Testing Season Survival Tips for Teachers
High-stakes assessment testing takes its toll on teachers and students alike. We asked members of DreamBox Nation to weigh in on how they mentally prepare themselves (and their students) for the pressures they face this time of year, and what they do to de-stress. As usual, DreamBox teachers rallied with their responses—a number of which included equal parts candy and caffeine. Overall, the majority of responses focused on staying positive and finding a healthy balance. Here are the top five ways your colleagues said they manage to keep calm and carry on:
- Get physical: Yoga, swimming, biking, and running before or after school were favorite activities for DreamBox Nation members, but not everybody has time for that. You can also get physical during school hours too. Whether you sneak in a quick stretch here and there in your classroom or take ten minutes to walk a loop around the school, the consensus among respondents is the more you move the better you feel.
- Stay positive: A test is just a snapshot of that child in that moment. It doesn’t define that student and it doesn’t define you. One DreamBox Nation member put it this way, “I just take deep breaths and know I did everything I could to help my students succeed.”
- Leave school at school: Taking work home with you is one thing but taking stress home is quite another. Leave test stress at school. Use your valuable time away to decompress (see Tip #4).
- Do something you love: You know what they say about all work and no play. Spend some quality time doing what you love: hanging with family and friends, reading a book, binge watching Netflix, or whatever makes you happy. You deserve it and you need Plus, happiness is contagious. Feel free to spread it around your classroom.
- Read “Testing Miss Malarkey” to your class: It’s all about an elementary school preparing for the state standardized test. It’s a fun read and certain to put you and your students at ease—and put those pesky assessments in perspective.
Of course, district administrators can help ease the pressure too. Here are five innovative ways schools across the country are helping teachers cope with test stress:
- Mindfulness Training: Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad.” Several teachers told us their district offers mindfulness training and others said they used mindfulness apps. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and how it can help you to de-stress, Greater Good Magazine published by the University of California, Berkeley is a great resource. Start here.
- Tap-in Tap-out Programs: Fall-Hamilton Elementary in Nashville Tennessee recently implemented a Tap-in, Tap-out program that allows teachers to text a colleague to cover their class for a minute while they take a break and refocus. Check it out.
- Employee Assistance Programs: Counselors aren’t just for students. You may be eligible to receive confidential, short-term counseling through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP can help you with personal and/or work-related problems that may impact your job performance, health, mental, and emotional well-being. Check your benefits plan to see what programs your district may offer.
- Teacher Time: Many schools are creating opportunities for teachers to connect outside of the classroom to engage in wellness activities, trivia nights, and more. Whether during lunch time or after school, establishing a place and time for teachers to come together and blow off steam can be the ideal stress buster. If your school isn’t already doing something like this, consider floating the idea with your colleagues.
- Integrate mental health education into staff development: Increasing mental health awareness and education to teachers is vital for both identifying and assisting students who are struggling, but also extremely valuable for teachers to be able to help their colleagues who are struggling. Here are some ideas for how to help teachers who are dealing with stress from the American Psychological Association Education Directorate.