The Stress is Real
Standardized test stress is alive and abundant in my school. I can see it in the eyes of the teachers as they pass in the hallway. I hear it in the voices teachers use to teach in the classrooms.
What can we do to conquer this yearly feeling of impending doom? What can we do to control this feeling of despair and desperation? I will try to explain what I do to let go of this lack of control.
In the Beginning
As a new teacher, I was older than most. I did have previous experience in retail sales for nine years. I loved my job but wanted something more. As I worked, I dabbled in local community college courses, and I finally leaped into an elementary education major. Those first years were exciting. I taught 8th grade US history. My students created maps, wrote skits, had mock trials, and read stories about our countries leaders and past events.
I loved the energy in my classroom and the smiles that the students had when they realized that history was a pretty cool class. I want to think that the flexibility my administers gave me to teach my curriculum had a lot to do with the enthusiasm of my students.
I made learning fun!
Year three brought on maternity leave with my second child and then extended into the birth of my third and final son. I was lucky that I could stay home and be with my children, but as year three of being a stay-at-home mom came to a close, I realized that I needed to get back to my career.
Yes, I was one of those moms that realized that being a stay-at-home mom was a lot harder than a job working with other adults. So, I marched back into my previous place of employment and received a new placement in 6th-grade math. Math was my jam! It was what I desired to teach from day one.
The Point of the Post
That was a long intro to the actual subject of this blog, but I’m finally getting to the point. Teaching was no longer fun. Let me clarify. I still loved teaching my students, but they no longer desired the rigor that I fed to them.
As a teacher of a “state tested” subject, I felt the need to keep administrators happy and my test scores up. Like many, I started teaching to the test.
A few years passed, and I took a new position in the same district. I was now in an elementary building with a whole new age group to educate. What wasn’t different was the level of expectations we had every year.
Sure, I wanted my students to learn. I wanted them to pick up new skills and enjoy the opportunities we have in this country. Unfortunately, the enjoyment of teaching became less each year, and the stress grew more.
Standardized Test Expectations
We were expected to make adequate growth each year in math and reading. Our students were being pushed to learn new skills quickly and much earlier in their education. I can tell you for a fact that when I was a third-grade student, I wasn’t learning fractions, decimals, and long division.
What happened to the fun in school?
Testing is what happened. Somewhere around the “No Child Left Behind,” we left behind the happiness that students had when they learned age-appropriate skills and had more than one day to acquire them.
We also created overanxious teachers that knew their students might possibly not attain the goals of proficiency.
What I Suggest to Conquer the Stress of the Test
Keep finding joy in every goal your students reach. Focus less on the scores and more on the growth. Make your lessons fun and engaging, and don’t rush the skills. If you students struggle, slow down.
Focus during prep time. Organize your task list and stick to it. Shut your classroom door and be productive. Do all of this, so you don’t have to take work home with you, which will create more quality time with your family and friends.
Have a work bestie that will listen to your problems and offer positive advice. Don’t surround yourself with negativity—schedule time outside of school to build your coworker relationships.
Hopefully, these suggestions aren’t too far-fetched for you and your teacher’s life—comment below with techniques that work for your standardized test stress.