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Students and teachers are on my mind

It’s high stakes testing week for students and educators in Haywood County. This is my 9-year old’s first year taking an End-of-Grade test and he is very nervous about it. When I was teaching, I remember this time of year looming ahead like an ugly, stressful punctuation mark to a well-constructed, creative sentence. 

Testing season is very intense for those inside a school building. It seems like each year children and teens are tested more and more. Teachers worry about scores all year and students fret about their performance. And as the actual testing dates draw near, the anxiety increases. 

It’s hard to see such young children worry so much about their ability to test well. Sitting still in a hard chair for four hours reading consecutive long passages and answering complicated questions is not fun for them. They’re built to run, wiggle and jump. They love variety and quick transitions. 

That’s what annoys me most about standardized testing. In no way does the test setting mimic the innovative classroom environment teachers work to create during the school year itself. But that’s been an argument with critics for decades and nothing has changed. 

Now that I’m a parent to a child who has to take EOG tests, I have an entirely new take on things. The kids can feel how serious these tests are. I’ve tried to be easygoing at home and not put additional stress on my child. I just keep reminding him to do his best, take his time and use the strategies he’s practiced in class. 

This has been a year of transition for my two boys. Their father and I separated last year and I moved into my own house. They had to get adjusted to living in different places and having two homes. My heart pumps with pride anytime I think about their resiliency and understanding during all of this. 

Part of what made this year less traumatic were their teachers. Not one time did either of my children say they didn’t want to go to school and every afternoon, they chattered about activities that happened throughout the day, conversations that were had or experiences they enjoyed. 

Living in a small town can be brutal during marital strife, but it can also be comforting, offering a village of people to wrap their arms around my children. I know both of my boys’ teachers personally, so it feels like family has been taking care of them every day of this school year. And even if I hadn’t known them beforehand, they are both excellent teachers and would have alleviated any stress I had. 

My youngest is in kindergarten and my older in third grade. These are both pivotal years during a child’s elementary school experience. Despite what’s going on with the adults in their lives, I wanted their year to be happy and successful. And I truly feel like it has been. I credit so much of that to their teachers. 

It’s scary how quickly time flies. It seems like yesterday that my boys were babies and I was swaddling their little bodies and wiping their tiny tears. And now, one is almost a first grader and the other will be a middle schooler in two years. 

It also seems like yesterday that I was teaching seventh-grade language arts at Waynesville Middle School reading test directions to my students and making sure everyone had a sharpened number two pencil. 

As a mom, a former teacher and a member of this amazing community, educators and students are on my mind this week. Very soon all this testing will be over and summer break will be in the palm of your hands. Just breathe. You’ve got this! 

(Susanna Barbee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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