The insidious nature of testing, and overcoming school brain induced anxiety

Maya took her standardized tests today.    The anxiety level when she got to questions about which she was unsure was almost palpable.    My anxiety over her frustration mounted, and my school brain started screaming horrible things at me related to our perceived un-preparedness,  which only made matters worse.  (I did not relate those things to Maya, but I’m sure she felt my anxiety as well.)   Deep breaths were called for on my part, and a stern reminder to my brain that testing has nothing to do with life or success.

The thing is, I’m sure she did quite well on all three sections of the test.   But the nature of testing is anxiety and fear.   Wrong answers are ‘bad’.  There are no good mistakes on tests.   As life learners we embrace mistakes as part of learning – often the most important part.    But in just a few minutes of working through test questions,  all of Maya’s considerable confidence in herself dissipated, and she was reduced to tears.

Enter Joshua, who is our best and most effective weapon in these situations.   Maya is so very like him in temperament that he knows exactly what to say to alleviate her fears.   In this case, all it took was a frank assessment of his school years versus his life ever since.   In school he hated Math and always felt stupid; didn’t see the point of it and didn’t understand the way the problems were presented.   He did not finish high school and to this day has no high school diploma or degrees of any sort.     And yet….

He asked Maya if she thinks he is good with numbers.  She does.   And he is.  He has built a successful business and understands profit margin, percentages and levels of business math that I struggle to comprehend.   Maya is just like him.  Put a bunch of dollar amounts in front of her and anything related to them and the results are automatic.  She doesn’t hesitate and as I’ve mentioned before can make change in her head on par with, or better than, most of the people working in retail.

We left the apartment this morning amid tears and despondence.   Then the kids went to their Art class, and Joshua picked them up so that I could go and see the movie “Jane Eyre”  (which was FANTASTIC, by the way).   When I got back home, Maya had completed the Math test and was ready for Language.   Her complete calm and return to confidence was no doubt a result of her conversation with Joshua and her subsequent realization that after the age of 16 or so, no one will ever again ask or care how she did on a standardized test.

It annoys me that I am even curious about the results.   They reveal nothing about Maya’s intellect or even her current level of knowledge in the covered subjects.   It is only ‘school brain’ that has a desire to know and compare results.

Maybe because the results only matter in school.

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