It’s NAPLAN time. And I hate tests. I get all weird in my stomach, twitchy in my legs and sweaty under the arms. And then my brain goes all dumb and blank and I can’t think straight. Nerves, I guess.
Our teachers tell us NAPLAN is nothing to worry about (even though it’s the biggest most formal test I’ve ever done!). In, fact they make a big deal out of telling us – over and over again – that it’s not a big deal. Kind of crazy, right? They even got us to go outside and write messages of good luck to each other on the kickball court yesterday, in preparation. Soooo, if it’s not a big deal, why do we need ‘luck’?!
I understand, I guess, why you have to do tests. At some point the teachers need to know if you are actually learning anything at school. And I suppose our parents want to know too. They need to know that what they are teaching us, that what they are asking us to remember, is actually sinking in. And I guess a test is one way to do that. What I don’t get though, is why we have to be tested and measured against all the other kids in grade 3 across Australia! How does that help me to know that I’m dumber (or smarter) than 37.5% of the grade 3 kids in the whole of Australia? It just seems like a pointless idea to me.
Even in the playground it gets all weird at this time of year. I’ve witnessed it every year, and now it’s my turn. Kids are nervous, but pretending not to be. They’re suddenly away sick, they’re freaking out in the bathrooms, or they beg their parents to go on a mini-break somewhere. Some kids study for the tests, even though we’re told you can’t actually do that. And some kids, only a very few, genuinely don’t care about the NAPLAN tests but then they take it upon themselves to tease the rest of us who do care and are freaking out.
The NAPLAN tests are only done at grade 3 and grade 5 thank goodness. I really don’t think I could go through this every year. What I am thankful for though, is that I am slowly learning how to deal with the nerves of these stressful situations. In fact, I surprised myself when we did a practise test last week; I actually felt better than I have in the past. Instead of wasting half the testing time feeling sick and blank, I probably only took 2 or 3 minutes to recover from the initial desire to vomit! My head then became clearer after I took some deep breaths and told myself there was nothing to worry about. My mum has been teaching me some stuff she’s been learning at yoga class, about visualisation and deep breathing…and even though I thought it was all a bit weird, it really did help to picture myself answering the questions and finishing the test on time. It also really helped to be realistic about what the results would be and how much they mattered. The truth was, in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter much at all if I came in the top half or the bottom half of the country! It wasn’t a complete picture of how smart I am, just a measurement of how together I was on the day. And let’s face it, I’m only 9 – this is not about whether I’m going to be a winner or loser for the rest of my life!
Doing my best on the day is the really important lesson that this whole process has taught me.
It turns out tests and stress are a real issue for me and my friends though. I never knew it before now…I guess it’s not something you discuss much with your mates. And most of us haven’t been in many stressful situations before. But more of them seem to be popping up nowadays. Whether it’s a try-out for the footy team, or being picked for the ‘cool kids’ cabin’ at camp… it’s pretty normal to feel nervous about it. Someone once told me that nerves are simply a sign you care. I guess that’s true. I just wish they didn’t make me want to vomit my breakfast!
(Expectations, p.26, Faith in your Ability, p.27, Individual, p.43 – A for Attitude)