Monday, May 10, 2010

Standardized Test Anxiety

My ten year old has to take the NJ ASK this week.

This year, when she started fourth grade, we learned that she has pretty serious test anxiety.  In third grade, her teacher would tell me that she was not focused when she was taking tests.  At the beginning of fourth grade, she came home after taking a reading test and told me that she heard rushing in her head and her heart was beating really hard and she started sweating and her palms got clammy and she felt like she couldn't breathe and then she couldn't read and she felt dizzy and then she was just really tired.  It was the first time, I think, that she could put all of that into words.

Her Language Arts teacher was wonderful.  She spoke with her and told her that she can re-take any test and then the teacher would average the grades together.  After two or three tests, she no longer needed to re-take tests and she was on the honor roll!

Her math teacher was not quite as accommodating, but after conferences, when the Language Arts teacher explained what she had noticed, the Math teacher changed her mind.

Now, of course, the NJ ASK is a whole different ball of wax.

We did everything in our power to make the weekend peaceful and stress-free and fun.  We had my grandmother over on Saturday and Jason grilled burgers and my grandmother brought her infamous cole slaw and I made homemade french fries, which everyone loves.  The girls made a peanut butter pie with my supervision.  Our ten year old had her last art lesson that day and her teacher pulled me aside to tell me that she has some real talent and that she would like to see her take more classes, which we made a big thing over.  She had made my grandmother a beautiful watercolor painting of fish, which my grandmother treasured.  On Sunday, we went to church and spent the day gardening together.  The girls gave me a beautiful bracelet and some nice things from Bath + Bodyworks and Jason told me he had ordered me the Macbook Pro that we have been looking at and reading reviews on and deliberating over for months.   I always allow the girls to pick the dinner menu for testing week, but since it was Mother's Day and I do love my seared ahi tuna, Jason and I enjoyed Ina Garten's seared ahi tuna Salad with avocados and I picked up Sonic with the girls, so we all got what we wanted :D

We played Cadoodle on Sunday night and snuggled in bed for family reading time.

As I had feared, however, when I went to put my 10 year old to bed, she was concerned about the testing.  She was concerned about doing poorly and needing extra help, she was concerned about other kids making fun of her if that happened, she was concerned about how hard the test would be.  I sat with her and we talked and I tried to console her.  Finally, finally, she fell asleep.

But Monday morning, she was horrible.  She had an anxiety attack unlike any I have ever seen- crying and screaming, angry and then upset with herself for being angry.  It was horrible.

I have always been opposed to putting kids on psychopharmaceuticals, but I was starting to re-think that.  I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my little girl!

It is so hard to stay strong sometimes, but I knew that if I cracked, it would be worse.  So, I stayed strong for her.  We all prayed together.  And I lost it as soon as she was out of the car and I was around the corner.  I called my husband in hysterics.

I emailed her teacher, who assured me that my daughter should have no trouble at all with this test and that she seemed a little nervous, but she didn't rush.

I have to say that I adore her Language Arts teacher, who is her homeroom teacher and the one that she took the test with.  Her LA teacher has not made a big deal out of the test at all.  She told all the kids that they can do this and they had to do it and that was it.  Some of the other teachers talk about it incessantly and push the kids and threaten them if they don't do well, which for a child with test anxiety, just compounds the problem.

I have a feeling it is going to be a looooooooooooong week.