Last week I took my state test for principal certification. I felt my coursework over the past several years and my experience as an instructional coach prepared me. I had spent several weeks before the test reviewing the study guide and answering sample essay prompts. I reviewed old assignments and textbooks from my coursework. I reflected on my experience in the classroom and on what qualities I want to bring to that position. I felt okay going into the test Saturday morning.
It was hard not to think about it the night before, I tossed and turned, thinking about questions and possible essay prompts. I got up early so I could enjoy a cup of coffee and not be rushed. I headed out to the test site about 6:15am. The hour drive gave me time to think and find my “Zen” place. Then I pulled into the high school parking lot that hosted the test, people were panicked trying to find a parking spot. After driving through two lots, I finally found a parking spot.
Okay, not a big deal. So I collected myself, listened to a song or two and headed to registration. Apparently over 1,200 educators were there to take different certification tests: Math, Biology, English, Principal, Superintendent, Early Childhood, and Reading Endorsement just to mention a few. So here we were at 7:10am waiting in a line outside the school gymnasium that stretched past the football field and past the dumpsters to the edge of the parking lot. Honestly, this line gave me enough time to start to doubt what I was doing. Who did I think I was taking a principal certification test? Why on earth was I there?
We were finally escorted into the gymnasium after waiting 35-40 minutes. I was thinking, okay at least they’ll tell us where to go and we can go to our test room. No, next we had to sit in the bleachers and wait until 8:05am when we would be dismissed to our rooms. Hmmm, test anxiety creeping in and the fear of failure was washing over me. I was second guessing years of experience and coursework, wondering if I was ready.
Now, we were in our assigned rooms and I saw a few colleagues I knew from classes and work. I felt a little less anxious, but sitting in that desk with the chair attached to it at the front of the class took me back to high school. I felt like I was back in Orchard Park, New York sitting in the gymnasium in June ’87 taking my regents biology test that would determine whether I passed the course or not. I swallowed hard, fighting back tears, fears of failure, still wondering what I was doing there.
We could only use number 2 pencils, no mechanical pencils. As I sat waiting for the proctor to read the script, I began to think how archaic this testing process was. We are in an age where technology is an integral part of who we are. Yet, today – the test that determines my future as a principal is 100 multiple-choice questions and 4 essays completed paper and pencil. This test means everything and it means nothing.
Just like the standardized tests we give our kids every year. What do they really assess? And how do we reduce test anxiety for our kids. I am an adult who felt the anxiety to do well, how do are kids really feel when they are taking the test that determines their future and now the future of their teacher…