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More Than a Number

Barrylane55 on June 15, 2012 15:19

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    The minds and spirits of children will always rise above numbers. Let us hold this truth and use it to guide our policy and our decisions.

    We are making a YouTube slideshow version of this song and will need about 50 photographs to do so. If you have a photo of your child doing anything in the song - or a photo of play, creation, exploration, joy, learning, immersion in activities of the child's own initiative - we would love to see it!

    To submit a photograph, please send your picture (landscape preferable) with a note of "permission to use this photo as a part of the MORE THAN A NUMBER slideshow" to amy at amylv dot com

    We hope for the slideshow to be a true multicultural mix of beautiful children in love with life....

    Many thanks!

    - Barry & Amy

    Music by Barry Lane & Lyrics by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (2012)
    Cover art by Georgia VanDerwater (2005) copyright 2012

    More Than a Number (lyrics)

    I am quiet in the classroom.
    I don’t always raise my hand.
    I don’t always answer questions.
    I don’t always understand.
    But I always have ideas
    when I stare up at the sky.
    My sister likes to tease me
    for always asking, “Why?”

    I am more than a number.
    I am more than a grade.
    I know the constellations.
    Here’s a painting that I made.
    I read books in my closet.
    I will not be a ‘2’.
    I am more than a number.
    I’m a person just like you.

    I speak one language here
    and another in my home.
    I daydream in both languages
    whenever I’m alone.
    I’m good at climbing trees.
    Mom’s teaching me to sew.
    I am full of secrets
    a test can never know.

    I am more than a number.
    Watch me fold this plane.
    I snuggle with my beagle.
    There’s music in my brain.
    Someday I’ll go to Egypt.
    I will never be a ‘2’.
    I am more than a number.
    I’m a person just like you.

    If you think I can be measured
    by numbers on a screen…
    ...if my whole school becomes a test
    where will I learn to dream?
    I love to do hard problems.
    I write stories, and I laugh.
    My gifts are so much greater
    than the data on your graph.

    I’m more than a number.
    I invent things when I play.
    I collect shells and fossils.
    Please hear me when I say
    I will not be a ‘1’--
    a ‘2’, a ‘3’, or a ‘4’.
    I am me. I’m a mystery.
    I’m a child – not a score.


    1 timed comment and 14 regular comments

    • Stephanie Godby Gardner
      Stephanie Godby Gardner at 0.24 on June 27, 2013 21:45

      I think this one is my favorite. I am sharing it with everyone who will listen!

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on July 13, 2012 11:39

      @Newton Baker 1: Well put, Newton. Narrow assessment leads to narrow schools and bored children, and even worse: a dull unthinking society. We are so much better than this. You need to write, Common Sense like Thomas Paine did, only write it about the effects of NCLB on education. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on July 13, 2012 03:05

      @Newton Baker 1: Moving reply, Newton. I think you nailed it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • Newton Baker 1
      Newton Baker 1 on July 13, 2012 02:49

      I'm sure collecting shells as a small child is not the same at all as what a college student does to show a degree of mastery of psychology and I'm just as sure the psychology of a small child collecting shells is vital in growing and learning. Perhaps one needs to be teaching in an elementary/middle/high school over a period of time to really appreciate the degree to which the BIG TEST born of Standards is pushing out the kinds of activities children need to be involved in to become able college students and good humans beings. Amy's poem is a call to recognize personal worth as something increasingly lost in in our present evaluation scheme, a scheme that continues to define and narrow what a child is or can be. This is an intimate poem and it touches people because it reminds us evaluation can't leave out heart and soul!
      Put yourself in your students' shoes - Put them in your shoes - and you're wearing standards!? - "Bought myself a pair of standards in size GE width - turned out they were too narrow! - the sole was missing!" -I have no problem that we must assess - but I dream someday - we might be more whole - and measure our children - having heart ... and a soul - and focus our talk - and all of our meetings - on real things real children - might really be needing!!

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on June 29, 2012 02:14

      @HKassel: Again , the song has a social context which I explained in my last note to you. It is not a separate issue, but a very relevant one. Our congress has mandated testing in all 50 states and now is judging teacher performance by their students performance on bubble tests. We are the only country in the world that does this. We are educating children out of their greatest capacities.

      I taught college for several years, as well and am familiar with the entitlement attitude you speak of. A freshman once told me his essay was a work of art and could not be graded : C-. Again, I agree with you that grading is not a bad practice when used to teach mastery of a subject. As Amy, said in her note, you are entitled to your opinion.

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on June 29, 2012 02:01

      @Paul W. Hankins: So true, Paul. Thanks for responding. It is the social context that makes this song poignant and relevant. I've sung it to about 1000 teachers so far and the response has been unanimous, grief and head nodding throughout the song, and a huge explosion of applause at the end. Dumb assessment has nothing to do with mastery. That is the problem.

