Happy St. Paddy’s Day! I discovered my Leprechaun name is Helpful McChuckles and while that’s funny, we are moving into a season where I don’t always feel as “helpful” as a coach. Yep, it’s testing season.
Over the years here are some ways I’ve focused my time and energy during testing:
* Read Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler or Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss with help from Lane Smith and Jack Prelutsky
Taking time to read and laugh together as colleagues during a staff meeting or reading to kids before the BIG DAY are great ways to invite conversation and troubleshoot what might come up.
* Organize I-was-in-your-shoes opportunities for teachers beforehand
Just last week, my colleague Sean and I offered a class on expository writing for our fourth-grade teachers. We set them up in a testing scenario so they heard the same administration directions and were given the same conditions as their students will be given in a month. It was an experience in empathy. Several teachers noted in reflection the sorts of things that put them at ease. Some admitted the mock testing was fun while others felt pressured and knew they’d have students who felt that way too about the real thing. Sean took pictures of the teachers hard at work on their writing tests to share with their students.
* Work on non-classroom projects
I tend to save projects like revising assessments, rewriting curriculum supplements and organizing the district website materials for late April. These projects are time-suckers that pull me out of the classroom, but when I can’t be working with teachers and students, it’s nice to check these off my list.
* Focus on primary grades
In our state, spring testing begins with third grade so it’s a great time to work with K-2 teachers. With our writing work this year, we planned to coach in primary classrooms the last quarter when testing impacts grades 3-6 for a bit. Because their schedules tend to change more than normal to accommodate the intermediate students’ testing needs, I’m prepared to be flexible.
* Offer kindness and calm
My colleagues all want their students to do well so they tend to feel a bit “nervy” at this time. I find that phone calls, emails or dropping off a bag of mints is a welcome “hang in there” reminder.
How does testing season temporarily change your work as a coach?