I just finished up listening to a report on pre-K programs nationwide by NPR’s Claudio Sánchez. I have long respected his coverage of wide variety of issues related to education and educational policy. In a world of click bait and quick cuts, Mr. Sánchez’s careful methodical style is as respectable as it is refreshing. Additionally I just love his name Claudio Sánchez.

It’s got me thinking that, the next time I write a quiz or a test, I should include in my list of fictional characters the name “Claudio” to complement the more common José, Diego, María, Magdalena. I filed that away. The next thought that occurred to me is that I give traditional quizzes and tests less frequently these days. Much less frequently, actually.

Time was, years ago, my quizzes and tests were lots the fill in the blanks–vocabulary and verb forms mostly. Preterite or imperfect, subjunctive or indicative, direct of indirect object pronoun. I would skip around from place to place and person to person. Occasionally the work hung together as a narrative but they didn’t always. Frankly didn’t matter. Put another way, continuity and context were secondary to content as defined by the textbook’s score and sequence. I was looking for verb forms not narratives. I was looking for personal pronouns instead of real people’s stories.

These days, however, things of changed. Covering is secondary to uncovering; chapters are secondary to fuller, richer narratives. As such, I don’t evaluate kids as much for a discreet single responses and narratives and names of authentic people in real-world issues matter.  My students identify explore these individuals and issues with critical essays, op-ed pieces, photo essays, podcasts and short films. Yes there are occasional quizzes and check ins a long way but those are a bridge to larger projects on more pressing issues. I am excited for what this means for my students language level and for the level of discourse in our class in our school community.

What does this mean for the afore mentioned and well-respected Mr. Sánchez then? I guess it means that while my younger teacher self might have been inspired by the name Claudio, I’m now–a few years in–inspired by the commitment to clear communication and careful, critical exploration.