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How to tackle test-taking anxiety
A little bit of anxiety can go a long way when it comes to an important event in life, including taking a test. This means that being a little nervous can increase mental acuity enough to get through a tricky situation. However, too much anxiety can be more debilitating than helpful. You want to have a clear head and sharpened focus, not be consumed by the jitters and nerves so you no longer function like a normal human being! How can a student keep anxiety at bay during a big exam for the highest performance possible? Here a few tips on how to tackle test-taking anxiety to get the desired results! Embrace the possibility of failure This does not mean dive headfirst into failure without even attempting to do well on the test! According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), one of the reasons test-taking anxiety exists is a student’s fear of failure. Unfortunately, this is a common epidemic. Students know what is at stake with each and every grade they receive; however, the goal here is not to be too result-oriented. Remember growth mindset? The focus should always be on the process--as in studying habits, what was learned, how to do better next time--rather than the results. Learning to live with mistakes and grow from them is one of life’s most important tests because “success” is not a tangible end game. Rather, it is a cycle of improvement through failure and resilience. It is time to come to peace with this! Prepare, prepare, and--wait for it--prepare Bouncing off that, focusing on the process rather than the result is the way to go, right? And what is part of the process? Preparation! ADAA lists lack of preparation as another huge reason test-taking anxiety exists. Study the right way for the test beforehand, and students will go in with much greater confidence than if they slacked off or crammed everything within a short amount of time. A test’s purpose is not only to see how much students know about the subject but also how much effort they put into improving themselves. Do they have a good method of learning? Have they figured out whether sticking Post-its all over their room helps more than highlighting every other line of text? Figure out the best way for your child to prepare for a test and then encourage her/him to do it. There’s nothing that can’t be tackled with enough preparation! Remember the Power of Now The renowned author of The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle, lives on this premise: “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” This is called mindfulness, and it will help you when you are feeling anxious because guess what anxiety is all about? Fear of the future--of a possible, usually negative, outcome. Your child may be picturing a horrible, red “F” scribbled across the top. Your child may be imagining your reaction to a low score. Your child may be envisioning a huge drop in class ranking. Dear student, those scenarios do not exist and may never exist. All that exists right now is the paper of questions before you. It is saying, “Hey! You! Focus on me right now.” That is the only real thing in your life at the moment. Whisper to yourself, “The power of now!” and get on with what you need to do right here, right now. Practice relaxation techniques A good way to practice mindfulness and relax is to incorporate meditation into your child’s daily life. There are different ways to practice meditation, such as listening to a soothing voice guide you or listening to nothing but the natural sounds around you. Doing the latter will pull your child into the “now,” which will assist with the prior point. This one will also help your child in the moment if her/his brain freezes up and s/he cannot remember something. Another good relaxation technique is to journal. If your child is feeling anxious before a test, have her/him write all concerns on paper and lock it with the binding power of ink. S/he can also talk to somebody supportive in the community or partake in a hobby that puts her/his mind at ease. It is different for everybody, but doing a familiar action can put her/him into a peaceful groove, even when the heart and mind want to race ahead. Be kind to yourself Calling all students! Do not be too hard on yourself, put high expectations on yourself, put yourself down for feeling anxiety, or call yourself names. You want your best friend with you when you are going through something important, right? You do not want a bully next to you, tearing you down the whole time, right? You have to be that best friend for yourself, rather than the bully. Be kind and loving to yourself--and above all, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for feeling bad about yourself, for not knowing a question, or if you do end up doing badly on a test. This ritual of forgiveness will get rid of future anxiety when facing a hard test because by then, you will love yourself too much to let a piece of paper or a grade tear you down! You will take on the challenge like the boss you know you are. Calling all parents! Remind your child of this every day. Say positive affirmations Going off that, students can say positive affirmations to hype themselves up for a test or calm themselves down, whichever they need in the moment. Your child should not deny anxiety by saying, “You are not anxious,” but soothe it away by saying affirmations like, “You are ready for this! You worked hard for this! You will get through this! You are strong!” (Remember, do not have your child say, “You are smart,” otherwise with any failure, your child will believe, “You are not smart after all.” On the other hand, if your child says, “You worked hard,” but fails to achieve something, your child will think, “You have to work harder.” This is much more productive and helpful.) Also, take note of negative affirmations that might be deeply embedded in your child’s own mind. They will be hard to get rid of at first, but taking note is the first step. After that, s/he can slowly exterminate these little rascals in her/his brain, creating more room for positivity! == Taking tests can be hard, but it is important to know how to handle them and how to go in with the right mindset because, the sad truth is, tests never end. They are all around us, even outside of school. Rather than letting anxiety get to your child, fight it with the tips listed above! It is important to tackle this early on as young children. JEI Learning Center helps to do this by creating the right studying environments, building confidence in students, promoting creative problem-solving methods, and teaching good study habits. Find a Center near you, and your child will be ready for any test in life!
