“READ THE DIRECTIONS AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE. DO NOT TURN THE PAGE UNTIL TOLD TO DO SO…”
With these words, the nightmare begins. For the next fifty minutes, a typical teacher will experience a range of emotions that would make Dennis Rodman seem normal. A teacher has waited, prepped, looked forward to, dreaded, longed for, talked about, banned the word, and despised this day, the first day of STANDARDIZED TESTING. At some point during the school year every teacher has made the statement, “I just wish the TEST was over.” This statement was mostly likely retracted, no more than a few hours later, to be replaced by: “My kids are not ready yet. I still have standards to teach, oh goodness please delay this TEST!”
In case you are second-guessing reading this post, no this is not a post depicting a teacher as a crazed loon, but rather an attempt to portray the immense stress placed on this precise moment in time. A whole year of chatter, hours of planning and execution of those plans boils down to the next fifty minutes.
THE MOST IMPORTANT FIFTY MINUTES OF THE YEAR and of course Jimmy has already broken his pencil. Bobby has devoured his snack with only a few crumbs left, darkening the corners of his mouth. Sally is asking about today’s softball game and Johnny simply just doesn’t like his hair this morning. The most crucial morning of the school year and yet curiously they seem no different than every other morning. How can they not see how vital this test is to their success?
Often we get caught up in the stress and pressure to succeed as a teacher, and forget the single most important detail. We are working with children! These test-takers are not professionals. They are not even adults! Heck, they are not even cognitively fully developed. Johnny’s hair looks the exact same as yesterday, but don’t you dare tell him that. Today’s softball game won’t be played, as it is pouring down rain, but Sally doesn’t realize that fact. Jimmy will break three more pencils before the day is done and Bobby just had the only snack he will be provided all day. Each of these stressors are miniscule, trivial problems that must be treated as such. This day will not be perfect. Someone will bubble in on the wrong answer document. Hannah will finish in five minutes and promptly stare at the wall. Yet, life will go on.
The make or break moment isn’t really a “moment” at all. The success of this day, is rather determined by the moments throughout the school year. The moment that Sally understood a difficult math concept because you related the problem to softball. The moment Johnny forgot his hair, despite the mess it was becoming, because he was too busy running around reading clues to a scavenger hunt you spent hours creating. The moment you thought no one noticed anything you did, only to be pleasantly surprised by a small thank you note from Bobby. These moments and countless others throughout the school year are the secrets to a successful year, NOT the next fifty minutes.
You’ve had these moments, the kids are equipped with the tools of success thanks to you. Don’t allow the stress of fifty minutes overcome you. Sit back and enjoy your coffee. Enjoy fifty minutes of no school emails and know that you have done your best. You have earned that second doughnut waiting in the lounge. Bask in the glory of your moments! Just make sure, however you celebrate, you don’t let the students turn the page before being told to do so.
......for more from Norman, an 8th grade social studies teacher, visit his blog!