Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Say Yes to the Stress!

State testing season is right around the corner, and stress is saturating every school in your state. In some states schools stress over being named as a failure if they fail to make growth or perform, while other states go as far as to name the teachers individually who are failing to "perform". The stress is mounting every day as we prepare ourselves to be judged on the performance of each student on one given day on one test.

I have to admit I get a little bit stressed myself with the thought of failure. I don't want my name or my school's name listed as a low performing school. My credibility and reputation are on the line just like your reputation is on the line. It is a natural feeling that we all have. 

Can't We Just Say NO???

Now we could say "NO" to all of the stress that we are under, or we could say no more of this ridiculous insanity.  We have every right to say no to the insanity, but here's the thing. Today is not that day.  This week will not be the week to say we can't handle any more stress. There's only 1 way that you can stop the stress. We can quit serving kids. 

That's it. Unless you quit your job, the stress will be here each and every day. That's where accountability is these days. So if the pressure of the test is going to always be present, we need to accept it and move forward. 

Why We Must Say Yes!

Here's the deal. Accepting the stress isn't enough.  We have to start saying "YES" to the stress, and there's only one reason why we are morally compelled to accept the stress. 

The kids are counting on us.

Seriously, you cannot be possibly under more pressure than a nine-year-old kid that has to perform well on reading, math, writing, science and social studies over the next 2 years.  How would you like to know if going to the next grade was dependent on your ability to bubble in answers on a test? I never had to deal with that as a kid. To put it in perspective, your reputation as an educator is nowhere near as big a deal as the trajectory of a kid's entire life based on one day and one test. 

See what I mean?

The test will come, and the test will go.  Some will pass, and some will fail. Schools will be labeled as winners and losers. It has been that way for 20 years, and not much is going to change in the next couple of years. 

But here is one thing that you can change, your reaction. The way that you react (or should we say overreact) to the stress will make a huge difference in how kids respond to your instruction. The way you respond to their work ethic, lack of motivation, or their performance on a test makes a massive impact on the life of a child. 

We must remember to channel our stress in a positive way that strengthens relationships with kids, builds their self-esteem, and empowers them to act on their unique abilities and potential. By saying "YES" to the stress, we are confidently brushing aside the negative effects of state testing and accepting responsibility to do whatever it takes to make every child successful. Now don't you think that is stress worth saying yes to?


  1. This is such an interesting post--very zen, I might add. I often think this--I think I can't change what the world throws at me, but I can change the way I react to it. And I do. If I didn't make a student feel great about him/herself every day, I haven't done my job.

    I was deeply moved by what you said in regards to the nine-year old with the weight of the world on his or her shoulders. This is the same for me at the high school level. I certainly lift this kid up--I high-five him, make her some hot chocolate, tell him he's awesome.

    But, there comes a point in my professional life--not in front of kids, where I stand up and say it's wrong to make a nine-year old kid feel the weight of the world on his shoulders over a test. Especially in this day and age where we can assess differently, and where the high-stakes test questions are not predictors of success.

    So, we have to ask ourselves, "What are the predictors of success?" I find that they're passion, work ethic, curiosity, and relationships with mentors and teachers. Sure, the skills are important, too, but sometimes marketable talents and geniuses are overlooked, swept aside for the Testable Skills. Then nine-year olds feel stupid, overpressured and begin to hate school just when they should be falling in love with a lifetime of learning possibilities.

    I totally agree that coping with stress is a life skill, though. As someone who's done a few different things in life, teaching stress is no better or worse than life stress, and helping students through any stress is a teachable moment. I just hate it when we're the system piling it on, though. We seek to provide positive experiences--testing should be one, too.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. The stress is high for all involved, but we have to remember one thing. The test is not the end all be all. Learning is. We have to make that our focus and allow the test scores to be a by-product of our collective efforts to guarantee learning. Thanks for thoughts. Very much appreciated.