At Nurturing Wisdom, we work with a lot of bright and motivated students who don’t test to their potential because of crippling test anxiety. Nurturing Wisdom is unique because we address test anxiety as an integral part of tutoring, and we know that the key to overcoming test anxiety is to treat it as a concrete skill, to be taught and practiced like any other academic skill.
It’s not enough to tell students “Stop thinking negative thoughts.” We have to help them practice the thoughts that lead to success. We do this in a variety of ways, from teaching kids to free-write their worries to something we call the “Mean Tutor Strategy.”
In order to implement the mean tutor strategy, we begin by talking to students about the cognitive triangle. This is the idea that our feelings are affected by our thoughts, which in turn affect our behaviors. We then generate a list of negative thoughts that get in the way while taking a test, such as:
- “I’m not fast enough.”
- “I’m not good at tests.”
- “I’m stupid.”
- “I stink at math.”
Once we have a list of mental messages that pop up while the student is trying to concentrate on a test, we generate a list of replacement messages:
- “One foot in front of the other.”
- “I’m going to use my strategies.”
- “I’m prepared for this test.”
- “I can do this.”
This is just the beginning. To help a student to truly absorb these positive messages, we also use the Mean Tutor Strategy.