Kate Messner’s “Tuesday Poem: Revolution For the Tested”

May 31, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Writing, Reading | 4 Comments

Kate Messner, Children’s Book Author – http://www.katemessner.com

A Tuesday Poem: Revolution for the Tested

Posted on 2010.11.09 at 17:22

Because it has been one of those days…and because I’ve been thinking a lot, worrying about the direction some of our schools are going. Here is what I’d like to whisper to my students as they leave my classroom in June… 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

I shared this poem as part of my NCTE/ALAN presentations, and I’ve had many teachers write to ask if it’s okay to share with students and colleagues in the classroom. The answer is absolutely yes.  Share away!

However, I’ve had a problem with the poem being republished online without my permission and without appropriate citation, so please….if you’d like to share any part of this poem with online readers, please do so with my name listed as the author and a link to the full poem at this post. Thanks!



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  1. Amen to your last stanza. What do you think about Common Core, Kate?

    • It is a powerful poem, isn’t it? You are obviously a teacher, too!
      Thanks for checking us out 🙂

  2. Thank you. This poem is perfect. It should be given to parents when their child first starts school and to children before every test.

    • We think it’s a great poem, too, Vicki! Glad you enjoyed it and welcome to our blog 🙂

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