The Tester Experience: A Firsthand Account from a Volunteer Tester at FLOC

Who doesn’t have test anxiety? Ostensibly, my job as a volunteer tester is to make sure every kid knows one unit before advancing to another. But my real job is to make them feel smart and brave, whether they pass or not.

Every kid who comes to me has too much experience with failure. They don’t yet recognize the cues demarking a vowel as short or long. Whether a phrase is a subject or a predicate isn’t clear to them yet, nor is the difference between “ I am” and “I’m” when speaking to the Principal.

Sometimes context gets in the way of the concepts they’re trying to learn. What they read does not always speak to their experience. They haven’t seen a real bat cave, or called a trash can a “bin”, or been to a family-owned vacation cottage.

So they’re not thrilled to take a test.

Accordingly, I do my best to give them the chance to do their best. We review short vowel sounds. We look at the test on the page so they can see it is brief. We read the questions out loud. I tell them that, if they don’t pass this time, next time they only have to re-do the questions they missed.

Still, one child cried when he got questions wrong. Another pushed his chair away from the table and made to leave the room. Too many focus on pleasing me instead of mastering the material.

But usually, they pass their tests. There’s a certificate to go on the refrigerator and a sticker. A gorgeous paper with an “A” on it. Best is the pride in their accomplishment.

Being a tester lets me work with every child and every tutor in my program. It’s a great way to see the difference FLOC makes, and how far we have to go.

(Laurie Kauffman is a volunteer tester at FLOC’s Thursday program at Tubman Elementary).

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