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  • Writer's pictureMeg Tanner

Monsters in My Head

I have the amazing privilege of partnering with parents and students to overcome obstacles and work on academic and life goals every day. Sometimes, this involves preparing for retaking a test. As much as I love helping my kiddos through this process, I must say I hate standardized tests like the Milestone. The Milestone (formerly the CRCT) is a comprehensive summative assessment pro​gram spanning grades 3 through high school which is supposed to measure student achievement in schools and school districts. I'm not a fan of many tests, but this one is incredibly aggravating. I attended a parent teacher meeting in the Spring for one of my 3rd grade girls. The teachers were talking openly about how stressed out they felt regarding the approaching Milestone test, and I have no doubt this translated into stress for their students. I see it on a regular basis. It would be one thing if this was the only test a youngster has to take, but it's one of many.

Many of my students struggle with serious test anxiety. Sometimes parents are aware of this, but often I will have a parent who thinks that his/her child's lackadaisical attitude is an indication of apathy about their test scores, but with a little exploration I discover it's actually serious anxiety. They shut down not because they don't care but because they are feeling worried and defeated. We work together to develop strategies for coping with and overcoming their anxiety related to testing and school in general.

This summer I have had the blessing of working with a new student who did not pass his 3rd grade Milestone test. We have worked together a couple times a week for the past few weeks. He expressed feeling really scared about the upcoming test. We spent some time this week discussing these "monsters" in his head which I helped him check out like you would monsters under the bed.

We created a picture of the thoughts that were causing him to feel nervous, and we challenged each one of them. His mom has made it clear that she just wants him to do his best, so I knew his fear about her being disappointed was not rational. We did some role play in which I was him and he was his mom. He was able to quickly realize that his mom just wanted him to do his best. We also debunked the myth that he has to pass the test in order to be promoted. We talked about how ultimately this was a decision for his mom to make based on what is best for him rather than a decision that the school could just automatically make.

We then worked on developing an affirmation/proclamation that he could say to put his mind at ease as he awaits the test and on test day. He became excited when he stumbled upon the words that fit for him....I've worked hard for this moment, and I'm going to do my best." We also had a discussion about the fact that test grades are not always the best indicator of student achievement or success. He got a good laugh and seemed relieved to see that his mom and I discussed how a few of the test questions in the practice booklet were even hard for us even though we are a few years past 3rd grade. :0.

Yes, helping a student prepare for the actual academic aspect of test is important, but addressing the student's feelings and concerns surrounding the event, as well as helping the student keep the test in proper perspective, is equally important.

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