I guess it was inevitable. We had a child, then another, and another. They mastered the potty, learned to ride without training wheels, made a couple of friends, became involved in extracurricular activities. Yep, it was bound to happen. They started school and they were going to have their first test.

Let me preface this by saying, I adore my eight year olds’ grade three teacher. She is patient, kind and everything I strive to be when dealing with a group of school age kids trying to make their way through the day when shoelaces can bring down the party in a heartbeat.

I like her approach to homework and her openness to communicate with parents long after she’s off the clock—if there ever is such a time for a teacher.

We knew Hanna’s class was soon going to be faced with their first ever test. I don’t recall Hanna having a test in her previous years of schooling, this was it. Unfortunately, it was going to be in math.

Greg & I feared this day would one day arrive. We would have to sit our children down and explain we both have English degrees because the idea of taking a statistics course in University might have swallowed us both whole, outing ourselves to spare us from future embarrassment. We could spontaneously combust and our children wouldn’t exist today had we tried to take on algebra or calculus so Wordsworth and Keats it was.

I worried about how I would tell the kids. We should find some helpful websites or a hotline or a drive-thru window with flashcards rather than attempting to call on Mom or Dad for math support. This was going to get uncomfortable.

My issue however isn’t with math in this case but rather the pre-quiz, specifically the instructions that were likely board mandated and not necessarily from my daughter’s teacher.

Read each question carefully. Take your time and try to relax. I cringed.

I can’t help but wonder if this is where it starts? Our fear of writing tests? Grade three?

Perhaps our teacher in the kindest way she knew how, wanted to remind the kids to stay calm and simply draw from their happy place the knowledge they had learned to date.

I guess my concern is the reminder at all. By suggesting to a child they should try to relax, we’re bringing awareness to something they may not have considered. Why not say, “whatever you do kids, DO NOT wet your pants,” or, “this is just a test, in the grand scheme of things, over the course of your life, in time, the outcome of your mark will not mean much at all” read: today it means everything.

Future instructions:

1)      Try breathing ten (remember that’s eight rounded up to the nearest ten) deep breaths into a paper bag, careful not to hyperventilate and pass out.

2)      Do sharpen your pencil but don’t over-sharpen. What if it snaps as your write your name on the top line and you run out of time to even answer the first question before returning to your desk from the sharpener.

3)      I remember, “Pencils Down!” and a ruler being slapped on a desk to startle everyone into throwing their pencils and tossing their cookies at the same time. Have we eliminated that one from test etiquette? Shall we bring it back?

 The best experience I ever had writing a test or exam was in my third year of University when one of my Profs arrived unexpectedly on scene and brought a small handful of jellybeans to our row of classmates writing in the huge auditorium. It was a small gesture from someone in retrospect who was probably higher than a kite but it certainly made the questions in front of us seem less daunting.