Saturday, May 20, 2017

Testing... 1... 2...

It's everyone's "favorite" time of year again... STANDARDIZED TESTING TIME!! Woohoo!
Okay, now that I've gotten my false excitement out of the way, let's talk candidly about standardized testing. As a student in the 1990's, I never really worried about the tests. Testing took a week. We sat in classrooms with our desks spread out all over the room. After everyone finished, we ate lunch, and then either played outside or watched movies the rest of the day. In high school, I honestly don't remember taking a single standardized test. Ahh, the good ol' days.
Now, testing has become a powder keg. Teachers, parents, and students hate it. Politicians and testing companies love it and the money it brings in. As a teacher, I see students struggling with anxiety and stress that can be debilitating, in addition to trying to learn the material for the test itself. Since it seems that testing is here for the foreseeable future, I have some advice that we can use as our children take the tests.

Children should know their worth.

The first thing I encourage you to emphasize to your children is that their worth is not and never will be determined by a test score. In my state, our students have to pass four core class tests in order to graduate. Each of my students who has struggled with passing a test has told me that they feel worthless. These are 17- and 18-year-olds who are convinced in their minds that they are worthless because of a test that won't matter next month. Please tell your children that they are so much more than a test that was created to cause them anxiety.

Parental love is not tied to test scores.

Tied with my first piece of advice is to tell your children how much you love them regardless of how they score. Yes, even your seniors want and need to hear how much you love them. I have one student who stands out the most regarding this. He was told from a very young age that he would never amount to anything and wouldn't ever graduate, so he should just drop out. I had the pleasure of teaching him in both 11th and 12th grades. To this day, he is still one of my favorite students of my entire career. The picture of him walking across the stage is framed on my desk. (I don't even have picture of my own birth children on my desk! That's how special this student is to me!) I not only told him that I loved him and wanted him to be successful, but I showed him that I was. I invested in him and his education. He will be attending my son's birthday party in a few weeks, and everyone will know that I consider this young man another child.

Encourage those who teach your children.

Something else parents can do is encourage your child's teachers. Y'all. We. Are. Tired. So tired! In my last few weeks of school, just getting out of bed every morning is a task I'm not sure I'm prepared for. We have worked endlessly for upwards of 175 days to get all of our students ready for exams, state tests, and future coursework. It's not a coincidence that teacher appreciation month and standardized testing are at the same time. Nothing says, "We appreciate all that our teachers do for our students!" like a stressful test. I'm not saying that we want you to provide free Starbucks and Target gift cards to us, although I don't know of any teachers who would say no to those. Send a note thanking your child's teacher for loving and helping your child. Send an email to our principal telling her or him that you appreciate us. Social media posts that show you love us may seem cheesy, but I tear up anytime I see one, even if I don't know the teacher being acknowledged. We know teaching will never make us rich. Some of us have 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet. But having some sort of public recognition honestly goes a long way.

Voice your opinion on standardized testing.

My last piece of advice for parents of children forced to take standardized tests, that may not accurately measure the child's knowledge of a subject, is to contact your state's legislators. If you are sick of the focus on testing, if your child deals with anxiety because of testing, or you're just fed up with how much class time is swallowed by tests, let them know! Get involved! Parents, especially moms, are an absolute force of nature. We need to speak up more for the things that are most important to us, especially our children.

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