Post SATs – should I be feeling like this? by @sirmobbsalot


SATs week… Thursday…Mid-morning… The timer ticks to zero, papers are collected in and it’s my time to announce the end of the torment. I start by saying how proud we are of how hard they have worked all year and that they have represented themselves and the school brilliantly. I remind them that, whatever happens, their futures will not be affected by the outcomes. I assure them that they will no longer have to do daily double arithmetic lessons and pages of practice questions. But a thought will not leave the back of my mind… They still have lots of writing to do. Should I be feeling like this?

This is a re-blog post originally posted by @sirmobbsalot and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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I find myself repeating how proud we are, yet I can’t help saying (in my most teacherly voice), “but you must keep working hard everyday to make sure you achieve your best in writing.” Why did I have to say that in their moment of triumph?

I reason with myself that they need to keep focussed. That this isn’t the end.

I remind myself that previous cohorts have become monsters in the weeks following SATs, as they take their feet off the metaphorical pedal.

I think about the hours I have spent marking their writing – searching for semi-colons and shifts in formality and finding too few.

Should I be feeling like this?

Surely my amazing class deserved this moment of celebration without any ifs or buts. In this I failed and I’m sorry for that.

To make it up to them we head outside into the blazing sun with a football, sketch pads, chalk, rounders bat and my guitar. They laugh, run, play, climb trees (until I ask them to get down – safety first),  sing, dance and act like 11 year olds. 45 minutes pass and an all too familiar guilt rises inside me – what are they learning? Should I be feeling like this?

They deserved that time together in school but away from multiplying fractions, Roman numerals and fronted adverbials. They deserved to experience the feeling of success and achievement by doing whatever they wanted. Instead of being totally lost in the joy with them, I was thinking about how I could plan next week to make sure I had at least one piece of writing from each of them to assess. This isn’t me… have I fallen victim to assessment madness?! Should I be feeling like this?

Home… wine… plan.

I decided Friday must be a day of celebration (with purpose of course). I introduced the film of Treasure Island – 1950s Disney version because, in my opinion, its closest to the book (and the muppets were unavailable). Our end of year show will be a musical pirate extravaganza – with parrots, treasure and cheese?! But there it was again – that feeling of guilt. Should I be feeling like this?

I had full permission from SLT to do as I wanted on Friday in celebration, but I still sat listening for the classroom door to open, knowing I wasn’t making “every minute a learning minute.” Guilt, born from pressure created by only myself.  To make myself feel better I planned meaningful and interesting lessons for next week. Why could I not shut off just for one day?

Then on to our British picnic, the reward voted for by the class. With military precision, the team of Y6s brought the food out to the playground and dutifully laid it out on tables – savoury one end and sweet the other. As they laid the final tray, the first drops of rain fell, followed by a torrential downpour. We had prepared a plan B so the whole class immediately jumped to action carrying sandwiches, crisps, pork pies, quiches, pizzas, marshmallows, jam tarts, homemade cookies, lemonade and tablecloths into the hall. They were amazing as they organised themselves into a line and took barely any food to ensure they all had enough (3 trips later and there was still enough for the staff room table). Music played and piggy backing, dancing and merriment ensued, but there it was again, guilt. Was it too loud? Should I cut this short and go back to class? Could I accept them throwing a tennis ball inside? I felt so muddled but should I be feeling like this?

After a lovely art lesson, where my wife and daughter visited (a request from a group of my Y6s), we made our way to reward assembly. Certificates were handed out until finally we reached Y6, they stood, bowed, curtsied and Dabbed! I asked the whole school to applaud – staff and parents joined in and they deserved every second of it. As congratulations were offered, I found myself whispering “There is still writing to go.” Should I be feeling like this?

Ice cream sandwiches in hand they waved farewell and headed into the rain to start their weekend. As I closed the external doors, I let out a deep breath. My Y5 colleague said “Congratulations. I bet you’re glad that’s over!” I was about to speak when she said “I know, I know. There is still writing to go.” So apparently it’s not just my class I’ve been keeping focussed. Should I be feeling like this?

SATs are a tough time for Britain’s ten and eleven year olds and I’d like to offer my congratulations to them all. But they are also a challenging time for all adults involved as well, and I think due to the high stakes nature they can leave us feeling confused, conflicted and maybe even a little bit empty. I liken it to the day after a major event you’ve been preparing for – a marathon, the big match, a performance.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has felt anything similar in the days following the tests? Congratulations for finishing SATs this year but remember – there is still writing to go.

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About Be betterTeaching 4 Articles
Primary English Lead, Y6 teacher, writer, husband, dad, @teachfirst ambassador - aiming to improve education for all.

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