A Different Kind of Test
Have you ever actually paid attention to the words spoken during a test of the Emergency Broadcast System? After a series of loud, somewhat obnoxious beeps, buzzes, and/or wails, calm voice announces something along these lines:
This has been a test. This has only been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. In the case of an actual emergency, you would be directed to tune in to your local news agency. Again, this has been a test.
While the words may be different, and the name has actually changed (it is now the Emergency Alert System), I find it interesting that the idea of it being a test is repeated several times as a means of calming the public and assuaging fears that the issue was serious and/or real.
Why is it that tests in our schools are not like that? Why is it that when we have a test, it is the most serious, most important, most worried about part of the entire process? Something seems to be wrong with this situation. There is only one kind of test that I can think of that does not have this level of seriousness: the severe weather/tornado/fire/emergency drill.
This is a test during which students must show that they know what to do and how to do it, but they also know that there is no severe weather, fire, or terrorist attack imminent, and so there is a considerable level of calm. It is as if everyone knows that it isn’t for real, so there’s no reason to panic.
Weird that the tests we take over academic subjects are very real, even though my students are allowed to make corrections and turn them back in for credit if they choose. (By the by, I hope that those in my class who are reading remembered and are going to get those test corrections turned in by Friday!) I wonder what would happen to our educational system if tests became something that was merely a practice to show that we know what to do and how to do it, but without the anxiety and stress that we currently attach to them. Definitely food for thought!
All of this came to mind because we had our first severe weather drill of the year. My class did very well with lining up quietly, going to their correct places in the hall, sitting in the awkward-and-kind-of-uncomfortable-but-still-very-important duck-and-cover position, and waiting quietly for directions. Bravo!
These are the ideas that your teachers think about during these drills. Okay, maybe not all of us, but at least me.