Hello, God. Welcome to My Classroom

4 Things a Tree Can Teach Us About Tests

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on May 31, 2012

Recently, the high school administration in my county had a tree cut down from the middle of the parking lot. The asphalt around the base had started to ripple and crack as if a mini-earthquake was thrusting it toward the sky. It was determined to grow no matter what man used to hold it at bay.

Yesterday my students took their Reading SOL test. (Such an unfortunate acronym for the state Standards of Learning tests.) When I receive scores, there are always a few disappointments as well as some victories to celebrate.

As I dropped my daughter off at school this morning, I looked at the empty spot where the tree had been and realized it could have offered my students some valuable lessons on how to succeed on their tests.

1) A good foundation. That beautiful, large tree needed to have a strong root base to survive and thrive. Likewise, a student must have a strong foundation of skills and strategies to succeed in a testing situation. The roots of knowledge must spread out, reaching for more information to expand and strengthen the foundation.

2) Effort and determination. My students need determination like the tree pushing through its asphalt barrier. Before my students began testing, I assured them they all had the intelligence, skills, and strategies they needed to succeed. The only thing left, the only unknown at that point, was the effort they would put forth throughout their test. Some students take three or more hours to finish while some speed right through. Others start off strong and fade as time passes. To encourage their endurance throughout the test, I read the following quote by Frank A. Clark: “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

3) Stay focused. A tree never wavers from its goal to grow. Unlike humans, a tree doesn’t become distracted and veer from its objective. The day before our test, one student looked extremely angry as we reviewed. I asked her if she was mad at me for making her review. She assured me she wasn’t. Eventually, she revealed that drama had taken root in her mind. Girl drama runs rampant in middle school. Usually, I keep out of it unless a student requests my involvement, but on this day, I had to intervene. This student couldn’t afford to let someone else occupy space in her brain when she was facing three end-of-year tests over the next week. She had to focus on what was important to her and her future, not on the immediate issues brought forth by others.

4) Look upwards for guidance. The tree had grown so well because it relied on fuel from above. The sunshine provided nourishment for it all the way down to its strong root base. Students benefit as well when they look up and rely on God for guidance. I know many of my students do this. For the rest, I intercede with prayer, both for current success on their tests and for a bright future. Jeremiah 29:11 states: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Their futures are unknown to them, but I hope they have the determination to stay focused and follow God’s plans.

Do the tests in your life remind you of anything?


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