Welcome back to “7 Hidden Truths of Testing,” in which we examine the often unspoken ways the modern testing culture is affecting Mississippi.
Yesterday, I detailed some of the facts about the big money behind standardized testing. Today, we look at the toll testing takes on teachers. (Say that 5 times fast!)
Hidden Truth #5: Standardized testing is creating a public health crisis.
You don’t make a heck of a lot of money. That much is well known. You work hard. You work long hours. More often than not, you take time away from your own family to make sure your students get what they need instead.
And then, spring rolls around and none of that matters anymore. Your value as a teacher is as simple as whatever happens between your students and a bank of computers. Understandably, this may cause you a bit of stress.
Now, imagine it’s always hanging over you- not just during testing season, but every waking moment of your professional life. Together with increased accountability measures and other “education reform” policies, standardized testing is creating an entire subculture of fear, intimidation, and anxiety.
Whether it makes sense to you or not, there is a growing, undiagnosed public health crisis in Mississippi. I’m just going to put this out there and let the teachers in your social circles confirm or deny it for you: teachers are more stressed out than they’ve ever been. Diagnoses for anxiety and depression are through the roof. Many teachers experience panic attacks on such a regular basis they don’t even realize it’s not normal, especially among young teachers.
Some teachers seek professional help for it. Others are too afraid seeking therapy will stigmatize their mental ability to cope with the job, and they let their conditions continue undiagnosed. For too many, high amounts of stress and an unwillingness to deal with it openly lead to “self-medication.”
- Some teachers self-medicate by abusing alcohol.
- Some abuse prescription drugs.
- Some abuse illegal drugs.
- Some develop unhealthy eating habits.
It’s one thing for an alcoholic or drug abuser who works in some office cubicle to seek treatment. He doesn’t work with kids every day. It’s quite another matter for a 5th grade teacher with mediocre test scores to risk her boss finding out she’s looking for a better way to medicate her stress. Her life, her passion is to be a role model for youngsters. She’s held to a higher standard.
So teachers don’t talk about it.
But really, what else did you expect from a testing culture built on fear, intimidation, stress, and dread?
It’s one of the best kept secrets in education. We’re a profession whose collective health is deteriorating by the day. Our job is to put on a happy face. So we put on a happy face to keep our jobs.
Join me tomorrow when we talk about how secretive schools have to be about testing materials.
James Comans is an 8th grade science teacher in Southaven and contributor to MSEdBlog. His views are his own and do not represent the views of any other entity.