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Leadership and Activism

Creation of the Anxious Child

I never saw a multiple choice test until I decided to become a teacher in America.  Having gone through the Danish school system, of course, there were tests but they happened at the end of the year and were written and oral exams, not just fill in the bubble and the machine will take care of the rest.  The first time I took a multiple choice test was for placement exams for my education degree, at first I thought it was fun, after all, all you had to do was fill in a bubble?  I didn’t have to explain or even comprehend, I could just guess?  Breeze through and forget about it all afterwards.  Throughout college I studied, after all, I am an overachiever and yet whenever I came across the multiple choice test my spirit instantly died.  I was glad that it didn’t affect my  teacher, only myself and my grade, because I would doubt myself so much on some of the answers, meant to be tricky, that often I wouldn’t even know what to put down even though I knew the material.

We forget to think about how it must feel for kids to be solely responsible for teacher’s pay and jobs.  How must it feel for students that if they do poorly on a test it will directly affect the teacher that they love?  Kids are not stupid, they are aware of what is happening around us, how politicians and “reformers” are asking their test scores be part of something bigger.  For this text-anxious child that knowledge would have been the nail in the coffin.  People say that with this knowledge students will do even better because they will want to protect their teacher, to show off what they know.  No child goes into a test trying to deliberately fail, at least not most, and yet placing that pressure of someone else’s livelihood and dream is just too much for children to bear.

What are we doing to the children of America?  What pressure are we placing them under?  How can we force them through more rigorous assessment to get them ready for the future when that could mean that their teachers no longer get to teach.  We worry that America is too anxious, too many kids are being diagnosed with anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and other pill-needing maladies.  And then we wonder what happened?  Why are all these children feeling so pressured?  Why can they not cope with “kid stuff” – well look at our schools and what we do to them.   Education is no longer for the kids, it is for the politicians.

Cross posted on my blog

About Pernille Ripp

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” can be purchased now. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.


3 thoughts on “Creation of the Anxious Child

  1. Stress is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Why are we starting the stress process so young?

    Posted by johntspencer | August 1, 2011, 10:16 am
  2. Our schools need to be more rigorous instead of less. My highly intelligent child (qualifies for the highest level of gifted and talented programming offered in WI) who is going into 5th grade has no idea how his performance affects his teacher and I would be extremely upset with any teacher who would infer to my son that his performance (or lack thereof) was going to affect the teacher’s job. He has been very lucky to have some out of this world wonderful teachers.

    School is not what stresses most children, it’s everything outside of it. Let’s see, back to back to back sports seasons. 8 year olds expected to practice or play 3-4-5 nights a week. Loads of lessons with no down time. No rest for their brains from constant short attention grabbers, such as TV, video games, texting, IMing. Don’t forget divorce, moving in with Mommy or Daddy’s new significant other or having to leave their house due to job loss.

    For most kids – taking tests are not the major stress in their lives.

    Posted by bb | August 5, 2011, 10:10 am
  3. Pernille, I think the tests impact adults in schools tremendously, too, and that the transference of adults’ frustrations and needs for control eventually impact students in the classroom – especially those students who don’t comply to teachers’ norms.

    BB, it’s great to hear of your son’s success in our school system. I do think many students succeed in doing the work that bring them the approval of the system, and that those who get the most approval get the most freedom to enjoy different kinds of learning. I know I enjoyed a lot of privileges in school for complying with adults’ expectations and performing well on assessments. Given all I’ve seen, read, and experienced, however, I would not dismiss school as a stressor. The way a school approaches the disregulation in a kid’s life and his or her resultant behavior can make school a sanctuary or a punishment.

    Regardless, much of the “rigor” of testing comes from enduring months of test prep and hours of reading tests masquerading as content tests. That’s not always the same thing as the rigor of learning or engaging in deep intellectual and/or skills-based learning pursued through all kinds of teaching and learning, including play, discovery, and inquiry. I would bet that we call want schools that provide more of those kinds of learning for all kids.

    The very best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 8, 2011, 3:10 pm

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