    • amylvpoemfarm
      amylvpoemfarm on June 29, 2012 00:15

      KHassel: It is true that poetry will be interpreted differently by different readers. As the writer of this poem and a teacher, however, I will say that I did not write these words with an intent to intimidate. Yours, Amy

    • HKassel
      HKassel on June 28, 2012 16:05

      All the comments did not convince me. The activities cited in the poem are not really relevant to passing a test in many subjects. If you want to be graded reliably and validly your best bet is to be just a number. If you want the fix put in then be graded subjectively. There is a hundred years of research showing subjective tess are not reliable or valid. Probably not one in a thousand teachers ever read it. As to the standardized tests, perhaps some there is too much time consumed and some may not be well constructed, but that is a different problem. The teacher who grades objectively is not an old meany without heart. I taught 42 years. I never thought giving a test made a student just a number. I thought it was to determine mastery of a subject, not an student's worth as a human being. I still say the poem is meant to intimidate.

    • Paul W. Hankins
      Paul W. Hankins on June 28, 2012 12:07

      It's good to clarify the intent. Because I know Barry's heart and am getting a better sense of Amy's heart, I saw right away that this is not an anthem like "Another Brick in the Wall." If we sing this with a child's voice, we hear right away a growing frustration with the amount of testing a child MUST navigate as a part of their school year. With a move toward common quarterly assessments (which are done in-house) and national tests (which essentially shut down buildings with their end-of-year assessment "windows" which happen in May), more and more days set aside for instruction are now reserved for testing. Do I rally against testing? No. Testing is an important process. It should be a celebration of what the student has learned as they demonstrate their level of mastery. I could share anecdotes of how Maddie (then 8) needed to take fifteen pencils (her estimate) to school for I-STEP (the Indiana test) so she would not disrupt other students should she break her pencil point. This is just one of the emotions that come out of testing. On the positive side, we could call this a move toward empathy. But this is the same child, who when confronted with the number of children who did not pass last year's test, saw herself within a group that could possibly do poorly on the test despite her being "PASS +" each time she has taken it. When I listen to the song again, I can hear a teacher joining in the chorus. Tests are important. And teachers are facing down a test of their own coming down the aisle as part of a new evaluation system. Thank you, Barry. Thank you, Amy. The song reminds me very much of Monte Selby's "Beat of a Different Marcher" that he wrote with Debbie Silver. When we move toward advocacy, isn't it funny that we move to song? Song unifies us. And when we know the words. . .and feel them within our hearts. . .we can sing with unity and clarified purpose.

    • amylvpoemfarm
      amylvpoemfarm on June 27, 2012 21:50

      @KHassel: I, too, would like to thank you for writing to us about the song. Never in a million years would I write a poem to intimidate teachers. I honor and feel endless gratitude to teachers for my own learning and experiences and for those of my own children. This is why I became a teacher - to try to give back what I have been given. Evaluation is a vital part of teaching and learning, and the child voice in the song simply hopes to remind us that children are more than numbers and that some very valuable passions and habits of mind cannot be measured with a 1, 2, 3, or 4. Thank you again for your message. I hope that my words here have helped to clarify my intent. Yours, Amy

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on June 27, 2012 05:10

      @HKassel: Thanks for your thoughtful response. This song is NOT about a caring teacher grading students to meet a standard. This could be very meaningful and important to learning. This song is about states, corporations and testing companies who impose meaningless assessments on schools, not to aid instruction, but to rank and judge teacher performance and sell programs for learning.

      In Texas children spend over 45 days per year prepping for these meaningless assessments. Much real instruction time is lost to this mandated hoop jumping. This is a very different type of assessment than you allude to in your response. In Texas, children and teachers are not even given back their writing to see why they were scored low. These assessments have spread like the plague since the No Child Left Behind law , 11 years ago. It is an attempt to monetize schools the way hospitals were privatized in the 1970s.

      Thanks again for taking the time to respond. I think many people might make the same false assumption about what the child in the song is speaking about. Best regards, Barry

    • HKassel
      HKassel on June 27, 2012 00:00

      I am a clinical psychologist and college teacher, now retired and engaged in writing. It''s a charming poem. Students often want to avoid objective evaluation and be graded on their worth and dignity as a person. That is not what grading is about. The grade is intended to reflect some degree of master of a subject, not personal worth. I taught psychology. Collecting shells would not show any degree of mastery of psychology. The poem is intended to intimidate teachers. Students now have a tremendous sense of self entitlement. I guess that begin in the 60's, what I call the "Like hey man days." as in "Like hey man, what's happenen'."

    • Barrylane55
      Barrylane55 on June 25, 2012 11:02

      @user4233207: Sure Jesse, we want everyone to use this . It would make a great anthem for your group. We are working on the YouTube version. Send us a cute picture of your daughter, :-)

    • user4233207
      user4233207 on June 24, 2012 19:00

      Oh, Barry and Amy the more I listen to this more I love it. Can I use as the anthem for Children Are More Than Test Scores?

    • user4233207
      user4233207 on June 22, 2012 16:07

      You rock Barry just simply rock

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