THE TEST is almost upon us! Recently I met with my principal to discuss what grade I’d like to teach next year. After many, many hours of soul-searching I had listed second grade as my first choice on my preference sheet, but there may not be an opening, so I then spent many, many hours agonizing over whether I’d rather move to first grade or stay in third. My principal asked me to be “completely honest” about my reservations in third grade.
“Well,” I said, “I’ve never done test prep before, and I’ve never had a class like this before, so getting this class through test prep has been…”
He finished the sentence for me. “Get me the hell out of third grade?”
Bingo! I have not enjoyed doing test prep – what teacher does, really? – but I also do not believe, as some teachers do, that a solid curriculum is enough to prepare eight-year-olds to take their first standardized test without any additional “test-taking” support. One of the highest readers in my class has committed a bubbling error on every single practice test we’ve taken. Another one of my highest readers has raised her hand during practice tests to ask to see a dictionary.
Then there’s Marco, an IEP student who’s reading below grade level (not dramatically, but still), whose main issue with THE TEST is just plain stress. During countless practice sessions, I’ve turned around to find Marco with tears streaming down his face, shaking his paper at me in frustration. Because Marco’s IEP grants him modified promotional criteria, there’s little danger that he’ll have to repeat third grade even if he does fail the test (which – fingers crossed! – probably won’t happen anyway). But Marco doesn’t know that, and he’s starting to crack under the pressure of day after day of reading test passages that are just a little too hard for him.
I’ve been working on some coping strategies with him, like: If a question is getting really hard, just turn your paper over for a few seconds and take some deep breaths before you go back and read it again. But the other day, I saw Marco’s fists starting to clench in anger. When I got there, before I could even say a word, Marco looked up at me, waved his paper in my direction and angrily blurted: “And I ain’t taking no deep breaths!”
Oh, THE TEST. May our pencil points stay unbroken, our bladders empty, and our minds calm!