A Chair, a Bear, and a Sucker
I have a picture of some of my favorite girls―my nieces in pink and my daughter, Aubrey, in blue all with cherubic faces. The day it was taken had me spitting mad, but today this photograph makes me laugh out loud. Let’s back up to about 18 years ago to set the stage.
My sister and I decided a picture of the three granddaughters would be the perfect present for my mom. My nieces were 8 and 6 years old and knew exactly what to do. This was certainly not their first photo session so they played the game well, posing just the way the photographer directed. My 2-year-old was a different story. She didn’t throw a fit, but found a very compelling strategy to get her way.
The photographer hadn’t planned to use any props, but Aubrey decided that she wanted to sit in a chair. So she sat in that darn chair. Then the photographer used a stuffed bear to get her attention so everyone was looking at the camera. Aubrey decided she wanted to hold it, so she held that darn bear. Trying for a little coercion, my sister found a sucker in her purse and told Aubrey she could have it if she smiled. Aubrey demanded the sucker if she was going to stay in front of the camera, so my sister gave in and yes, Aubrey ate that darn sucker.
Off to the side, I was screaming on the inside and working hard not to let the girls see it. We were going for happy faces, not expressions of fear when they saw how mad I was. I had convinced myself that the picture was ruined because the session didn’t go as I had planned. There was a balance between things I could control (a wrinkle-free dress and tights without holes), and things I couldn’t (the mood and photo stylings of a 2-year-old).
As I write today’s blog, students across Texas are taking the state science assessment. Testing coordinators have filled buckets with supplies, pencils have been sharpened, bulletin boards have been covered, and desks have been arranged in rows. For all the preparation, it is certain that something did not go as planned.
Perhaps a student ended up in the wrong room, a teacher was sick and could not administer the test, the fire alarm was accidentally set off, or a bat was flying around the auditorium. (Yes, these have all happened on test day!) I imagine that teachers and administrators kept a smile on their faces while they were screaming inside in order to keep some semblance of calm on a day that should be as stress-free for students as possible. As we make it through the end of testing season, here are some thoughts about what we can control and what we cannot.
What to Keep
Were all of the tests administered to the correct student? Were calculators available for students to use and did they have batteries? Were there spare pencils when students needed them so no one had to hear the noise of the pencil sharpener? It’s good to take a moment to be thankful and celebrate all of the millions of little things that went off as planned. It’s also good to take a moment to recognize the amazing test coordinators and teachers who made it happen and made it look easy.
What to Change
Were some students confused about where to go first thing in the morning? Was the atmosphere of the school so strained that you could cut the tension with a knife? Did you forget to tell parents they could not deliver food to their child at lunchtime to reward them for surviving the test? Take note of the issues that popped up and use this year as a learning experience to prevent them in the future. You can even provide a format such as a survey or suggestion box to capture input from your staff. They are sure to think of things you forgot or didn’t even know about.
What to Remember
Who were the heroes of the day? Did someone bring doughnuts to leave in the teachers’ lounge? Did a staff member make it to school on time in spite of having a flat tire? Did the receptionist find a kind way to inform parents that their child could not use his or her cell phone today? These are the stories that really demonstrate how a staff comes together to take care of business.
What happened to make me love this photograph now? The picture itself is cute, but the real joy comes from the story behind it. Now that the big flurry of testing is done, stop and celebrate that it is over and then look for the moments that made you smile. Focus on controlling the things you can and responding well to the things you cannot control. And maybe you can treat your entire staff to a sucker.