Becoming the next Grace Hopper
JEI is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month and the women trailblazers who changed the world with their intellect. Grace Hopper is emblematic of one of these women. In fact, you can thank “Amazing Grace” for your ability to read this on your computer right now. When Grace Hopper joined the Navy during World War II, computers were in effect giant calculators. Using a computer meant familiarizing oneself with punch cards or manipulating wires to do complex calculations. Hopper had a vision that computers could be used by anyone without much technical skill. For this, Hopper thought there needed to be an interface between the user and the computer that allowed the user to write commands in plain English. When Hopper first proposed her language-based computer coding system, then called a compiler, she was told computers don’t understand English. Her idea wasn’t accepted for three years, but she persisted. She wrote a paper on the topic in 1952. While working for the Remington Rand company she completed her first compiler called the A compiler whose first version was called A-0. Hopper would go on to help develop the COBOL programming language in 1959 based on her earlier FLOW-MATIC programming language. These were among the first programming languages and would form the basis for modern computing. Despite being 60 years old, COBOL is still used in business code, providing the backbone of 95% of ATM transactions and 43% of banking systems. Hopper’s talent relied on her skills not only in mathematical reasoning but also in deeply understanding how language functions. At JEI, we’re training the next generation to navigate a world built on code. Our enrichment programs provide students with the math and English skills necessary to become the next Grace Hopper. JEI Problem Solving Math provides students with a hands-on approach to solving complex problems requiring math reasoning skills. Our Brain Safari program further develops a student’s critical reasoning and creative thinking skills – skills every developer needs to remain competitive. To enroll your child in our JEI Problem Solving Math or Brain Safari programs, find a JEI Learning Center near you.
Stop asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As Michelle Obama often says, there is no point in asking a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We have all dealt with this question multiple times in our own childhood from adults looking for amusement in our answers of “Princess!” “Firefighter!” “Mommy!” or “President!” Even they realized the futility of asking such a question when we are barely old enough to understand the weight of it. Do you remember if you felt uncomfortable uncertainty or naive nonchalance when giving your response? Either way, children in the present still do not know what they are saying. They are simply eager to provide an answer, whether possible answers nowadays are “YouTube star!” or “Instagram model!” and they feel bad if they do not have anything to say. The reason Michelle Obama says to stop asking children this is that there is no room for growth when the emphasis is on a career as the end goal, “[a]s if growing up is finite. As if you become something and that is all there is.” It is a limiting, unrealistic way of viewing life as if who a child becomes is really what profession s/he takes on. S/he will be a teacher, and that is that. There is no room for growth or exploration beyond taking a role in society; however, rarely does life and growth stop once someone accepts her/his first job. Apart from that, this interrogation puts undue pressure on children to already start thinking about a career, as if they have to decide at this very minute and stick to it no matter what. They are so busy learning basic concepts, everything from numbers and letters to feelings and expression, in order to build a strong foundation for the rest of their life. At such an early stage, how are they to know what interests, skills, and proclivities they have that are more suitable for one career than another? Right now is the time to explore these interests, skills, and proclivities, which is how JEI Learning Center comes into play. JEI is all about setting up a foundation for children starting from a young age so they can learn about themselves and foster healthy creativity, emotional quotient (EQ), and communication skills. JEI also explores the concepts of vocational vs. academic routes, as most children are more suitable for one than the other, without pushing ideas prematurely onto malleable minds. Going off that, career theorist Linda Gottfredson also points out that children are too easily influenced by their surroundings. They end up choosing careers based on what they see around them or through the power of suggestion--and these are usually dependent on class and gender. For example, if a parent is a plumber and often dressed around the house as one, the child will think of becoming a plumber. If a child is often taken to fancy parties by his/her lawyer parents, s/he may think of lofty goals like becoming a fellow lawyer or a politician. Additionally, children may often see female nurses and male police officers, and limit themselves by these gender roles. All of this serves to only confuse them because they have yet to figure out what they like, who they are, and what careers are out there. As an adult, you need to provide children with room to grow and time for them to make the right decisions for themselves. Asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is not the right way to do it--save that for high school at the earliest! If you want to learn about a child’s interests, ask about what they like to do, what hobbies they have, or what books they like to read. Asking questions like these or simply observing are other ways to learn about children than asking right off the bat what career they want for the rest of their lives when they are just getting started. All children need right now is guidance. They do not need to have the answers to everything. To help your child develop the basic skills to learn and grow into curious, decision-making intellectuals, find a JEI Learning Center near you, and start from there.