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Parents and teachers can help ease students' anxiety

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Around the Tri-State area for the next three to four weeks, students will be taking end-of-the-year formal assessments. Stress may run high as administrators, teachers and students feel the pressure that comes along with standardized testing. "Test week" is now an inevitable part of school climate. Yet, when administrators, teachers, parents and students all come together, it does not have to be such a negative event.

"The key is to keep everyone relaxed," said T.J. Howard, principal of South Point Middle School.

Howard said he keeps his staff and students relaxed by "being organized and prepared well in advance." He adds that there is so much stress and pressure that can be associated with testing. Therefore, by positively communicating with his teachers and students in advance, "everyone is at ease when test time arrives."

Additionally, Howard tries to offer some sort of positive reward immediately after testing. "This year we will have a student versus faculty game for the students to look forward to," he said.

Teresa Saunders, guidance counselor at South Point High School, said the administration reminds both staff and students that they have been well prepared for the testing.

"We, the staff, encourage our kids to keep a positive attitude, use their time wisely and focus only on doing your best," Howard said.

This focus on "doing your best" also resonates in Green Local School District in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. Sandy Mers, Superintendent of Green Local Schools, said her district's theme is "Believe."

"We believe in our staff, students, parents and community," she said, adding that because the district positively works together throughout the school year focusing on this theme and striving together to perform their best throughout the school year, "testing week is another week to show our best results."

Parents, all administrators agree, are another key to keeping test week positive. Saunders said the South Point High staff encourages students to get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast. Parents can help kids with this. In addition to rest and breakfast, parents can also help their students, according to Brianne Moore, school counselor at St. Joseph Catholic School, by ensuring their students bring to school several "sharpened pencils with erasers and a snack each day of testing." Furthermore, Moore encourages parents to talk positively to their children before testing.

But once the testing begins, it's ultimately up to the students to stay focused and give their best effort.

Moore endorses the idea that students "listen and read directions carefully, take deep breaths to relax, and then just try your best."

Rebecca Mazzone, an eighth-grade teacher at South Point Middle School, adds that prior to the week of testing, "my primary goal is to instill confidence in my students." One way Mazzone attempts to do this is by telling her students that she has "the utmost confidence in them -- they can and will succeed."

Mazzone said she hopes that this will lessen the students' anxiety during testing, thus increasing the level at which they will perform. "It is most important to me that my students be able to perform to the best of their personal abilities."

Tiffany Bland, a first-grade teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School, said she tries to make every school experience positive throughout the school year.

"Testing week is just one more positive week for my students because now they get to show someone besides their parents and me, how much their brain has grown in first grade."

Bland makes sure her students get extra recesses after testing, eat special snacks as well as earn stickers for "trying their best each day of testing."

Additionally, students practice filling in bubble sheets prior to the test in order to help them feel comfortable and confident with this aspect of testing.

"My students have already learned the material and they love coloring the bubbles," said Bland, who added that all of her efforts are aimed at keeping test week light and fun.

Bland's principal, Carol Templeton, agrees with Bland's "fun" approach.

"Our students have worked hard all year to master their grade-level material," Templeton said. "We just ask our students to simply apply all the knowledge and skills they have learned throughout the year and try to relax in order to remain focused. Most of all, I want my students to have confidence in their ability to be successful."