Get in the right mindset
Testing season can be stressful for you and your students. How can you set everyone up for success?
Even though you may feel pinched for time, starting off calm and grounded is a worthy investment. Just a few minutes can prepare you and your students for a positive and productive day.
Start off with deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or a 5-minute student yoga flow.
Check-in with yourself
Consider how you’re feeling. If testing is stressing you out, perhaps do the deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga with your students.
They can tell if you’re feeling anxious which could increase their stress. Plus, it’s great to model the benefits of those activities by participating alongside your lovely students.
This can also be a perfect opportunity for transparency and modeling. Be open and honest with your students about how you’re feeling.
For example, “I’m feeling anxious today about all the tests because I want to make sure I give you all the best supports, so you can show how smart you are. Because I’m feeling that way I’m going to join you in the 5-minute yoga flow.”
You’re an incredible model for your students on how to productively and positively feel their emotions and then make a proactive plan. You can use those honest moments as opportunities to give them even more self-care ideas for their toolkit.
Prepare for extra time
Many students with IEPs need extra processing time and /or extended testing time. If you are proactive and plan ahead to schedule extended time this can reduce stress (and scheduling headaches) for you and your students.
Perhaps arrange secure transport of assessments to resource hour teachers for extended time That way, students can receive their accommodations under the supervision of a Special Education teacher.
Make sure to communicate with other teachers about your plan to accommodate extended time as early as possible. That way, they can be included in the plan to ensure it works for them as well as your students.
This is especially important for newer teachers who may still be developing their assessments. Some teachers may not be ready for earlier extended testing. That’s totally okay.
But if you arrange it with as many teachers as you can, it will greatly relieve the burden for your students and testing rooms /centers.
You may even be able to help general education teachers by reminding them of extra time needs. Many teachers I worked with gave an extra day to testing since students may be absent on testing days. That extra day served to accommodate students who needed more time, create a built-in make-up day for those who were absent and nice, calming workday for those that may need to catch up on work. It was a win-win-win situation!
Being a supportive special education or thoughtful general education teacher can be contagious!
Set the right mood / tone
Consider playing calming/meditative music while students test. Or if it’s 1st period and you have some sleepy bears in your class, perhaps something upbeat (but still no lyrics/words) to get their blood and minds flowing.
It’s important to consider who is testing with you. Would meditative music be a good fit for them? Would it be distracting? If it would benefit your students (like it would for most), then play some lovely meditative music.
Consider reducing other assignments / classwork
If any students have reduced assignments as an accommodation, the end of the year testing craziness is the perfect time to cash in.
Even if students don’t (but require extra processing time), it is perfectly acceptable to speak to their teachers about what assignments would be best to focus on.
Sometimes students focus on filler or enrichment assignments instead of the big projects. If we can help them with prioritizing what’s essential and set aside the rest to the end if we have extra time, it can make a huge impact.
By excusing them from fluff assignments or reducing them, they have more time to study. Now, teachers can reap the rewards of students not pooping out when it finally comes time for the assessment.
Students aren’t necessarily energizer bunnies (even though it can sometimes seem that way lol). We want to be strategic about where they put forth their strongest brain powers.
Have assignments and activities planned for after
If you’ve planned ahead and had students begin on assessments early, it is reasonable to expect that some students will finish early as well. That’s totally okay.
Have some meaningful activities/assignments planned for them after they double-check their answers of course. Perhaps they could work on missing assignments for other classes?
Another good option is journaling. I rather enjoy having students take quizzes (online if you have tech available) that you’ve selected and previewed where they can learn about their personality, potential career paths, communication style, plans after graduating, etc.
Whatever you select that’s right for your room and students, make sure it will be mostly quiet and not distracting to your sweet cherubs who are still testing.
This is definitely a tall order this time of year. Try to be patient and compassionate for your students (and yourself).
The best way to achieve deep patience wells is to take extra good care of you. Plan some additional self-care activities for yourself during this time. Maybe book a massage or reserve your spot in your favorite yoga/workout class.
Schedule a happy hour with your favorite peeps. Take an extra-long, luxurious bath. Do whatever makes you feel refreshed and like your best self.
Leave work at work and go home as close to your contract hours as you can. Feel free to say no to things that won’t fill your cup or bring you joy. Say yes to only those things that make your heart happy.
Slow down and see how amazing your individual students are. They’re pretty awesome characters. Focus on those positive moments (maybe even jot them down).
Say thank you to those teachers who helped you make this testing season chill (whether by providing tests early, cutting down assignments, or always positively communicating with you, so you can put your best foot forward).
Appreciate yourself. You’re amazing. You do so much. Even more importantly: you are an incredible person with a huge heart. Soak up those positive feels.