Life is like a Box of…

Pralinen

Tests.

Thought I was gonna say ‘chocolate’, huh? Well, that too. But in the world of academia, life is very much dependent on testing.

We Make Our Students Take a lot of Tests

On average, US students take 113 tests from PreK-12th Grade. Add undergrad, grad school, and professional development to that number and I can’t even begin to tell you what it would be. Maybe 312? 559?

All I know, as a person who struggles with testing, is that whatever the number might calculate out to be, is one too many for me.

Test Anxiety & The Fear of the ‘What If’

Sometimes, I’m plagued with moments of self-doubt as little naysayer voices whisper in my student loan debit-ridden ear, “How did you get this far with your anxiety over tests?” In fact, that little voice reared its ugly head again just this past week, as took my final test for my credentialing.

Ahhhh, will the anxiousness ever just go away?!

What to Do about It

When my students face the same fear, I ask them to talk about it, make a contingency plan, define what they know, set realistic study goals, and change their mindset from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I will’:

1. Talk About the Fear & The Reality of the Fear : I ask my students to tell me about the ‘what if’ scenarios: What if I get an F on this test? What if I have to retake the class? What if I fail 4th grade? We then go through each thought and discuss the reality of that possibility.

2. Make a Contingency Plan: The likelihood of the fear coming true is usually slim but just in case, we make a contingency plan: If I fail this test, I will have ask for a retake. If I fail this class, I will have to take a course in the summer.  Okay. So we can see that if the fear comes true, although it will delay our timeline, it’s not the end of world. There is another path.

3. Define What You Know: After there’s less emotion attached to each fear and a realistic contingency plan in place, I ask my students to tell me what they know about the test. See, often our fears stem from the unknown. If I can get my students (and myself!) to articulate the known factors about the test, then that gives us a clear starting point to begin working on confidence and trust in their own abilities.

4. Set Realistic Study Goals: Studying for 12 hours a day/7 days a week is not realistic. I’ve come to realize, through my own experience, that it’s really not about studying more that gets the passing score. Your brain is a muscle and it gets tired and needs to rest too. So, let’s help the muscle by giving ourselves timely brain breaks. This means mapping out a realistic time management study schedule that allows the student to do fun things, family things, and friend things as well as study.

5. Change Your Mindset: This is too hard! I can’t do this! I’ll never get it! I try to help my students realize that every time we feed these negative messages to ourselves, we are training our brain to believe it. That’s something I recently learned when I had my very first hypnotherapy session for my own test anxiety. The more we tell ourselves we’re not good enough, the more we begin to believe that it’s true. So if we continue to tell ourselves ‘we’ll never pass this test’, then we may experience a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we change the message, we can change our mindset. You are already good enough. Period.

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Terry Tutors Specialized Education Services, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit providing wraparound academic, behavior and advocacy support services for struggling students in southern California. Learn More at TerryTutors.com

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Tapping: Help Kids Reduce Anxiety & Increase Focus Naturally

tappingEFT: Emotional Freedom Technique is all about reducing anxiety, separating the negative from positive emotions, and increasing focus and memory. It’s like acupuncture without the needles, and it’s intended to help all of us work through our stress naturally.

Kids and adults alike can use this easy technique as a way to learn why we’re experiencing negative emotions and prevent them from putting a damper on the day. For our little ones, it’s especially useful because it teaches them early on how to (1) identify triggers due to anger, anxiety, and aversion, and (2) self-regulate.

For children struggling in school, much of their daily stressors come from sources unrelated to the actual material. We all know that there are a ton of smart kids out there who fail classes because of outside factors, such as lack of peer support, isolation or low-self-esteem, and test anxiety over the prospect of failing or not remembering the material. These are typical underlying triggers that cause additional stress making it even more difficult to focus in school. To reduce the negative emotions that cause these mental blocks (and teach your kids to the same) check out these videos and resources:

Great Info & Resources:

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, which combines Academic Support, Behavior Support, and Education Advocacy to bridge the gap between home and school in order to serve the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Test Anxiety: What I Learned From My Students

kid-taking-a-test2It doesn’t matter how smart you are—test anxiety can get the best of anyone. However, you can outsmart test anxiety with a simple plan of attack: Confidence!

I know it sounds trite but confidence is the key to overcoming so many different kinds of obstacles, including scary test anxiety. This fact was never more evident than when I recently proctored an exam for a few students: some were visibly stressed out, second-guessing their answers, and physically exhausted while others took the test willingly and were even excited to show the graders what they knew.

A common misconception about test anxiety is that the student is anxious because they don’t know the information presented. Although there may be some questions the student won’t know, the underpinnings of test anxiety mostly come from the fact that the student is extremely intuitive and understands the pressure riding on the exam. Test anxiety is less about concerns over content mastery and more about the underlying pressure to be perfect.

In general, I’ve found that students who remain calm, clear, and understand the fact that nothing in life is perfect, including a test, do better overall on an exam. Why? Well, they simply don’t psych themselves out. On the other hand, students who realize the repercussions, no matter how big or small, of failing an exam (or simply just not doing as well as they want) are less likely to do the best because their emotional response to the unknown clouds their ability to focus and power-through.

When I saw some of these students excited, almost chomping at the bit, to the take the exam, I watched as their ability to use logic, deductive reasoning, and comprehend what skill the question was attempting to test helped them keep their rationale and their cool. I took a mental note for myself. At some point in my own academic career, I realized that each test would affect my grade and that my grades would, in turn, affect my ability to go to the next level of education. When I got to college and then law school, it was not only my GPA that was of concern but now my promissory notes. Subsequently, more pressure ensued and more anxiety reared its ugly head. So as I sat next to these students who flew through a difficult exam with ease, I had an ‘ah ha’ moment myself: I realized I needed to find my confidence once again. It was a little reminder of a bigger lesson: learning is a two-way street–students learn from their teachers and teachers can always learn from their students.

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com