Is my salary as a public school counselor worth
another round of testing abuse? I'm close to an early retirement from this second career of mine--a two months to a
two year window. This job has not been what I'd thought it would be. I'd naively thought the job title--"school
counselor"--meant opportunities everyday to help children. Everyday and all day. That has not been my experience--at
least not for my definition of helping children.
started as a high school counselor in 2003 and even then I remember holding up a student's "credit history" from
the pile of "credit histories" on my desk and asking : "When do I actually meet a student?" Those
were the days of the paper based FCAT--nothing like our current computer based debacle--and, in addition to counting credits
from credit histories, the Student Services offices closed for two weeks each spring as we, the counselors, bubbled and boxed,
labeled and taped.
the bubbling, boxing, labeling and taping, I'd desperately count credits and grade point averages from credit histories. I'd
calculate grade point averages with my calculator. Me. KIm Werner. I'm a retired flight attendant who was NOT allowed to the
count the head set and liquor money on board the plane, because I'm not so good with numbers. Me. Kim Werner.
As a school counselor, I held young peoples' futures in my nervous counselor hands with my nervous counselor calculations.
I'm good with people, not numbers--hence the
flight attendant and, I'd thought before I actually became one--school counselor job choices.
2015. "It gets worse...."
Last year with Florida's role out of the FSA, I was a "test administrator" for more than six weeks.
Every school day I arrived early, went directly to "my lab", turned on computers, got my lists of that day's victim/students--on
and on and on it went, let me tell you. It was surreal. Every day, all day, every day, all day, every day all
day, everydayalldayeverydayalldayeverydayallday...standing and watching. Timing. Administrators are not allowed
to....do anything. No reading email. No keeping up with counselor duties. No newspapers, or books, or phones.....
just allowed to stand, watch, and yell "Stop!".
Oh but, Kim, there is more....there is being called over to assist a student and saying, "No." There
is glimpsing the test on the computer screen and feeling the lurch of stomach for administrators are NOT ALLOWED to view the
test! There is calling Tallahassee about permitted calculators for Algebra and Geometry EOCs--just looking for
permitted brand names, for God's sake!--and being directed to a complicated mess of an information sheet and being more confused
than before the phone call. There is alerting administrators as to my confusion so that they at least get their hand
on the "calculator hot potato."
oh Kim, what about the myriad of "problem screens"--each one different--that directed children to "see
[their] test administrator"? That's you, Kim! You are the designated problem solver! Remember hands
shooting up? Remember your panic at not knowing what to do? Remember your exasperation at the Florida Department
of "EDUCATION NOT TESTING!" at creating this mess and placing you smack dap in the middle of Lab Number 123 with
your prayers and hopes that nothing went wrong THIS TIME?!
There is ass covering, for the stakes are high not only for children but for test administrators...
This year will surely be the same. It
may be even more awful. Even as I type, my brow furrows and I involuntarily shake my head. I don't want to go back in--my
testing lab, I mean. It's like not knowing where the exit is to a county carnival fun house, The fun house's mirrors
are dirty and distorting of reality. You might ask yourself as your anxiety rises, why you used your tickets for this.
It's meant to be scary and it is, but not in ways you'd anticipated.
It's scary because it's not safe. That's how testing feels. It's not safe for children. It's not
safe for me.
Is retirement the only
way out of the carnival "testing fun house...?"