Naplan, it’s May and it is here again! The reality for most schools is that it is not the be-all-and-end-all of assessment. Whether you agree or disagree with the process of standardised testing, it is part of our current education system and probably here to stay (at least for a while).
Personally, I feel that the process has potential to develop resilience and assist children to problem solve when they are feeling emotionally challenged. However, if your child is someone who struggles academically or has a learning difficulty /how effective is the process for them?
In saying that, I always make the effort to lift my students spirits when they are going through the Naplan process. The message I always share is that it is just a snapshot of your learning on that day and nothing more. I feel most teachers would do the same, or should do the same.
This year students participating in Naplan have just completed their first full term in a regular learning environment in two years. Capturing their learning in a snapshot through a test doesn’t reflect the struggles that they and families have experienced in the past few years of a pandemic and the impact on their social and emotional development. Teachers know that the Naplan results are not necessarily the best indicators of a student's abilities on that given day, yet it is an important factor for schools in determining their funding needs and in attracting new students to their school. Despite all of these factors, the most important element in this process to me is to support students' wellbeing, as for the rest of it, what will be will be.
Here are some ways that you can help support your child if they are about to take their turn at the Naplan table:
Let them lead the conversation.
Sometimes we can ask lots of questions about feelings and emotions, with the best intention, but could have the opposite effect. Children need time to process their thoughts and feelings and sometimes we can place our adult emotions and perspectives on them. Let your child guide the conversation and tune into their thoughts and feelings. They might be fine and Naplan and may not even be that big of a deal to them, but if we constantly discuss it with them we could create anxiety in them that wasn’t there in the first place.
Acknowledge their feelings
If they have shared that they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, listen and acknowledge their emotions. It can be very tempting to offer our advice or opinions when a child is worried or anxious. When we jump in and try to solve this for them we are taking away their sense of independence. Allow children to deal with their emotions the way they need to. Instead of asking lots of questions and offering advice, try a statement like ‘You seem to be overwhelmed’ or ‘You’re really putting lots of thought into Naplan’. Allow them to do what they wish with that statement. Some children will simply agree, while others will take this as an invitation to tell you more.
Keep it light.
Be conscious of your own feelings and emotions about your child completing Naplan and keep your anxieties separate to theirs. While you may be dying to find out how they went or how they felt, often kids will not go into great detail and might not even want to talk about it. If this is the case, just let it be. Follow their cues and change the subject if that’s the vibe you are getting.
Keep it in perspective.
If the past years have provided any positives, it's most certainly been an opportunity to keep things in perspective. It is one day, one moment in the journey of their schooling career. We don’t have to make a big deal out of it. I’ve seen some of my best students completely bomb out on the writing test because they didn’t connect to the stimulus. The best indicator of their learning is what is happening day-to-day with their classroom teacher. Regularly discussing your child’s progress with your child's class teacher is the best way of knowing how they are learning and how you can support their education journey. As always if you have concerns, communicate with their teacher, they will know best where your child is at, and be able to offer suggestions of how to best support their learning at home.
For now, make sure they get a good night's rest, listen to the Peaceful Kids Belly Breath meditation on the insight timer app, and before you know it Naplan week will be done and dusted!