It’s TESTING TIME for Teachers and Students

If you are a teacher, you are probably already feeling the pressure of testing time, and it isn’t even April! I have started getting messages from teachers who are too busy to think about what they might want to do next year career-wise. They are in simple survival mode.

And I get it.

During my last 20 years of serving as a library media specialist at the elementary school level, I served two schools. The first school struggled for the first year or two after testing mania took hold in Virginia, but once we figured out what we needed to do and we actually had a curriculum to follow, we got accredited and it was fairly smooth sailing each year. Teachers were concerned, of course, and the spring drill began there just like it does most other places, but nobody was losing sleep worrying about whether the school would meet accreditation standards.

That changed when I changed schools in 2001. I moved from a fairly affluent suburban community to a Title I school with a majority minority population. The year I arrived was the year after the school had finally reached accreditation status after years of being on the state department’s list of “failing schools.”

The photo below sums up how most of my colleagues felt for half of the school year.Business man in office with burnout syndrome at desk

In fact, I recall the tension beginning to build as early as February…months before the tests were to be administered. The climate on our campus changed dramatically. You could feel the tension as though it were a palpable substance. Teachers worried…would they be able to get their kids through this year or would we go back to being blacklisted by the state?

I was there for eight years, and that anxiety from February through June never stopped. Each year, teachers and administrators brainstormed new ways of trying to drill the standards into the children so they would pass the standardized tests.

I wasn’t a classroom teacher, so during each spring testing season, I was called upon to proctor. It always made me sad. I watched the teachers fret and the children struggle. The students all knew on some level that the stakes were high. They tried very hard. And each year, from 2001 until I left in 2008, they managed to pass, but that never alleviated the concern that they might not.

This is the time when stress really ramps up for teachers. They begin to lose sleep, staying up late making lesson plans or grading papers, or brainstorming ways to get their kids to understand better what they need to know for the tests.

They begin to eat more because they are stressed out. They begin to forget about exercise. Who has time? They start to gain weight but are too busy to do anything about it.

They leave off getting together with friends for the same reason. They are just too busy and preoccupied to be very sociable.

I get it. I’ve lived it. But here is what I know for sure. Taking on the weight of the world during this season will maybe mean the difference of a point or two on a student’s test, but it could ultimately make you sick.

Stress gone unchecked can raise your blood pressure, cause early onset diabetes, bring on heart attacks, and gastrointestinal issues.

This is the time of year when you need to take better care of yourself. It is more important now than ever!

Download my FREE eBook, Stressed, Stretched, and Just Plain Overwhelmed:  a Guide to Managing Your Stress and Creating a Greater Sense of Work-Life Balance. 

I can’t guarantee that you will feel as stress-free as this woman:  


But I can guarantee that you will learn some strategies that may help you cope more effectively during these last few months of school.

I also invite you to attend a live, FREE workshop entitled, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers.” 

To register, click here.

During this 60-minute class, you will learn more about the seven specific strategies that I recommend for you in the book. These are strategies for you to practice not just during the spring testing season, but all year long. You need to take care of your health! If you wind up sick, what happens to how your students prep for their big tests that are coming up?

Don’t let the testing season bring you down! “Do your best and forget the rest” as Tony Horton says. You need to be present for your spouse and your own children, after all. Heck, your students will be negatively affected if you are stressed out and cranky because you feel overwhelmed with work responsibilities.

So what do you say? First download the free eBook here.  Report cover Final (1)

Then sign up for the workshop, “Stress Management Tools for Teachers” here or click the button below.

Big red sign up now button

Photos by Shutterstock.

Until next time.




