Achieving Balance During Testing


A special post for teachers

Today thousands of students in New York City finished up their state ELA exams and are preparing for next week’s math tests. Some terrific teachers in upstate New York wrote encouraging messages on the sidewalks outside their school to inspire their students.

It’s a really sweet gesture. I want to point out a probably unintended contradiction: the first photo says “Relax,” and the second says, “Be the best you can be.” Can you be both? It’s a lot of pressure to be the absolute best as you can be—how easy is it to relax when being your best?

To me, it seems that it’s more about striking a balance, in this case between relaxing and working hard.

relax-work hard

We looked at this balance in an earlier post. In these weeks of testing, this is the focus to take with students, particularly those with ASD. It’s not a time to cram in more test prep. instead, we can prepare students to be mentally ready for testing week.

For students who think concretely, like those on the autism spectrum, overall statements like “do your best” could be sources of stress, and reassuring comments like “relax” maybe be taken to an unintended extreme.

One the one hand, teachers want students to relax and approach the tests with a cool head… but not to relax so much that they don’t give good effort.

And we want them to recognize it’s important to work hard at something that matters… but not so hard that it makes them anxious and nervous.

To help students strike the balance, introduce the scale rather than giving blanket statements to all kids. Think about where each student tends to fall on the scale:

  • For the students who take it too easy, encourage them to focus and put some effort into their work
  • For kids who work too hard and stress themselves out, work on calming strategies to help them relax

Congratulations to the students and their hard-working/relaxing teachers (especially those at @LaureltonPardee)! And best of luck to everyone again next week next week!

For an explanation of the Balance Challenge framework, see Balance Breakdown, always accessible on the top navigation bar.

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