Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mastering Test Anxiety

It's springtime, which brings many welcome happenings. School exams, however, can be one dark spot on the season.

In a former life as a special education teacher, it was my opinion that my students were no less talented than their "mainstream" peers. I'd argue that they did not have "learning differences" so much as "anxiety differences." These differences could be explained by home-lives that would make anyone sensitive to anxiety's messages. And with the added pressure of standardized tests, I'd watch them just fall to pieces.

Here are some ideas to help your test-taker (or yourself) block out anxiety before or during the test:

1. Give reminders that this test doesn't define who you are. Your friends will still be your friends. People who love you will still love you. The test has no bearing on your past or future accomplishments.

2. Remember that you will know the answers to some questions, but not to others. This is ok. Do your best. Take your best guess. Some of your guesses will be right in the end.

3. When you feel anxiety making it hard for you to think, resort to one of your anti-anxiety tools in your toolbox. Before the test date, make a list of all the ways you can calm yourself. Drinking water, taking deep breaths, stretching, repeating a mantra (e.g. "I have good test-taking skills" or "I am best when I test" or come up with your own), or touch can be soothing. I like to massage the muscle between my thumb and forefinger to help clear my head. Rubbing temples or doing shoulder shrugs can also encourage the body to relax when the mind gets tense.

Test-taking needn't be an anxiety-producing activity. But if anxiety should choose to pester the mind while taking a test, equipping your toolbox with these test-taking tools should allow the mind to perform at its best.

Friday, April 10, 2009

MOTHERS Act Passes in the House of Representatives

Now on to the Senate! A very kind woman named Susan Stone is compiling a list of people who support the passing of this legislation to support postpartum parents. If you'd like to lend your name in support, please email her at with your name, state, and credentials (if appropriate).

Gotta love democracy in action!