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Laura Agosto

Secondary English Methods

Meg Goldner Rabinowitz
Stress and Validation: A Reflection on Assessments as Teacher and a Student
Both as a student and as a teacher, assessments have brought me the same feelings of
anxiety, excitement, and affirmation. On any one test these feelings could be felt sequentially, in
isolation, or all at once. Before and after any test the intensity of these feelings can range from
mild to extreme. I had imagined that as a teacher such feelings would subside. I could not have
been more wrong. Now, all of these emotions are projected upon the struggle or success of my
students (those within my class as well as those on my caseload). Although my role with regards
to assessments has changed, my reactions and feelings have not.
As a student, assessments were always a challenge that I was excited and nervous to take
on. Sometimes I entered the test room feeling confident, but more often than not my stomach
was in knots before sitting down to take an assessment. During high school the assessments that
brought me the most anxiety were math tests. My honors Pre-Calculus class always made me
anxiety ridden. I remember sitting down to take those tests, which our teacher admittedly created
with the expectation that a high grade was a 70%, and feeling defeated before I even began.
Every assessment in that class caused me to have a negative attitude towards my math ability and
towards any tests that initially seemed daunting.
Despite the negative attitude I developed towards tests in high school, which grew into
anxiety towards tests in college, I have had many positive experiences with assessments. One
instance that gave me a great sense of validation and confidence occurred in my Ancient Greek
graduate class my senior year of college. I was the only undergraduate in the class and
anticipated that my first test would not be as strong as I would like it to be. Before the professor
passed back our tests, she gave a little talk about how she was very dissatisfied with the classs
overall performance. As she spoke and handed back the tests I felt my chest tighten and my
stomach turn. If all the graduate students, who have been studying this language longer than I
have, did not succeed how could I? I waited to open the test booklet until I was outside of the
classroom so that I was free to cry if need be. When I opened the test booklet I was overcome
with a strong sense of pride. I had gotten an A. That test gave me to confidence to feel like I
belonged in the graduate class.
Now, as a teacher, assessments still bring stress and validation. Whenever my kids have
an assessment, either the kids I teach or the kids on my caseload, I feel anxious and excited for
them. I hate watching them feel defeated, I love watching them succeed, and I try to always be
there in the moments of struggle. The baseline assessment in my composition class at the
beginning of this year was a very negative experience. I knew that the test I was being forced to
give them would not only be frustrating to them, but would also be inaccessible because of their
reading levels. I watched as they quickly became agitated and gave up. Once again my kids,
whose reading levels range from kindergarten to fifth grade, were feeling inadequate and
discouraged. I could see it on their faces. In contrast, I have loved watching them find confidence
in themselves and their knowledge on our vocabulary quizzes. They attack those quizzes with
determination and enthusiasm since they know that their efforts will pay off. I walk away feeling
proud of them and knowing that they have absorbed at least something that I have taught them.

Assessments, whether I am the student or the teacher, hold an uncomfortable amount of

control over my emotions. They continue to be a source of pressure that can erupt as either
positive or negative emotions. Even though I am now the one administering the assessments,
little has changed in my attitude towards them.