet on the ground, behind a desk carol.  They’re all alone with no support. This place, where what they do in that all-alone-dark place, without support, determines a bit of their future. Watching students sit — shoulders tense, legs jiggling — made me doubt my classroom stance.

The majority of our classroom time is about the process of learning, of reading, of writing and the joy that should come from it.  In that spirit, we work collaboratively, all over the room in all kinds of ways. Most often we are not sitting quietly at a desk.

This year my students practiced and learned the standards tested. They learned it in the spirit of authenticity: how it makes sense in the world, how they might use it in their lives to be better humans. I strive for authentic learning because I believe this is what keeps students engaged, this is what teaching and learning should be.

Students did very little practice behind a testing carol. They spent the vast majority of their time active, participating, approximating, learning.

Watching students test my beliefs were tested with doubt. Did I do right by them? Not practicing an environment that they are required to be competent in?

This isn’t a new debate for me. I’ve doubted and adjusted my stance. And, over the years I moved towards and then strongly away from the testing world. Towards authenticity. I still believe that is the place to spend the great majority of our time. I still strongly believe it is the only place that will sustain and promote learning.

But, today letting doubt seep in — I question.

How can the reality and impact of testing  be included in an authentic learning landscape without corrupting the spirit of learning and risk taking that goes with it?

Testing is there. It’s a reality for students and can determine their future. How can we make this reality productive and not crippling to the authentic process of learning?

This doubt challenges. That’s a good thing.

This week I celebrate doubt.

Please share your thoughts. Thanks to you and Ruth Ayers for the Celebrating This Week link up. Read more celebrations here.