Colin (not his actual name) was a Year Five student. He was send to my office with an exercise book sporting a severely crumpled and significantly torn page. With Colin and his book, came an accompanying note from his teacher. The class was practising persuasive text, a NAPLAN requirement at the time. With his class, had been practising day after day after day and he was fed up!

I sat down with Colin and his book and a dispenser of adhesive tape at my office conference table. While smoothing the page and refastening it into the book with tape, I spoke to Colin. It went like this:

“Colin, every year we have NAPLAN tests for year three and five students. We do some practice, especially for writing. You don’t like all the build-up to the tests. Guess what? Your teacher doesn’t like the tests, other students and teachers don’t like the tests and I don’t like the tests. A lot of people in the Education Department don’t like the tests. But Julia Gillard our Education Boss in the Australian Parliament and her boss Kevin Rudd the Prime Minister do like the tests. So we all have to suck it up and do the tests. That’s the way it is, so just do the tests like swallowing a medicine.”

Colin understood. There were no more tantrums and he kept ruffled feathers in check.

Students need to understand the issues that background these tests. My experience with Colin helped me understand that the issue of test ‘why’s and wherefores’ needed to be discussed with and understood by them. So the sharing of information including the reason for their existence, were things I discussed with students from there onwards.

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