20 Apr 2016

How to Handle Testing Anxiety

This is the time of year when we need to talk about test anxiety for our students.  Standardized testing in all venues, public, private and homeschooling will be stressful regardless so let’s go over a few ideas that can make the process a little less so.

Setting up a couple of "testing traditions" that make it a little more fun can take the stress out of it for all of you. Obviously, getting a good night’s rest really can help with focus. I realize that getting your learner to bed early doesn’t necessarily mean they will sleep but something like watching a fun movie together or reading a favorite book can be something you can look forward to.  Bedtime rituals feel safe and adding a little something special on testing nights to whatever you are already doing, can take away some of the anxiety.

As I work with my students testing this spring, I can tell which ones have had something healthy for breakfast.  I try to have crackers and trail mix in my office just in case someone is struggling but that isn’t always an option for classrooms.   On the mornings of MCA testing for our now teenagers, I still get up and make a "real breakfast".  Usually pancakes or French toast (something I don’t ever do on a regular school day) and all the extras.  It means we are all up earlier and I can remind them I love them.  We did this even as a homeschooling family, making "Peabody Testing Day" something to celebrate.

Never forget that how you approach testing, in your own mind, will make a massive difference.  We tend to project our own anxiety about performance and our kids pick up on that.  You all know that telling your kids that the test doesn’t matter isn’t really true.  Students who don’t pass the MCA’s often have to take it over.  Private schools track progress and though they may have the ability to accommodate more than their public school counterparts, they have to use these types of standardized tests to gauge progress.   homeschooling learners , if they don’t do well, have parents who will need to review curriculum choices or pull in additional resources to address the deficits.  Our kids are smart.  They know.  But remind them again and again if need be that you love them, that we will get through this.

We have an after-test ritual as well. Special snacks, a chance to talk about it and lots of fun and laughs can help them debrief.  That gives me another opportunity to remind them how special and completely loved they are.  Getting our dyslexic students through school is a difficult, often emotional process; but we know, with certainty, that once they get through their formal education, they can truly soar.