Teachers and students get pretty worked up about tests these days. Many of you don’t know, but “No Child Left Behind” means that a kid who doesn’t do well on a single test may face summer school, shame, and an academic stigma. Any test taking strategies a teacher can give a child are a good idea. My favorite, besides preparing them academically, is to encourage children to get a good night’s sleep and eat a healthy breakfast. Many kids come to school sleepy and with empty stomachs or worse yet, upset stomachs due to a hasty, lousy breakfast. About three years ago I give my fifth grade class a pep talk:
“Everybody listen up. How many of you have heard about ‘home field advantage’ in sports? Do you know what that means?” (pause for answers) “Yes, you’re right. The team that is at home has an advantage. But that doesn’t mean that the field is better. It means that the players that are at home get to sleep in their own bed. They go to bed early and are rested. The other team is traveling, and so they wind up sleeping in a strange bed in a motel room and not getting enough sleep. Your homework tonight is to go to bed early. Get a good night’s sleep, and come to school rested and ready to test.” (Score one for the Teach!)
“Now, I also want you to eat a healthy breakfast. I don’t want anybody snacking on last night’s pizza. Don’t eat a few bites of some sugary cereal. I want you to drink some orange juice, apple juice, or even better, milk. Have a bowl of oatmeal with a little fruit on it, or maybe some bacon and eggs. Yogurt is a healthy breakfast. Don’t get to breakfast late and race to eat a bite of a burnt piece of toast. Have some pancakes or waffles with fruit and syrup. Eat healthy!” (Score another one for the Teach!)
Well I was pretty satisfied with that speech. The next day, about a half hour into the all omnipotent government mandated test, Danny raised his hand. As I head over to him, I can see by the pallor of his skin that we had a problem.
“Mr. R., I feel funny. I think I’m gonna throw up.”
That would be a distracting catastrophe for the other test takers and would leave the test taking environment in nauseating condition, so I calmly yet rapidly took Danny out to the hall and told him to go to the restroom. Danny didn’t take two steps before he started blowin’ chunks. Poor Danny was spewing vomit with each step as he stumbled down the hall. I used another classroom’s phone to call for a custodian to clean up the long, wide line of earp that trailed from our classroom door all the way down the hall to the boys’ restroom, and as I go back to the hallway to check if Danny has returned, I glance down at his vomit. It is then I notice pieces of bacon, milk, oatmeal, raisins, and scrambled eggs. My curiosity is aroused and I continue down the hall examining Danny’s discharges: bits of pizza, bananas, apples, sausage, more chunks of fried eggs, toast, and what is definitely pieces of waffle, and probably the frozen kind. I find myself fascinated by the smorgasbord on the floor AND that I can distinguish what it is. It’s like Danny just ingested this stuff and it is still in pristine, undigested condition.
Here comes Danny oozin’ slowly back to the classroom, and I ask him, “Danny, what did you have for breakfast?” Danny queasily responds, “Mr. R., I ate what you told me to eat.” I asked him, “What did I ask you to eat, Danny?” He looks up at me and says, “You know, bacon and sausage, eggs, cereal, pizza, fruit, oatmeal, waffles, and orange juice and raisins with toast and jelly, and cereal with milk, but we didn’t have any yogurt so I ate some ice cream.”
I now phrase my speeches more carefully.