There’s a lot of attention in the media about cheating. Students cheating on papers, teachers cheating on reporting test scores, even administrators cheating by changing test answers.
Why do people cheat? Because they can’t handle the pressure and they want out. They’re anxious and they can’t tolerate the feeling of anxiety.
From the vantage point of the three legged stool performance model, where the optimal states for good performance are being calm, confident and focused, we can see that cheating comes from not being in those three states. A person who cheats is anxious or worried (even though they may try to mask that with considerable bravado), they have negative feelings about themselves (even though they say “I don’t care”), and their attention is fixed on getting to a result rather (“I want this over!”) than going through a process. In other words, they are not calm, confident and focused. Test Success!, the book, is all about self-empowerment. In the next few posts we’ll look at how cheating undermines the process of growing and learning and what can be done about it.
A post fromTennessee, in Clarksville Online, has the title Helping Your Child Succeed in School: Helping Your Child with Test-Taking. There is no byline. Yet story comes out of Washington. DC, and has the seal of the US Department of Education next to it. Is the writer someone at the Department of Education? That may or may not be consequential. The article has its merits. To start with, it shows that there is an issue: test anxiety can be harmful to students. It helps parents to do what they can to manage their kids’ stress. And there are some very good suggestions. But the article—and the thinking behind it—don’t dig into the roots of test anxiety. It suggests that the word “TEST” is causing stress in kids. But the word is only four letters on a piece of paper or a computer screen. The letters are not jumping up and grabbing your child by the throat. If you child has test anxiety, her response to those letters is full of fear. Perhaps she’s thinking, “I can’t handle this!,” or her stomach starts churning, or she feels like she wants to run out of the room, or some combination of all three. When your child takes a test, or even thinks about taking one, the three players on her team, her body, mind, and spirit are all involved. Performance psychology tells us that we need optimal states in all three to perform well. Your child’s body needs to be calm, her mind confident, and her spirit focused. In order to achieve these states she needs two things: awareness and tools. She needs to be aware that she’s losing it in her body, mind or spirit, that she’s becoming tense, self-doubtful and distracted. And then she needs tools to get her back on track. There are only nine tools—three for the body, three for the mind, and three for the spirit. I wrote Test Success! because students need to be taught the tools for handling any test successfully. That means tests in school and tests in life. And parents? They need the awareness and tools as well, so they can be more calm, confident and focused in handling life’s stresses—including their kids’ test anxiety.