Surviving spring testing

This is my favorite time of year, and I long to be outside: gardening, picnicking, and even scabbing a few knees while playing with my running buddy.

For now, though, I feel like I am holding my breath until the standardized testing is complete in the public high school where I teach. We began testing this morning and ended at 2 p.m; students will resume tomorrow. And the stress that comes with the tests seems to sap energy during the work week for other spring-related activities.

I knew that I would be a bit drained no matter what (active proctoring=never sitting down among other reasons). So, to combat that feeling:

-I aimed to have a relaxing weekend at home with my family (it didn’t hurt that the weather was fabulous–83 degrees at one point here in Colorado); we played at the park, stopped by a local bakery to go on a picnic, had a game night, did some spring cleaning, played with sidewalk chalk, went on a run, got Linnea her first, very own library card (big stuff!), and napped on Sunday afternoon with a book by my side.

-I also tried to create a peaceful classroom the day before the test (yesterday/Monday) and to do that intentionally, I tried something new…

I read this post, and was inspired by the work of my teaching friend, Mary. Meditative techniques are strategies I have dabbled with in the classroom the last few years. I never considered, however, to make it a consistent practice with the guidance of an app while I, too, participated.

Most streaming websites were down in order to get ready for the online test, but I did find one recording that encouraged students for five minutes to be aware of their breath and scattered thoughts. Some students laughed at awkward silences while others earnestly kept their eyes closed and legs crossed. I must admit, I too, felt the awkwardness at times (mostly with my ninth graders). But, there I sat, at the front of the room, eyes mostly closed, taking deep breaths and allowing the silence to get comfortable in the room.

I asked students how it went: Some athletes made connections to practices when their coaches had them envision success. Some asked to do it again. And some said it made them sleepy. Regardless, it seemed to at least have an effect on all, and I intend to continue this practice in some fashion in my classroom… to combat the frenzy, distraction, and stress.

As I prepare to end a school day that was filled with testing and no teaching, I think of an article I read over my lunch break. The writer and educator, Nancie Atwell–whom I admire a great deal–makes a case for more reading in schools. Her words ring true as I consider the many kiddos who chose to sleep over picking up a book.

I hope that my students will not allow all the assigned reading on these tests get in the way of reading for themselves.

Because tonight, in order to restore my own energy, I will sit on the back step with my daughter, two cups of tea, and a pile of books.


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