About Me:

Aloha! I'm Wendy Kennar. I'm the mother of a seven-year-old son and a wife living in Los Angeles. I was a public school teacher for twelve years until a chronic medical condition made it necessary to leave my teaching career.

I've always been described as "quiet" - really, I'm just biting my tongue. I've got lots to say, and lots of thoughts to share, I just prefer to write them. That's the purpose of this blog. Each Wednesday, I post a personal essay offering my observations and thoughts.

A few fun facts about me: I've wanted to be a writer since second grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Jones, made me a "book" with a yellow construction paper cover. I have never learned to whistle, have always preferred sunflowers to roses, and have spent my life living within the same zip code.

Through the years, my writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, GreenPrints, L.A. Parent, DivineCaroline.com, RoleReboot.org, XOJane, and Brain, Child Magazine. Additionally, my personal essays have been included in several anthologies, including: The Barefoot Review, Beyond the Diaper Bag, Lessons From My Parents, Write for Light, Being a Grown-Up: A User's Manual for the Real World, Ka-Pow!, How Writing Can Get You Through Tough Times, Breath and Shadow, The Grey Wolfe Storybook, and Sisters Born, Sisters Found.
I am a regular contributor at MomsLA.com, and you can also find me at Goodreads.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Feel free to comment and share my blog with others!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Less Tests

My students and I have just survived the CSTs (California Standards Test).  My twenty-five fourth graders endured four days of testing - two days of Language Arts and two days of Math.
When I was an elementary school student, I didn’t like taking the standardized tests.  As an elementary school teacher, I don’t like administering the standardized tests. I wish someone, with some power in the way our schools run, would realize the inconsistencies involved in these tests.  I spend all year teaching the tested subjects, as well as Social Studies and Science, yet by only testing these two particular subjects we have given our students the message that those are the most important subjects.  (Not that I’m suggesting our students need additional testing).
I have spent many hours in professional development, being advised on how to teach to the “whole student.”  I am well aware that my students have different backgrounds - academic, cultural, religious, socio-economic, and I do my best to teach in the most varied way possible.  Which is why we cut up tortillas when studying equivalent fractions, go shopping with grocery store ads when discussing the addition and rounding of decimals, will complete a Mad Lib when practicing the parts of speech, rub balloons on our hair to demonstrate static electricity, and play multiplication volleyball.  I am praised for the ways I allow my students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of a concept.  However, after all my year-long efforts, it comes down to how well my kids take a multiple choice test.
And let’s be honest - some kids don’t test well.  They freeze, tense up, lose focus, and just don’t function as well as they could.  Sitting silently, for about an hour and a half, no movement and no sounds allowed, is in direct opposition to how my class normally functions and how my students’ bodies need to behave.
Some of my students just don’t care.  They haven’t yet made the connection that what they are doing now, as nine and ten-year-olds, is important.  They haven’t yet mastered the concept of self-pride and doing your best on something because it is a representation of you.
But that’s the most frustrating part.  These tests are not just a reflection of my students.  They are a reflection on my school and my teaching.  An unfair reflection, but a reflection nonetheless.  Today’s society has gotten quick to point the finger at “least effective teachers.”  Where is the finger-pointing for least effective parents?  I provided "brain food" (a.k.a. healthy snacks) for my students during each day of testing, knowing that some of them will come to school without eating breakfast.  I encouraged my students to go to bed by 9:30 the nights before testing, knowing that wouldn’t be the case in all their homes.  And then there are my students who are shuttling between homes, students whose parents are in the process of separation and/or divorce, students whose parents are remarrying and are inheriting brothers and sisters.  There is no way to compare a student’s academic behavior from one year to the next and insist that all factors remain consistent.  Factors don’t remain consistent.  We are human beings and things change.  Lives change.
The Los Angeles Times can print what they want about me; I know I do my job with a passion that not all teachers share.  My administrator may consider my previous years’ scores lackluster, but I know that I am educating children; children not robots.  Children who are not being suspended for fighting like they were last year.  Young ladies and gentlemen who are working on areas of self-control and self-respect.  
But that’s who I am.  That’s how I’ll teach.  And that’s how my students will learn.


  1. Honey,

    This school and students in your class are so lucky to have someone like you who cares!

    I Love You!


  2. I totally agree that the people "in charge" need to get a reality check on what constitutes as "effective teaching." I was there for those week-long tests last year. I remember that there were improvements in a child's standardized test scores but because it didn't hit a certain mark it wasn't "enough".

    Don't even get me started on the fact that we need to be saving teachers and not cutting the education budget--hmm maybe those at the tippy-top should get a nice pay cut and have to take furloughs. I don't think their six figure salaries are fair to the teachers who are constantly on the front lines, dealing with the myriad of issues that each and every child comes to school bearing. Multiply those issues by 25 and you've got a tough class to teach.

    Okay, I went way off on a tangent and I apologize. You are an amazing teacher and I'm sorry that the powers-that-be don't see that. You're making a huge difference in these kids' lives both behaviorally and academically.

  3. You are an inspiring teacher and person. The school, the parents and students are lucky to know you and have the honor of having you as their teacher. You have made me a better teacher and I thank you for that. I LOVE this article and congratulations on being done!!! I am SO proud of you and your writings. I love the weekly glimpse into your busy life. I love you.

  4. A teacher should not be judged by test scores as each child is different.You are an EXCEPTIONAL teacher and making a world of difference with each child you come in contact with.Your kids love you,You go above and beyond for your kids.I love you and I am very proud of you.I love having the book with your essay published in it.

  5. A very interesting read. Goes to prove that all jobs have unique challenges. Your Mother and I know that you always do your best, that you care for all your children.

    Love, Dad