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[Teacher Tips] Preparing YOURSELF for Testing Season

[Teacher Tips] Preparing YOURSELF for Testing Season

Testing season is stressful for teachers, but you already knew that. Not only are you trying to make sure your students are familiar with testing procedures, you’re also wracking your brain to make sure you haven’t forgotten to cover any critical content, trying to keep students’ stress levels in-check so they can perform their best, and ensure parents are kept in the loop. With as much as you have going on, it can be easy to forget about one little thing: yourself.

Yes, believe it or not, your human nature is not suspended just because it’s time for assessments. And you know that deep down you won’t be on top of your game unless you’re taking care of yourself. As the expression goes, you can’t pour from an empty glass. So, educators, here are a few healthy reminders to help you stay sane through another testing season.

1. Prepare your class and classroom early

Being the ever-prepared, on-top-of-it educator that you are, you probably already have a pretty good idea of what assessment day will look like at your school. Maybe you have to cover up or remove all your decorations from the walls, bring students to a designated testing space, or swap classes with another teacher to proctor their students. One way or another, it’s more than likely that testing day will break from your regular daily routine, which could really throw off your students. After all, how would you feel if you’d had the same instructor in a classroom you knew every inch of teaching you everything you needed to know for a test, only to be put in an unfamiliar room with a different teacher on the day of that exam? It’s easy to see how this could be a little jarring.

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Avoid throwing everyone off the morning of test day by easing yourself and your class into things. If you already know you need to change around your seating arrangement for testing, do so as soon as you can. Same goes for if you need to take down any decorations or cover any bulletin boards; start “undecorating” or covering up walls in your classroom at least a week before testing so your students have time to wonder why there is butcher paper all over the walls. If you know your students will need to be proctored by another teacher during testing, or that you will need to proctor another teacher’s class, arrange time in the week prior to testing where you can swap classes for a little while, so your students have time to adjust to someone new, and can feel comfortable testing with that teacher in the room. Taking all these steps in advance will not only help your students to feel more relaxed on assessment day, but also remove any last-minute stresses over preparing your room the night before.

2. Don’t neglect self-care

It’s not just a millennial trend—it’s a real thing and it’s important. Self-care is any activity done to deliberately tend to our mental, physical, and emotional health. The key to self-care is that is must be something you actively plan, not something that just happens (so no, dragging yourself into the shower every other day is not really considered self-care). In the weeks leading up to assessments, when you really start to feel stressed out, schedule in little breaks for bubbles baths, a workout, a fancy craft beer or delicious latte, FaceTiming your best friend, a date night, or quiet time for a favorite hobby. Even doing something as simple as planning a healthy meal or blocking off some time to try a little yoga can help you feel more in tune with yourself.

No matter how hectic things might get during testing season, there is no reason why you should not be able to take an hour to do a little something you enjoy every day. Making this a priority helps to center yourself so you can be on top of your game for your students. After all, as you probably know by now, your students feed off your energy in the classroom. When you’re taking care of yourself and coming in each morning energized, you’re giving them a fair chance to do this same.

3. Keep yourself and your classroom clean and healthy

Unfortunately, flu season aligns all-too-well with testing season. You’re probably already doing everything humanly possible to keep your classroom a germ-free zone, but it never hurts to keep disinfectant wipes and an extra bottle of hand sanitizer around, and have another (or several) “don’t spread germs” talks with your students. Not only do you not want kids out sick, you also don’t want to wake up the day of exams with a fever and a sore throat. Now more than ever, if you feel your annual sinus infection coming on, take your meds, call you doctor, and hydrate fully.

Just to be safe, you should also probably revisit your sub-folder or back-up plan in case something unexpected comes up, so you can feel comfortable knowing you’ve left things in good hands.

4. Make sure you’re over prepared

There are certain unavoidable things in life; the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, everyone must pay taxes, and someone will not have a pencil with a functioning eraser on assessment day. At least a week before testing, stock up on extra scratch paper, pencils with good erasers, a few boxes of granola bars, and some mini bottled waters. If you normally keep a supply of back-up testing necessities in the classroom, make sure it is well stocked. You don’t want to find yourself making a late-night run to grab an extra box of pencils only to find out every other teacher in your neighborhood had the exact same idea! The more you can do in advance to prepare yourself for assessments, the less stressed you’ll feel when testing day comes.

5. Don’t wait until the last minute for last minute reminders

Keeping parents and students in the loop about testing schedules and procedures makes a big difference. But, just like cramming for a test the night before doesn’t work, reminding your students and their caregivers of test times, what-to-bring-lists, and question strategies the night before an exam won’t give them enough time to really digest the information. Instead, send home any pre-testing literature several weeks (or more!) early, and provide occasional reminders after that. Then, consistently reserve a few minutes during morning class announcements or before the end of the day to review testing info with students. Consistently exposing your students to this information can really help them feel more confident and focused by the time test day comes around. And, lucky for you, Edmentum has already prepared two super handy test-taking checklists for elementary and secondary grades, so all you have to do it print them out and distribute!

It might also be helpful to engage with your class about how they are feeling and what their stress levels are like around assessment time. Some students, especially younger ones, might feel nervous or anxious taking a larger exam for the first time. Other students might not see what all the fuss is about. If you have students in your class who are majorly stressing out, there are a few things you can do to help them cope with test anxiety. Remind you students that you are proud of them for all the hard work they’ve done over the school year, and give yourself a pat on the back for all you’ve accomplished, too. 

It takes a special kind of person to look after a child, let alone multiple, all the same age and in the same room, every weekday for 180 days out of the year. This testing season, don’t forget to put yourself first every now and again. You deserve it—and testing will go better for you and your students as a result! Need a little self-care inspiration? Channel the wise characters of Parks & Recreation, and check out these 8 Ways for Educators to Treat Yo’Self!