Spring time for teachers can be a very stressful time. The school year is rapidly coming to an end, which means there is plenty to still get done. Teachers can really start to feel the crunch.
The Big Crunch (capitalize?)
Many teachers share a common anxiety: standardized tests. The growing pressure over the last few years regarding students’ performance on these assessments can take their toll on teachers.
Expectations of student achievement has always been part of the teacher’s job, but with these specific exams the nuanced growth students show can be lost. It’s all about numbers and data, which only tell part of a student’s educational story.
What happens when a teacher’s performance is linked directly to these test scores?
This is the unfortunate reality for many educators. How their students perform directly impacts their employment.
Suddenly, testing anxiety isn’t just on the child taking the exam, it’s on the teacher preparing them as well.
And this creates stress.
And it’s okay.
Because there are ways to handle it.
TALK WITH OTHER TEACHERS
You are not alone. All of your colleagues are facing the same struggle. And while they may have suggestions to help you in the classroom, the true value is having a support system in place for when you feel overwhelmed by the stringent expectations of these assessments. Talk to each other and release the anxieties that have been building. It will help you to regain your focus on the work that needs to be done in the classroom and diminish the worries about what will happen with the test scores.
FOCUS ON YOUR LESSON PLANS
Teaching is not about the standardized tests. Teaching is about what happens in the classroom with your students. In the face of the coming exams, it is time to lean into why you became a teacher to begin with: to educate students; to guide them, and help them explore and push themselves academically. This time of year, you can prepare them for the exams, but this doesn’t have to be the only goal of your lesson plans. Keep pushing yourself and your lessons to be the best source of enrichment for your students. Double down on your passion for the subjects you are teaching and focus on your students and their needs in the classroom. This is what is important, and when you are connected to this work, you will have less time and energy to worry about the standardized tests.
CONNECT WITH YOUR ADMINISTRATORS
Administrators have their own set of stresses related to standardized testing. Often times, the results of the test can affect school funding and budget concerns. That doesn’t mean they can’t be of some help. If you have concerns, or students who are showing signs of struggling with the exam, ask them for guidance. It shows you are ahead of the game and it will lead to less surprises once the tests are taken and the results returned. This can also lead to you working as a team to inform parents of the extra practice and work the students may need to be doing outside of the classroom to prepare. It’s a reminder that you aren’t alone, success on the exam scores truly lies with everyone: the students, their parents, and your administrators.
As with any stress in life, the best combat plan is to focus on your health. It’s these times that eating a smart and balanced diet, with plenty of protein and vegetables will help keep your energy and focus high. Make sure to not fall off any exercise plans you’ve been doing throughout the year. Exercise is a natural stress reducer. Take time for yourself at home and on weekends. Keep social. Keep living your life. You will conquer these feelings and be a better teacher. As an added result of taking care of yourself, you will better prepare your students for the exams.
POSITIVE SELF TALK
Ultimately, you know how hard you’ve worked to prepare your students. You are already your own critic, but it’s crucial to also be your own number one cheerleader. You need to tell yourself that you are doing great work, over and over. Self-validation is the absolute key to standing strong in the face of one’s(?) test. You know you prepared your students the best you can and you know you will always seek ways to improve. The test is only a number. As a teacher you are so much more.
How do you handle the teaching anxieties that come with standardized testing?