Test Stress

March 13, 2013

While out with my young son yesterday, I met two mothers, both of whom are in the education field. We were talking about the stresses of being a teacher, and the stress being placed upon children as standards rise and the emphasis on state tests (not to mention district tests and various assessments for the purpose of teacher evaluations). One of the mothers told me that, over breakfast, her 6th grader was causing her 3rd grader to become very anxious. Her eldest child was talking rapidly, reiterating what her teacher had so strongly lamented -- "You must eat a good breakfast, we're practicing for the state test tomorrow. You must get a good night's sleep, we're practicing for the state test tomorrow. This is very important!"

I have heard other educators warn their students of the same thing. I have said those words to children. "This isn't a joke! You must pay attention. Eat a good breakfast. Get a lot of sleep. UNDERLINE key phrases. Reread the passage! Read all of the answers carefully - they will try to trick you! Don't forget to highlight! " I am 31 years old, and, if someone else sternly prepared me in this manner, I'd be freaked out. Now remember that the person being lectured to is 8 years old. A third grader. A small child who still plays with Barbies and action figures. They are wearing Star Wars pajamas and cuddling up with a stuffed bear. They are afraid that a poor performance on the test will cause them to be retained.

Please, don't misunderstand. I get where the teachers are coming from. Their job depends, in part, on how their students perform on the state tests. This is their livelihood, their ability to provide for their own children. It is such a vicious circle, a demented trap that the higher-ups, the so-called authorities on education, have set. The questions is, what can you do about it as a teacher?

Let's be realistic -- the tests, for now, are not going anywhere. The evaluation of teachers is real. This is the current situation. So, what do you say? How do you prepare your students for the state tests without sending them straight into an adolescent anxiety attack?

Please do not send me your cover letter or resume. I do not work for any of these schools, I just post jobs.

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