Do you know how your mentee is feeling about the upcoming STAAR tests? A mentor is a friend and a guide. A mentor may not be the person to teach a mentee the skills for the test, but you can help a child identify and improve an attitude.
A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions to help you begin or extend the conversation and encouraging statements to move your mentee’s thinking in a positive direction.
Sometimes a mentor asks how to introduce this topic.
- The best way to bring up testing is to remind your mentee that you will miss a week of visiting.
- Talk about it while doing an activity so that the mentee will be less guarded.
- Give an example in your current life (or past) about a test, performance, or performance review.
- Use the “back door” by asking how a friend or sibling is feeling about the tests.
Your mentee’s words or body language may indicate a mindset toward testing that you would like to influence. A mentor’s best tools are open-ended questions and encouraging statements.
How to respond to some attitudes you may see in your Mentee:
Here are seven typical attitudes a student might express about testing. For each possible
attitude, we’ve provided one or two examples of open-ended questions to help extend the
conversation, and sample encouraging statements that can help move your mentee to a
Confident – “I’m doing pretty well on the practice tests, so I think I’ll pass.”
- What does your teacher suggest you do when you get stuck on the practice test?
- You’ve been doing well on your practice tests by listening to your teacher. That’s great!
Note: Sometimes a confident student may rush to finish first. Encourage your mentee to follow the teacher’s advice about re-checking your work. If your mentee sometimes has trouble with time management, you may want to point out that a good performance must mean the student remained focused and didn’t daydream.
Overconfident – “I’ll do great because I read so well. (Never mind that I make C’s in math.)”
- What are some important things you’ll want to remember when you take the (weak subject area) test?
- You became a great reader by working hard at it. I know you can do that with all your subjects.
Note: Research shows that students tend to overestimate their abilities when they think generally about the test. Their perspective is more accurate when they try sample problems.
Anxious – “Tests upset me. I get really worried or feel sick.”
- What ideas have your teachers or other people shared with you on how to get your “butterflies” under control?
- I’m proud that you are interested in doing well. Let’s figure out how to avoid feeling worried.
Note: Test anxiety is when a student worries excessively about doing well on a test. It can potentially cause extreme nervousness and memory lapses, among other symptoms. Your mentee’s teachers are giving students guidance on healthy preparation, but here are some tips you can reinforce:
- Maintain a positive attitude (“I can do this!”) while preparing for the test and during the test.
- Stay relaxed. Take a few deep breaths if you become nervous.
- Read the directions slowly and carefully.
- Focus on the question at hand.
- Concentrate on your own test and don’t worry about others who finish quickly.
- Get organized at home so that you are on time at school on the test day.
Clueless – “I don’t know what I think. I’ve never taken a big test before.”
- What has your teacher said about it?
- You’ve been doing practice tests in class, so it will more than likely be what you have been practicing.
Disinterested/Indifferent – “Whatever…”
- What do you mean, exactly, by “whatever”?
- Let’s talk about some tests that everyone has to do some time in life. [Mentors can share personal experiences here.]
Note: Older students may be engaged by asking if they are interested in ever having a driver’s license. That requires a test. Mentors might also share how they have personally handled non-academic tests or performances, e.g. in sports, music, etc.
Opposed – “Tests are boring. I don’t really like them.”
- What do you mean by “boring”? What is your physical experience of boring? (Boring can be a catch-all term to describe any of a number of other feelings.)
- I find some things boring, but I do them…because … (choose: I have to or because it’s satisfying or because I want the good outcome).
Defeated – “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to fail anyway.”
- What? You’re a winner. What exactly is making you think that you don’t have a chance?
- I love it when I see how determined you are when we play a game together. Sometimes you beat me!
- Think of all the hard things you’ve overcome in your life. You can make a genuine effort at this, too
Interested in gauging your own adult test anxiety? Try this checklist we found on austinisd.org.
~By Falba Turner and Joyce Baker