It’s that time again… Naplan will take place in schools Australia wide during May. As a former teacher of Year 3 and now a parent of two Naplan aged children, I have seen firsthand the mounting pressure that this once-a-year event places on children, teachers, schools and families.
The hours of direct teaching and preparation comes down to 3 days this term, despite what is happening in those children’s lives – whether they are healthy, well fed, energized by appropriate sleep, nurtured or loved… the test will go on.
While many children will take this in their stride, others will find the process overwhelming and stressful despite how well prepared they may be.
Supporting your child through Naplan can be a delicate job, however here are some practical ways that you can ensure that they feel supported and acknowledged on this pressure filled week.
1. Let them lead the conversation. Well meaning parents ask lots of questions about how their child is feeling in regard to these tests, however children often need emotional and mental space to process their thoughts and feelings. Let your child guide the conversation IF they feel like talking about it. Perhaps it’s not even a big deal to them, but if we are constantly talking about Naplan and how they should approach it we can create anxiety where it wasn’t
2. Acknowledge their feelings. IF your child is feeling overwhelmed or stressed and has openly shared this with you – then we need to listen and acknowledge their ideas. It can be very tempting to offer our advice or opinions when our child is feeling upset or anxious – however by jumping in to try and solve this for them we are taking away their sense of autonomy. 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’ and 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.
3. Keep it light. Be conscious of how YOU are feeling about your child doing Naplan and ensure you keep your anxieties separate from your child’s. 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 – let it be. Follow their cues and change the subject if that’s the vibe you are getting.
4. Keep it in perspective. As indicated by my previous point, try not to make a huge deal of it. I’ve seen straight A children completely bomb out on Naplan because the stimulus just didn’t resinate with them. Or they had a pain in the belly that day. Or they had a fight with their best friend. A much more accurate indicator of your child’s ability is on their report card and during regular discussions with their classroom teacher.
Whether you are a fan of standardised testing or not, the powers above need data to tick boxes and drive funding and development for future education. Don’t get me wrong, these things are important, but so is a child’s well being and abilities in a whole range of areas. There’s no Naplan for the child who excels at football, or the child who builds intricate robotic Lego, or folds complicated origami structures. It’s a measure of literacy and numeracy, on five tests, over 3 days. Let’s remember that.