Right now, that is all my middle school, and surrounding middle schools, are talking about: how the test is going, how we as teachers and counselors can prepare for it, and how we can prepare our students for it. There was actually an email chain among several of the middle school counselors in the area, asking about the possibility of technology glitches and how to overcome them.
Secretly, a part of me is glad that we have moved away from the thick WKCE booklets, which were not only exhausting to count, alphabetize, and label, but also brought back nightmares from my own testing days. To this day, whenever someone mentions the WKCE or the Iowa Basics, I have a flashback to filling in bubble after bubble on a never ending Scantron sheet.
Regardless of whether it is the Badger Exam, Iowa Basics, or another form of standardized testing, I think we can all agree that testing is tedious for everyone involved. Students are stressed about doing well. Teachers are stressed because the anxiety level in their classroom is heightened. Parents are stressed because their students are panicking about the test. And, as a counselor, I am stressed for my students. Recently, my office has become a flocking ground for students who are burnt out from testing, exhausted, or nervous about how this exam will impact the rest of their lives.
Is there a way to cope with all this anxiety? Based on what some of my friends and I have tried at various schools, here are five ways to help your school survive testing season!
- Remind your students to R-E-L-A-X. My students know that I am a big fan of Aaron Rodgers, so they either roll their eyes or laugh whenever I quote his infamous saying. Here is the thing I always tell my kids: This is one test. Yes, it is a very important test, but it is also one brief snapshot of your intelligence. Thinking of the Badger Exam as this “end all, be all” test will only cause anxiety to heighten, which may lead to poor test performance. Tell your students to take a deep breath, count to ten, and remember they are very capable of doing well.
- Be patient with everyone. There is a funny sign that I saw on Pinterest that said “I’m sorry for the things I said when I was hungry.” I believe this sign could be appropriately switched to “I’m sorry for the things I said when I was testing.” With all the anxiety running rampant through the school because of testing, people’s emotions are heightened. Students may be taking their nervousness and stress out on their peers, parents, teachers, and possibly even you! (I have had more students yell at me these past few weeks than I have in two years.) My best advice? Remember that this too shall pass. Roll with the punches and offer a sympathetic ear to anyone who needs to vent. And try not to take it personally; most likely, everything will return to “normal” post-testing.
- Be prepared. No matter how hard you try, it is very possible that someone will have a meltdown in the middle of testing. Whether it’s the student you see every day, or the student who you see once in a blue moon, things may fall apart the minute they start testing. I always have granola bars in my office for my students who get hungry (and cranky), as well as any number of stress balls for students to use to calm down. While I can’t necessarily pull them from testing, they definitely help when students leave the classroom and come marching to me!
- Have rewards for your students. One year, I brought Smarties in for my “smarties.” The students loved the treat and thought it was really cool that I remembered (and acknowledged) that they were testing. Sometimes, they need a sweet treat at the end of the test to let them know that they made it through.
- Have rewards for your teachers. They are in the front lines, dealing with technology glitches, cranky kids, and tests that just don’t want to work, and somehow, they still have smiles on their faces at the end of the day. It doesn’t have to be something big; one of my friends gave each of her teachers a water bottle with a granola bar and a mini pack of M&M’s attached to it, with a note that said, “Here is a little energy boost to get you through testing. You can do it!” The teachers will appreciate that you acknowledged their hard work!