April the Giraffe has made almost as many social media waves among teachers as the grizzly bears did a few months ago. We have watched her meander around her stall at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, for months wondering if she was really pregnant or if she should just lay off the hay. We got our answer when two little hooves appeared last weekend. Now that high stakes testing season is upon us, we teachers are left wondering if the fruits of our labor will pay off as well. How will these kids do? I believe there are a few connections we educators have with April about the ups and downs of our school years and the culminating end-of-course testing.
1. April has advertising–we teachers need a sponsor, too.
Animal Adventure Park has some pretty impressive sponsorship. Did you notice that Toys R Us is funding her Giraffe Cam? April’s pretty lucky. We teachers can’t get our county’s governing board to cover our health insurance much less back resources that might really help our students succeed during the school year or on high stakes testing. Many of us just buy or make our own curriculum.Yet, when schools are successful, localities benefit. Real estate values in the area increase. More people arrive so their children can attend those high-performing schools. When quality teachers work tirelessly to build student achievement in underfunded school divisions, their efforts build local economies. Lucky for April, she had the best care while she labored. Her minions fussed around her while the community surrounding her zoo benefited from the media attention. The New York Times just noted that the area around April’s zoo in New York hopes to benefit financially from her recent birth.
2. April gets free treats. Our kids could use some, too.
There is a picture of a keeper holding a Magic 8 Ball and feeding April a carrot on her website. Someone probably snapped this photo back in the winter when ball deemed April’s due date unclear at this time. We are constantly giving our kids “carrots” to encourage them to do their best on the test. Extra recess? Check. Candy for correct answers during class reviews? Check. Granola bars on the morning of the test to make sure everyone has a full tummy? Check. Teachers, not Toys R Us or county governing boards, buy these treats, by the way. As far as the Magic 8 Ball’s prediction about test success? Ask again later, preferably after budget season has ended.
3. April has lots of publicity, and someone is always watching.
April is known far and wide now, and so is the unseeable image of those two little hooves hanging from Mama’s nether regions.We teachers bare all every spring or fall when our test scores come out. Our schools have report cards. Scores are put on screens with teachers’ names beside them for big disaggregation meetings. We get to compare our students to others in our district. Every year, teachers grow student achievement and essentially give birth on camera. Judging the results of our labor is far more painful at times then the labor itself. Those numbers don’t even begin to represent the students, their stories, or the relationships we’ve built.Additionally, someone is always watching our instruction. Principal walk-throughs, superintendent visits, or peer reviews dot all our weekly schedules. We have fidelity checks when we administer the test. Like April, it seems that everyone is constantly checking our progress.On the flip side, though, most of us only get one proctor on testing day. April had about 2 million watching her go potty, chew, and give birth.
Taj the Giraffe
4. April is in a tiny pen.
April has been walking around the same little stall on YouTube for about several months now. That’s nothing. We teachers have been penned in to the same rigid standards for decades. We follow tight pacing guides to get through miles of curriculum each quarter. There’s no time for parties, recess, or potty breaks. Sometimes I envy April. She has her own staff of stall cleaners so she can go whenever she wants.
5. April always looks tired.
Pregnancy and parenthood are rough, aren’t they, April? Try going a few weeks with no planning time during test season. On that note, how about trying to keep the same 30 kids locked in one classroom and quiet for hours while they wait for their turn to take the test? Eat some hay and get over it, April. During testing season, we’d just like a full lunch break, thank you very much.
6. No one could control when April’s baby came. He arrived when he was ready.
No one controls how these kids will do on test day either. Have they had breakfast? What was the vibe like in their homes the night before the test? Did the children go to bed on time? Will the children bubble in randomly, like they are playing the lottery? Will these kids engage with the test and even try? Are these kids even developmentally ready for the standards we’re forced to teach?Like April’s keepers, we’ve given these kids the best instruction possible. We’ve put ourselves out there virtually on camera year after year because we know we can make a difference. Despite the pressures of high stakes testing, we march right into those classrooms every year excited to meet the new kids—the ones who will forever be ours because they sat in our desks for 180 days. So regardless of the test outcome, we should stand tall, like April. We’ve done our level best by these students, and these kids have grown under our constant, loving care. Summer’s coming, folks. Like a great teacher friend of mine would always say when we arrived at this challenging time of the year, “We’re all in transition labor right now. Soon we’ll get to push. Then it will all be over, and we can take this baby home!” Regardless of what those score or reports say, we’ll love what we produced for we, like April, gave our classroom babies all we had.
Have a great one and remember Tajiri shirts are up at the online store : Here