Friday, February 24, 2012

Poetry Friday: Testing

Revolution for the Tested


But don’t write what they tell you to.
Don’t write formulaic paragraphs
Counting sentences as you go
Put your pencil down.

Don’t write to fill in lines.
For a weary scorer earning minimum wage
Handing out points for main ideas
Supported by examples
From the carefully selected text.

Write for yourself.
Write because until you do,
You will never understand
What it is you mean to say
Or who you want to be.
Write because it makes you whole.

And write for the world.
Because your voice is important.
Write because people are hurting
Because animals are dying
Because there is injustice
That will never change if you don’t.
Write because it matters.

And know this.
They’ll tell you it won’t make a difference,
Not to trouble over grownup things,
Just fill in the lines
And leave it at that.
Tell them you know the truth.
That writing is powerful.
Just one voice on the page
Speaks loudly.
And not only can a chorus of those united change the world.
It is the only thing that ever has.


But don’t read what they tell you to.
Don’t read excerpts, half-poems,
Carefully selected for lexile content,
Or articles written for the sole purpose
Of testing your comprehension.

Don’t read for trinkets,
For pencils or fast food coupons.
Don’t even read for M&M’s.
And don’t read for points.

Read for yourself.
Read because it will show you who you are,
Who you want to be some day,
And who you need to understand.
Read because it will open doors
To college and opportunity, yes,
And better places still…
Doors to barns where pigs and spiders speak,
To lands where anything is possible.
To Hogwarts and Teribithia,
To Narnia and to Hope.

Read for the world.
Read to solve its problems.
Read to separate reality from ranting,
Possibility from false promise.
And leaders from snake oil peddlers.
Read so you can tell the difference.
Because an educated person is so much harder
To enslave.

And know this.
They’ll say they want what’s best for you,
That data doesn’t lie.
Tell them you know the truth.
Ideas can’t be trapped in tiny bubbles.
It’s not about points
On a chart or a test or points anywhere.
And it never will be.

Copyright 2010 ~ Kate Messner
(Poem used with permission of the author. Kate's website is, and the poem can be found on her blog.)

Nuff said, right? Do what you need to do or are required to do, but don't ever forget what reading and writing workshops are really about.

Jone has the roundup this week at Check it Out. I won't be able to tour the roundup until maybe Sunday, or probably next week, seeing as this is Dublin Literacy Conference weekend. I'll be hanging out with Pete the Cat, Bob Shea, Sharon Draper, James Preller, Donalyn Miller, Ruth Ayres, Bill Kist, Bill Bass and lots of Tweet Peeps, Blog Friends, and Kindred Teaching Spirits.


  1. Wouldn't some excerpts of that poem make a great poster?

  2. What a beautiful beautiful reminder indeed. I shall definitely make use of this poem as I teach my preservice teachers here in Singapore - great food for thought. I will also make sure to use it in one of my presentations for a conference this year. So soo beautiful. Thanks for sharing and for this burst of inspiration on a Friday evening.

  3. It would be great if all teachers could share this with their students. I don't know this poem, so thank you Mary Lee. There are parts that are personal because of what my grandson tells me, how he reads parts of things, has to take a quiz & pass it, then move on. He doesn't read books at school. Makes me sad. Have a great time at the conference!

  4. POWERFUL. I am sharing this with my writing group, too. Thanks, Cousin!

  5. Always wonderful to read this poem again. I agree with Tabatha -- good poster material. I can picture it in every classroom in the country :).

  6. LOVE this! This is the point I try and get across to my kiddos all the time. There is SO MUCH pleasure in reading and writing!

  7. Thank you so much very for sharing this!!!

  8. oh boy...testing season is upon us indeed...but first I will share this poem with my kids, so they get what I think is most important. Thank you for sharing this...and I hope your conference was a wonderful experience!

  9. Thanks for sharing this incendiary piece of wisdom. It's not too late for me to send it to lots of English teachers I know, and it's never too late to come back and visit you at A Year of Reading. Sounds like DubLit was fabuloso. Why don't I have one of these to go to where I am???


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