Do not be afraid

We call it testing season in the education world. It’s that 6 weeks at the end of the school year where the typical Florida high school becomes not much more than a standardized testing location for the FSA, EOC, AP, and AICE (or IB) exams. Just like the predictability of the seasons, the students each year in early May begin to crumble under the pressure of all the exams on top of the end of the school year, final projects, exams, jobs, family, extracurriculars, and regular life responsibilities they balance. Like adults, some manage the stress better than others. But for those who reach a melting point, this time can be tremendously challenging. I worry about them.

I’ve been showing #advicetomyHSself each Tuesday or Wednesday, but not today. The students just were not in the right mindset to hear it. Sometimes when our minds are exhausted and our hearts are raw, we cannot listen any longer. We just need quiet. I gave them that today. Many of my students missed my class today because they were taking an AICE exam in another location, or they were with me for class but their minds were only able to focus on their afternoon AICE exam. Today we tested General Paper (writing), Chemistry, and History at our school. This is just the beginning of the season. We will exist like this until May 26. Teachers and students alike struggle to keep track of the times, dates, and locations of each of the exams. If we are not proctors, we may house displaced students whose regularly scheduled teacher is serving as a proctor, or we may be called on to provide restroom relief for the proctors down an entire hallway who have not been able to leave their classrooms for three hours. It is a team effort with thousands of moving pieces. Oh, the Excel spreadsheets!

During one class period today, over half the group departed to report to a testing location, leaving me and about 10 students in the room. I watched them rally around each other, one in tears struggling to manage her time and the pressure to do well on all of these exams, while the others said–I’ve been there, too. I understand. You are not alone. Do not be afraid.

The #advicetomyHSself scheduled for today features Logan Poland, a darling young woman I met at the age of 11 the summer before her 6th grade year. At the time I met Logan, I was spiraling up with the students and so I had the pleasure of teaching Logan in grades 6, 7, and 8. I got to know her mom, a fellow teacher and neighbor. She even babysat my children one time. Her advice is so timely. As I watched, I noticed how often she began with “don’t be afraid…” Wise advice from someone so young.

To my students: Listen to Logan when you’re ready. I think she will help you heal. She sat in your desk two years ago. She says that in those two years, she has transformed into a whole different version of herself. The new people and experiences she has had in college have given her greater perspective. Two years is not a long time, my dear students. I promise. Chin up, buttercup. You can make it through this season and bloom again. Discovering our inner strength is powerful. Push through. See YOU.

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