“Actively monitoring” is the teacher’s version of hell. I completely understand how solitary confinement with nothing to occupy yourself is a torturous punishment. If you have not had this unique experience of administering a standardized test, I challenge you to do this: Shut yourself in a room where the walls have been covered with plain white paper. Wait patiently for 5 hours. No phone, no computer, no books, no magazines, no crossword puzzles, no activity with your hands (knitting, crotchet, drawing, coloring, etc). You cannot make any noise- no drumming, humming, or singing. You may move as quietly and slowly as possible around the room, stand, or sit but you may not fall asleep.
Needless to say, administering a standardized test can be excruciatingly boring. This week kicked off this year’s STAAR tests (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness). I administered a 5 hour English test to freshmen. At the end of the day we were all exhausted! I often tell students, “If you think you’re bored taking a 5 hour test, imagine how I feel sitting and watching you take a 5 hour test!”
Planning and prepping to snack your way through the STAAR is the key to making it through mentally intact. The one thing you can do while actively monitoring is eat. This is not the time for diets. Think of STAAR testing as one of your “calories don’t count” holidays. It’s been months since Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas- it’s about time for a holiday binge excuse. I’ve come up with a fun food lineup to pass the time, since that is one of your few options to pass the time.
Hour 1: Start with a large drink of your choice (coffee, tea, or soda) that you can sip on to help you wake up and prepare for the day. Mentally start planning your weekend, summer vacation, dream vacation, etc.
Hour 2: This is a great time to get a hall monitor to give you a break to download the enormous drink you’ve been sipping on
for the past hour. At this point, break out some hard mints or gum. This has a triple function- knock out the coffee breath, the peppermint will help wake you up, and sucking/chewing on something will occupy your time. Mentally contemplate your life.
What are your big plans? What is your purpose?
Hour 3: This is the hump, so break out the chocolate. Take as tiny bites as you possibly can, savoring it and taking
up as much time as possible. Mentally go blank. Study every minute detail in the room and on the students’ shoes. Listen to the sound of silence and breathing.
Hour 4: At this point the blood flow to your brain is starting to stagnate and you need a complimentary food for the sweets. Lunchtime is near, but still far enough to seem like a really long wait. A salty snack after the chocolate will hit the spot. This is where you have to plan ahead though. You can’t break out a crinkly bag of chips in
the middle of a quiet, testing classroom. Pack a plastic sealed bag ahead of time with a portion of salty popcorn, pretzels, or crackers. Chew slowly. This takes up time and also helps minimize the crunching. Snag a hall monitor and take a nice long break. Walk around the building at least two times. Go outside if possible and breathe some fresh air. You can save the bag of chips for your stroll around the building if you want and crunch to your hearts content. A good way to wake up and get your heart rate up is do a few toe raises in the back of the room. Lean against the wall and do an isometric chair sit for a minute. Do a few leg lifts on each side while you are standing. Your blood will be flowing again after a few minutes of simple, unobtrusive exercises.
Hour 5: This is it. The students should begin finishing, and you
can occupy your time collecting their materials and picking up random bits of trash the have accumulated around their desks. Last snack: something gummy or a sucker. You’re trying really hard to be patient, so instead of drumming on the desk or drilling your eyes into the backs of those last few testers, grab a gummy snack of your choice and carefully chew as you wait.
If you are a principal or counselor, or a fellow teacher with concern for your peers, the following splurges for those in the testing trenches will make testing day a day to enjoy rather than dread:
*Coffee, tea, cokes available in the break room to kick off
Goody bags containing:
- mints and/or gum
- cracker snacks
- sucker and/or gummy bears
- bottle of water
The next round of testing is in a few weeks, which gives you time to gather your goodies. We’ll make it through this!