Testing 1-2-3

So it’s Benchmark time at my children’s schools this week. And I’m not really sure what they’re benching (though at one time I could bench, like, twenty pounds or so. Back when I worked out. In 1993.) or what they’re marking, but apparently it’s pretty scary for all involved. For instance, yesterday my son was all freaked out because school was ten minutes away from starting and he still hadn’t picked out his chips of choice for mid-test snacking.

They get to eat Cheetos at ten in the morning. Those kids are so lucky.

But I get it. It’s times like when we’re out of Doritos or Milk Duds that I, too, can be rendered helpless. Sometimes even balled up on the living room floor too panicked to move. And the only thing that gets me up from that prone position is the sight of a discarded dollar under the sofa, which I can then belly crawl across the carpet and grab, and then use to solve my horrible, Dudless existence. And I had to re-type that sentence three times, because the memory of this very situation still hurts so much.

Anyway, Benchmark testing is a stressful time. Both for kids and for parents. So here are a few tips to make the week easier. And please try to overlook the fact that the week is nearly over and these tips are pretty much useless now. Because there’s still one more day, and if you print, laminate, and frame this post, you can always use it next year. But if you don’t mind, hang it above your fireplace. With a spotlight shining on it. And pass on a few copies to your kid’s teachers, because they’ll like ‘em.

For Parents:
1. Set out snacks before bedtime for easy access in the morning.
2. And speaking of bedtime, put children to bed as soon as they get home from school. Sleep is emphasized this week, so why not make sure they’re well-rested?
3. Before your own bedtime, place pizza in middle of child’s bed to curb Waking-Up-Early hunger. That way, while you’re sleeping peacefully, they can scarf down some anchovies. Cheese and sauce optional.
4. Choose two outfits for kids to wear to school, and rotate as needed. That way, hassle is kept to a minimum. And if anything is spilled or dirtied, just turn clothes inside out and you’re good to go.
5. And along those lines, keep a new bottle Febreeze handy for those “My kids haven’t bathed in days” emergencies. With all the emphasis on rest and nutrition, who has time?

For Kids:
1. Bring a book of Mad Libs for those “This test totally blows” moments. Try them on your teacher. In the middle of the Math section. She’ll appreciate it.
2. Instead of pre-sharpened, new pencils, bring stubby, dull pencils without an eraser in sight. And if no pencil is available, use pen. Again, the teacher will be singing your praises.
3. If you don’t know the answers, fill in circles in carefully crafted order to make a nice picture. For instance (and if I remember right) filling in D, D, A, C, B and C in side-by-side columns makes a nice silhouette of Michael Jackson, especially when you connect the dots and color.
4. To make things fun, use checkmarks instead of filling in circles. It’s a great lesson in individuality, no matter what anyone says.
5. Pack drippy, leftover pizza in backpack. Eat it while testing. And don’t bother with the napkins.
6. In case of thirst, keep Kool-Aid or Dr. Pepper right next to test, as close to paper as possible. And have Handy-Wipes ready in case of accidental spillage. Or not. It really doesn’t matter.

So you see? Testing-week stress can be minimized significantly with these handy tips. To summarize: eat often, sleep often, and bathe not at all. It’s really the only way I know to get through the week.


**This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily shared by teachers, principals, the school board, the Arkansas Education Association, or anyone associated with education in the entire country.**

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