Monday, March 30, 2015

Stress Penguin #SOLC15 - 3/30

Today was a testing day for us:English I.  Talk about mind-numbing.  At least I was in one of the rooms with spoken-testing accommodations so I wasn't just staring at kids silently for five hours.  As I watched the students filling out their little bubble sheets, concentration furrowing their little brows, deep thinking causing them to bite their lower lips, I waxed a little poetic. (I've always wanted to use that phrase!)  I was constructing these fantastically descriptive and lovely essays on the goings-on of the room.  After lunch, my brain decided it was no longer interested in anything, especially writing, and I kind of lost the desire to write any of them, much less take the time to edit and share.  So I will share my two favorites.  Forgive any weird grammar or spelling, it's been a long day.

Stress Penguin

Some people have worry stones; others keep stress balls or bean bags near them, or on their desks.  One carries a stress penguin.  Stress Penguin sits, stoic and straight, on the corner of his desk, the ever watchful guardian of the tester.  From time to time, his human looks up from his test to consult with Stress Penguin, as if staring him desperately in the eyes, the answer will be whispered to him by the tiny bird.  Stress Penguin sits in silence.  Without warning, he is snatched from his post, the air crushed out of his body once, twice... five quick pulses, like a drill in dexterity, or maybe just a nervous twitch.  The sentinel is returned to his place on the corner of the desk, refilling his body to its normal proportions.  He watches the progress, wishing he could help more.  If only he could tip, maybe fall with his beak "coincidentally" on a key phrase.  If he could soothe his human's nerves with calming words, rather than suffering the periodic brutality of having his body crushed time, and time again.  Stress Penguin can do no more than be a watchful sentry, a comfort and support, a silent encouragement, waiting for the next moment he is needed to alleviate some tension on test day.


I remember looking forward to testing days.  In elementary, a testing day meant several things: a break from your normal routine, a chance to prove yourself, a snack break.  You pause during the test, set aside your booklet, and the class mom greets you with the gift of juice and crackers. There is something so satisfying about apple juice and peanut butter crackers.  You take your allotted snack and set it on the paper towel or kleenex, taking care  not to let the oils on your fingers or spilled juice get on your test booklet.  You chat with your neighbor. After the desks have been cleared, the test continues.  

"I will be writing about how to write an essay."  The TAAS test (the texas something something standardized test at the time) was simple.  Especially the writing. You get five lines for an intro, 13 for each of three paragraphs, and 5 lines to close it up.   "I have now written about how to write an essay."  We've changed since then.  The prompts are a little more advanced, the criteria have changed.  But it still makes me miss some of the oddest parts of my education.  I can still remember looking at Mrs. Walden's "keys" to the TAAS (shaped like keys) on her wall.  I remember the guinea pig being removed from the room so he couldn't let out one of his famously timed "EEP EEP EEEEEP eeeeEEEEEEEP!"s. 

I miss testing, but the rules are different now.  No snacks, definitely no peanut butter (nut allergies every where), no simple formulas, no quick readings with straightforward questions.  even the seals are different.  No more slicing open a hand or tearing half the page trying to slide your pencil between the thick paper stickers that were supposed to be "easy open".  

I miss the days we got a long recess at the end of the day because testing small kids all day is a bit rough on them.  We need this back.  We need the outdoors, and recess, and time to let loose all of the pent up energy that these poor little tester's are trying to harness into strategic question-answering skills. 


  1. I love the idea of a testing penguin. We'd probably get in trouble because the only thing you can have on your desk is the test. I hate the tests. :-(

    1. Peg, what state? Ours are pretty horrible. This is the first year I've proctored a SPED/Accommodation test. Maybe the rules are different?

  2. Yes! I loved testing days in elementary too. We had so few of them and it was a change in routine. How things have changed now!