Dealing with the Emotional Toll of Naplan

Naplan is a stressful time for everyone involved. We spend so much time drilling facts and formulae into our children to prepare them for the exam that sometimes we forget about the emotional side of the equation. Today’s blog delves into a couple of methods for helping children through the upcoming days, and seeing them come out the other side no worse for wear.

Without a doubt, Naplan is a stressful time of year for teachers. It’s also a stressful time for students, especially those in Year 3 facing the pressure of exams for the first time. Whilst a lot of effort is put into preparing students to answer the questions, I think there needs to be a stronger element of teaching children the right mindset and helping them to cope emotionally with the strain.

Parents will be the source for a large portion of this education, however not all children will have access to a good support network. That’s why I believe teachers should also be providing help in this area, though is not something that should be a burden to teachers. There are many simple things that can be done at home or in the classroom to build a child’s confidence, some of which I will go into detail below.

Surprise, surprise, communication is at the top of my list. We are never going to be able to help children if we don’t know that there is a problem, let alone what that problem is. The key to communication is to be approachable so that children feel able to talk. Putting aside 15 minutes at the end of class for a relaxed discussion will give the kids a chance to air their thoughts.

This isn’t always enough though. I was a shy child who would sit and stress but never talk up. I worried about exams, I worried about life. However, asking someone for help would never have even crossed my mind. Anonymous questions are great for kids like I was. Questions with no names attached, placed in a jar and answered by the teacher will give those too shy or too afraid of being teased a chance to get heard.

It’s scary to think about kids having stress, but that’s what we’re talking about. Just like for adults, stress is a poison that feeds on itself and the best antidote for stress is relaxation. Taking a moment and focussing on the breath coming in and out of your body is the basis for many forms of meditation. It is also simple enough to teach to children as a way for them to calm their pre-Naplan nerves. There are many other techniques to help relax your mind and body, the important thing is to give the children the tools for them to be able to cope with the pressure.

The biggest thing for children to understand is that Naplan is just a snapshot of one moment in life. It is no indication of a child’s future success. Getting high marks is no guarantee for happiness later in life. As such, all you can do is try your best. With the massive focus that society can place on Naplan, it’s no wonder that kids feel under pressure to achieve amazing results. The truth is that it is just a test focussing on specific elements taught at school. Not scoring as well as someone else in Year 3 is not the end of the world.

It’s worth considering these ideas when preparing your class or children for Naplan. Whilst they may not result in higher test scores, they will help children to be less stressed and happier. Personally, I believe the world is stresful enough as it is, we don’t need to be adding more for our children.


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