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The Test That Must Not Be Named

We all recognize the signs by now. Our chest begins to tighten, our back pain reappears, that piercing headache returns. It’s testing season once again. And the pressure is unlike any other. The first thing on the mind of a teacher who teaches a tested subject after the winter holidays is… where do I start, and how can I make the next few months as serious and impactful as possible without panicking my students (or myself) in the process?

As a fourth grade reading and writing teacher, I have always tried to avoid using the “T” word in my class as much as possible, but sometimes, there’s no way around it, and I have to say it… TEST. In my case, as a Texas teacher, the “dirty word” is the STAAR test. Just the mere mention of “The Test” brings fear to the hearts of teachers, students, parents, and administrators alike. I always have dreaded trying to relay the importance of this period in the school year to my students. I want them to be focused on their learning, not the pressure of the upcoming test. But sadly, there have been times when I had to use the dreaded “test” word in order to prepare them. That was until one of my students helped me discover a way around it.

As any teacher knows, sometimes, our students have the best ideas, and a few years ago, I had a clever student in my class who made my dilemma a little easier. After many attempts at trying to get my point across without saying STAAR Test, one of my students looked at me and said, “Why don’t we just call it The Test That Shall Not Be Named like in Harry Potter?” It took a moment for that idea to register, but fairly quickly, I remembered that the name of Harry Potter’s archenemy, Voldemort, could not be spoken because he was so terrifying, so instead, he was referred to as He Who Must Not Be Named. I thought this was a brilliant suggestion, so I decided to try it.

It wasn’t long before my students caught on and actually began to enjoy me mentioning The Test That Shall Not Be Named. Instead of being uptight and nervous, they were now giggling and smiling. This helped relieve the tension, and they were able to concentrate on learning instead of stressing about the test. Of course, there is always that wise-cracking student who snickers and says, “Don’t you mean STAAR Test?” But even that helped the class relax because now they all gasp and remind him/her that we can’t call the test by name. Give it a try! I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine do, and you’re able to prepare them for The Test That Shall Not Be Named this year in a much more lighthearted atmosphere than ever before!

Do you have any other ideas you use to help relieve your students' stress about "The Test?" We'd love to hear them! Please share in the comments below.


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