Why Teachers Don’t Like Arne Duncan

Both of the national teachers’ unions, NEA and AFT, have declared their official, collective frustration and disapproval of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This article succinctly articulates the reasons for their frustration and outlines the false and misleading narrative that Mr.Duncan has been using ever since he stepped into the role of Secretary of Education. He routinely speaks of the “problem” of our public schools in terms of their “low expectations,” specifically as it pertains to the “fact” that we are “tolerating” poverty as an excuse for poor achievement. Poverty isn’t a reason for the disparity between the children who are achieving and those who are not, says Duncan and his cronies at the USDOE. It’s an excuse trumped up by teachers who are also not up to par, at least according to Mr. Duncan. If they were, the US would be at the top of the heap with regard to performance on international tests that compare one nation to another. There are many reasons why Mr. Duncan’s narrative doesn’t work. This summary points out the fallacies in the narrative. Please feel free to share.Fgrade

A Good Perspective on Common Core and Teachers

I ran across this article that popped up because I have a strong interest in issues related to teacher transition, and this was offered through Google Alerts. The post starts with this paragraph:

“Common Core has certainly changed the K-12 classroom scene in its short implementation and perhaps the group that has suffered the most during the transition period is teachers. In many cases, educators are being asked to accomplish the impossible: prepare students for new test standards without the right training or curriculum to get there.”

Teachers have been asked to “accomplish the impossible” ever since No Child Left Behind came out in 2001, and policy makers have simply doubled down with every new reform and “tweak” to the current system.

I won’t be able to do justice to the article, so I invite you to take a look for yourself. The title of the post is “Teachers–The Greatest Common Core Casualty?” Please feel free to read and share.



More Common Core Controversy

I have stated on many occasions that I don’t have an opinion yet about the pros and cons of Common Core. I am aware of the controversy, and I know that I respect the opinion of those who are most concerned about the validity of the standards and how they are being used–or misused–as the case may be.

I have been interested in following the buzz that was created recently by Louis C.K. It all started, I gather, with a tweet that Louis C.K sent out on April 28. The tweet was this: “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core.”

And that is just the beginning. Louis C.K. has also tweeted photos of actual questions, some of which seem to be nonsensical, and finally, he tweets this with regard to testing in general:  “It’s a massive stressball that hangs over the whole school. The kids teachers trying to adapt to these badly written notions.”

“Stressball” pretty much sums it up for the teachers and students that I know. I recall only too well the feeling of tension rising from mid-February through the end of the year because of the pressure created by a need to do well on the state-mandated and later the federally mandated tests that are presumed to be a measure of the learning that is taking place along with it being a test of the quality of teaching that takes place in each individual school. The problem is that the tests don’t do either. They don’t measure the quality of teaching OR learning. They only measure the effectiveness with which the teachers have taught the students to test well. Hours of preparation for the tests take away from real learning. Instead of learning for the sake of learning, students are taught both explicitly and implicitly that the only measure of them and their self-worth is what their SOL score reveals. It’s a travesty. It’s a tragedy. And it continues to go on with the silent compliance of teachers who know that the tests are not serving their students and is not a measure of their effectiveness as teachers. It also continues because of the silent compliance of administrators who know that the requirements that have been set for them are often meaningless if not ridiculous and the people “in charge” continue to set impossible goals, create impractical benchmarks, and the damage done to our children continues unabated.

I applaud Louis C. K. for saying something about the testing travesty. It’s about time someone spoke up, and given his stature and popularity, people are certainly paying attention. Those who think that testing is the only way to measure learning will probably scoff at Mr. Louis C.K.’s commentary, but I hope he will continue to make the point. If nothing else, it will make the teachers who are experiencing the feeling of being caught up in the “massive stressball” during the next few weeks feel like they aren’t the only ones who are concerned anymore. More parents need to speak up. Let’s not forget that we need to teach the whole child and that a child is not the sum of a single test score taken from a single day in the entire school year. That is a message that needs to be conveyed more clearly and more loudly to our policy makers. The drive to test everything and to spend so much time and money and energy on “the tests” takes away from teachers’ love of teaching and children’s love of learning. It’s time to stop and assess what we are doing to children.

Thank you Louis C.K. Keep up the good work.