There’s really no getting around it – teaching is a stressful job, but testing season takes that stress to a whole new level. The added stress can bring out the worst in everyone and create conditions that aren’t conducive to positive outcomes for students. Here is some practical advice for beating stress and surviving testing season this school year.
1. Know that these tests don’t define you or your students
You and your students have worked hard this year! You know how far they’ve come academically, socially, and emotionally. You’ve prepared amazing lessons and suffered a few flops along the way, but you and your students have learned so much. You’re all Super Stars and no single snapshot of a standardized test will truly reflect what they’ve learned this year!
2. Control what you can
You have very little control over things during testing season. Testing guidelines pretty much rule the day. But you can control how you respond to things. You’ll be so much better off if you have a positive attitude and do your best to “roll with” the changes and restrictions affecting your class routines and environment. All the changes and stress are temporary, and it’s in your best interest – and most importantly – your students’ best interest if you are positive and adapt.
3. Lighten up
Do whatever you can to lighten your workload at school and at home. Now isn’t the time to add new tasks or to change your routine. If ever there was a time to say NO to new projects, it’s now. You’ve put off that diet and exercise plan this long, so it won’t hurt to wait a little longer. No is the hardest word for teachers to say. I know this from experience, so maybe you can say, “Not now” or “Let’s look at that after testing is over.” Share the load with colleagues. Teamwork makes the burden lighter for everyone.
4. Create a positive environment
You’ll likely have to rearrange your classroom and change things up to accommodate testing. Adjustments like these can make students uneasy, so do this a week or two before testing starts. Making changes weeks in advance will help your students feel more at ease. Include the students and make it fun. If you have students taking the test in other rooms because of accommodations, be sure they have a chance to visit the rooms. Even if they tested there during practice tests, it’s nice to let them “revisit.”
5. Chase away doubt
As testing time looms, it’s easy for your mind to start wondering and let doubt creeps in. I can hear the questions now, “Did I do enough?” “Are they really ready?” “What if there are things I didn’t cover?” Kick those questions to the curb and know that you prepared your students well. You know what they are capable of in the classroom. The outcome of a single standardized test could never measure your students true ability and knowledge, and is not a reflection of your ability to teach and inspire a love of learning for your students.
6. Take care of yourself
Let’s face it, it’s the end of the year and you are beyond T-I-R-E-D. It’s important that you take the time to rest, eat right, and find ways to destress. It’s not easy to make the time to do these things, but it is essential for your wellbeing. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your students. They don’t need the extra stress a grumpy, tired teacher can bring. Remember to stock up on coffee, chocolate, or whatever you need to get you through the crazy days ahead.
7. Plan a CELEBRATION
It’s always nice to have something to look forward to! Plan a fun celebration for the class after testing is complete. After days of being cooped up, maybe a picnic and some fun with treats and games. Let the students help you decide how to celebrate. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Ask parents to help with planning, food, etc.
You’ve been preparing all year for this and you and your students are ready to take on this challenge. You set the tone and your students will rise to the occasion if you are positive and prepared. You’ve got this, I believe in you!
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.