“We have to do this homework tonight – we are getting ready for EQAO testing! Dad! DAD! This is SERIOUS!!”, bellowed my 8-year old daughter, who I will admit has a bit of a nervous and timid temperament; not exactly quick to embrace new challenges, as she charged into the kitchen tearing her backpack open.
As she sat and worked away with Daddy, I heard things like, “I hate math”, “I’m never gonna be good at this” and “I’m not smart at math”. Funny – never heard such things during usual homework sessions. I thought EQAO was supposed to measure what kids actually know. More concerning to me was the anxiety she was showing in anticipation of the test – noticeably agitated about it.
As the parent of a grade 3 student, I’m worried about how much stress this test is causing my daughter. I don’t think there is pressure coming from her teacher, but it breaks my heart that she’s taking all of this weight on. Her confidence should not be crushed because she’s worried she’s not as smart as other grades 3s in Ontario. Come on! That’s WAY to much pressure for an 8-year old. And honestly, in the end, it doesn’t matter to me how she or her school rank. (Note this is my personal reaction as a parent, and not at all targeted against teachers, the school boards etc. who I admire immensely.)
So, when I see her face tightening, her body tensing, her veins popping out of her head, it’s my job to help her with her self esteem and help her manage this. So I told her, “Simply do your best and I’m proud of you come what may. Deep breaths. No pressure.”
As we mark both mental health and education weeks, I am reminded of how intimately my children’s educational and emotional needs overlap. Many of the issues my kids have faced at school have been of a social/emotional nature – either not academic at all or just remotely so. This EQAO thing is no different – it is academic but its impacts have been purely emotional.
I go out of my way to be sensitive to and mindful of my children’s needs – to ensure that I send them off to school each day with their emotional backpack as full of love and support as the sacks on their little backs that are full of books and lunch bags. This will never change…no test or assignment will ever come before their emotional needs. Not in my house…not my kids.
To all mental health practitioners, teachers, administrators, support staff, volunteers and anyone else that devotes their time to mental health and/or education – I salute you. And a special shout-out to grade 3 teachers everywhere: YOU ROCK!
Let us know how you help your kids cope with school stress. There are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000
About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)